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121st MCIA Annual Meeting Recap

On January 24, 2024, members of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association joined the organization’s staff and board members for the Association’s 121st Annual Meeting.

Emerging Leaders in Seed Production panelists: Conner Danielson, Ridgewater College student and FFA member; Betsy Jensen, Northland Community and Technical College; Kelsey Henke, Anderson Seeds of St. Peter; Jake Thompson.

The program began with a lively panel discussion on the topic Emerging Leaders in Seed Production. Four panelists fielded questions from the moderator, MCIA President/CEO Fawad Shah, and from attendees. Josh Thompson, of Middle River, asserted the value of working with integrity and upholding high standards. Kelsey Henke, of Anderson Seeds of St. Peter, spoke to the benefits of gaining wide-ranging work experience, even if it sometimes means stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. Conner Danielson, FFA member and Ridgewater College student, discussed how he has sought opportunities in farming by engaging with neighbors, through formal education, and via ag organizations, like FFA. Betsy Jensen, of Jensen Seed Company, emphasized the importance of tracking your financials and establishing sources of value-added or off-farm income to assure stability.

Anthony Cortilet of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) then offered a presentation regarding MDA’s new role in cannabis seed labeling and sales in the state. Minnesota Seed Law requires permitted labeling of cannabis seed. As of July 2023, he noted, there were seventy-five permitted cannabis labelers of cannabis seed in the state. MDA will conduct inspections to check compliance. In this initial period, inspectors will take an educational approach with labelers found to be out of compliance, rather than issue Stop Sale Orders. Also, MDA will be willing to accept smaller seed testing samples to accommodate the new cannabis industry.

Left: Anthony Cortilet, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Plant Protection Division, Section Manager. Right: Roger Wippler, MCIA Foundation Seed Services Manager, retired.

Next up was Roger Wippler, who recently retired as MCIA’s Foundation Seed Services manager. Roger’s presentation reflected on 30 years of change in Minnesota agriculture, the seed industry, and MCIA. Roger’s career began in the heyday of seed certification, but he also witnessed its precipitous decline as private companies captured an increasing share of the seed market. MCIA closed its seed laboratory in 2007 but reopened it nine years later under more auspicious circumstances. MCIA has steadily diversified its services—adding sod and seed Quality Assurance, forage and mulch certification, native seed certification, organic certification, and more. While MCIA has always had a close relationship with the University of Minnesota, in recent years it has taken a more prominent role in promoting University of Minnesota-developed crop varieties.

What does the future hold? Roger foresees more change. There are efforts such as the Forever Green Initiative to develop new winter-hardy annuals and perennial crops with an eye toward improved soil health. Biotechnology also promises to drive change in the seed industry. Continuing to involve its members in governance, seeking out new opportunities, managing the growth of the Organic Services department, and maintaining cooperative relationships with business, government, and academic partners will all be critical factors in the continued success of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association.

MCIA President/CEO Fawad Shah and MCIA Board of Directors Chairman Brad Barth.

During the business meeting segment of the Annual Meeting, members heard organizational and fiscal reports from officers of MCIA’s Board of Directors. MCIA President/CEO Fawad Shah also delivered a report on the state of the association. Board Chairman Brad Barth presided over the election of one incumbent, Kelsey Henke, and two new board members, Gabel Hoseth and Anthony Cortilet. Members also ratified Nancy Jo Ehlke to serve another year on the board as the UMN’s nominee. See our earlier post for more information about the board election. (We’ll provide the president’s report and the business meeting minutes separately.)

In accordance with tradition, MCIA made time during the Annual Meeting to recognize those whose contributions and achievements have contributed to the success of the seed industry. MCIA Field Services Manager Kris Folland emceed the ceremony. The recipient of this year’s Achievement in Crop Improvement Award was Roger Wippler. Scott Lee, Larry Riopelle, and Merle Schwenzfeier and Roger Schwenzfeier were the Premier Seed Grower Award honorees. Dr. Eric Watkins and Kris Folland himself received the Honorary Premier Seed Grower Award. Roger Wippler stepped in to present Kris Folland with his award. See our previous post for profiles of these recipients and further information about the awards.

The day had more accolades in store for Roger Wippler. David Kee, Director of Research at the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, presented Roger with an award from Minnesota Soybean, recognizing Roger’s “many years of service to Minnesota Soybean Growers.”

Roger Wippler, MCIA Foundation Seed Services Manager, retired, receives an award of recognition from David Kee, Director of Research at the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

This year, MCIA changed the Annual Meeting format to better accommodate attendees, most of whom have significant travel times. We shortened the program to five hours. We started later in the morning and ended earlier in the afternoon. We included lunch but held our awards ceremony separately. The later start and unstructured lunch allowed attendees free time to visit our trade show exhibitors.

Except for virtual gatherings during the recent pandemic, MCIA has for many years been holding our Annual Meeting in Fergus Falls. MCIA’s board chose a different location and venue for this year’s meeting, the Holiday Inn & Suites in St. Cloud. Based on positive attendee evaluations, the board has decided to return to St. Cloud for MCIA’s 2025 Annual Meeting. Please plan to join us then!