Jon Doggett, a forceful and highly successful advocate for agriculture during his 35-year career as a lobbyist and chief executive, is preparing to depart the National Corn Growers Association at the end of the month.
While Doggett has said it’s not a retirement, he has indicated he will use his free time to explore some of his passions, including spending more time with his grandchildren and kayaking.
Those who have worked closely with Doggett say his legacy will live on in the nation’s capital.
“Anyone who knows anything about agriculture and Washington knows that Jon is one of the best lobbyists and leaders in the city,” said NCGA President Tom Haag. “He has left his mark through tremendous policy accomplishments, such as the passage of the Renewable Fuels Standard and through his mentorship of up-and-coming lobbyists and leaders in Washington.”
Doggett began his career in 1987 as a legislative aide to the late Rep. Ron Marlenee (R-Mont.). After an 11-year stint at the American Farm Bureau Federation, Doggett came to NCGA in 2002 as a vice president of public policy. He would later take the helm of the organization, beginning his tenure as CEO in 2018.
The Washington he leaves is very different than the one he entered in the 80s. While the three-martini lunch was long gone at the time, vestiges of the Mad Men era lived on. Offices were still male-dominated, minorities and women rarely held positions of political power and business etiquette still resembled aspects of the 60s. For example, people smoked cigarettes openly in their offices, something unheard of today.
Doggett spent his career working to change much of that culture, throwing his support behind up-and-coming female professionals and working to create an office culture that was friendly to groups that had historically faced discrimination.
“Jon didn’t just push his staff to be better; he pushed NCGA to be better,” said former NCGA staffer Lesly Weber McNitt, who is now senior staff for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. “He fought for a better maternity leave policy, and I was the first employee to benefit from the improved maternity leave policy when I had my daughter. As a result, I was a better mom and a better employee.”
Those working with Doggett say he is as smart as he is blunt.
“Jon is effective because he is an excellent visionary and tactician,” said Haag. “He also isn’t afraid to tell you what he thinks. You don’t have to worry about groupthink when Jon’s in the room.”
Staffers have noted that Doggett is known for keeping a coffee cup on his desks that reads: “I could agree with you, but then we would both be wrong.”
The agricultural community has benefitted from his direct style. For example, when tariffs were placed on fertilizer imports in 2021 at the behest of two major fertilizer companies, Doggett wrote a scathing op-ed taking fertilizer executives to task for their actions. Publication of the op-ed marked a turning point in the debate on the issue and was a topic of discussion amongst top executives at the fertilizer companies.
He has spent the majority of his career fighting tooth and nail for ethanol. This year, an op-ed by Doggett touting the benefits of ethanol was published on the Fox Business website. In the piece, Doggett highlighted how important ethanol is to America’s energy security.
Doggett was one of the first people to hear from Secretary Vilsack after the USDA leader traveled to Mexico City in late November to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador over a promised decree to end imports of biotech corn. The trip, which was widely applauded by the agricultural community, came after NCGA had called on the Biden administration to act.
“Jon gets things done because he knows people and understands how Washington works,” said Haag. “There will never be another Jon Doggett.”
The search for a new NCGA CEO is underway.