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Annual President’s Report

Fawad Shah, MCIA President/CEO, addresses the Association’s 2024 Annual Meeting in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Photo by Alan Makinen. © Minnesota Crop Improvement Association.

At  every annual meeting of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, the association’s president reports on MCIA’s activities over the past year and provides an assessment of the state of the organization. Following are highlights from Dr. Fawad Shah’s presentation to MCIA membership on January 24, 2024.

Dr. Fawad S. Shah, MCIA President/CEO, introduced MCIA’s staff members. Next, he reported that fiscal year 2022–23 was another successful year for MCIA. Total revenues were $3,435,306 while total expenses were $3,218,024. MCIA has a general investment and a building reserve account. In 2015, the total investment value was approximately $2.5 million. Strategic Wealth Group has taken a progressive and careful approach to both accounts, which have almost doubled since that time, with a current value of $4,865,936. Organic Services led all departments in revenue generated followed by Field Services, Foundation Seed Services, Certification Services, and the Seed Laboratory. Organic Services’ revenue continues to steadily grow. Revenues for Certification and Field Services continue to be strong but fluctuate in tandem with the number of acres applied for each year. Major expenses for all departments include salary, benefits, and payroll taxes.

The President then reported on the 2023 AOSCA Annual Meeting hosted by MCIA in Bloomington, Minnesota. MCIA raised over $16,000 in sponsorships, developed and prepared registration packets, and provided logistical support. MCIA staff along with the board chairman attended and hosted the hospitality suite. Thom Petersen, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, offered welcoming remarks and Tom Slunecka, CEO of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, was the guest speaker at the awards banquet. Overall, the meeting was a success and a great opportunity for MCIA to participate in various committees and discussions with AOSCA members.

MCIA was featured in several articles over the past year. In October, Seed World reported on MCIA’s receipt of AOSCA’s Excellence in Innovation Award. In another article Seed World reported on AOSCA’s honoring of Roger Wippler with an Honorary Lifetime Membership. Seed World also interviewed MCIA’s president, which led to the article “Should a State-Level Seed Certification Agency Invest Money Outside their State and Outside of Seed Certification?” In November, MCIA was the topic of a Star Tribune article.

The President conducted a talk about seed corn production at the Corn Conference held at the University of Agriculture, Pakistan. The President also presented an overview of MCIA to Delta Theta Sigma fraternity, led tours of the MCIA seed lab and conditioning facility, and he continues to develop curriculum and teach a Seed Science, Technology & Society course at the University of Minnesota.

Staff changes at the organization included the retirement of Foundation Seed Services Manager Roger Wippler and the subsequent promotion of Carl Anfinson as manager of the department. Claire Chapman Biel in the seed lab was promoted to seed technologist. Kate Sinnott was hired in August to fill the seed technologist position vacated by Sam Banks in March. Sarah Lindblom and Tessa Parks joined Organic Services as organic certification specialist/inspectors in June.

MCIA’s Field Services inspected roughly 200,000 acres in 2023. Nearly 180 facilities are inspected each year under the Approved Facility Program. Field Services staff also perform organic inspections and administer the MnDOT Approved Seed Vendors Program. Field Services continue to perform third-party audit inspections to facilitate specialty grain movement into international markets.

The MCIA Seed Laboratory tested 2,943 samples in the past year. The top five crops being tested are perennial ryegrass, soybeans, wheat, corn, and oats. Training of new staff continues. Clair Chapman Biel attended a four-day germination workshop at Iowa State University. The seed lab completed proficiency testing for SCST, USDA ASL, and ISTA. A customer survey was circulated and feedback was positive; 97 percent of customers were very satisfied with the service they receive.

Foundation Seed Services hosted an open house for the UMN breeding program staff and graduate students. Also, Foundation staff provided an education session to Minnesota Department of Agriculture staff. Foundation seed sales increased by 15 percent compared to year 2022. MCIA prepared six new license agreements for five soybean lines and one winter barley line.

Organic services increased the number of clients served from 564 to 585. The staff within the organic department participated in the IOIA Crop and Processor Training courses. A new NOP rule, Strengthening Organic Enforcement, requires that certificates be issued from the OID, a procedure which MCIA has already implemented. There will be an NOP on-site audit in July of 2024.

Administration and Certification staff worked closely with AOSCA to host their annual meeting event in June. Staff worked together to organize a new venue and program for the MCIA Annual Meeting. MCIA conducted an RFP process and contracted with a new managed IT services provider. There will be an on-site AOSCA certification audit in the spring or summer of 2024.

The President explained how MCIA communicates with members. Its publications include an annual Directory, a quarterly newsletter, the Minnesota Seed Grower, and a monthly bulletin, Samplings, as well as the annual Minnesota Certified Seed Guide. MCIA’s website has a blog, press releases, and article links that provide even more information.

Note: The full, official minutes of the 2024 MCIA Annual Meeting, which include the President’s Report, were published in the spring 2024 issue of the Minnesota Seed Grower.