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Propagation

Job Opportunity for Seed Technologist

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Seed Technologist. This full-time position offers a competitive salary and full benefits. MCIA’s Seed Laboratory operates out of MCIA’s main office on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Saint Paul.

For more information, read the full position announcement on our Job Openings page: https://www.mncia.org/job-openings.

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association is an EEO Employer.


At Brad Barth Farms “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work”

Brad and Joyce Barth. Photo courtesy Brad Barth.

By Kris Folland, Field Services Manager

Located between Thief River Falls and Goodridge, Minnesota, Brad Barth Farms is a testament to teamwork, timing, and innovation. While Brad and his wife, Joyce, grew up in the area and both have deep agriculture roots, the opportunity to be back “home” and farm was a journey over twenty years in the making.

Early Days

Brad grew up near St. Hilaire, Minnesota. His father operated a crop dusting plane and Brad, as young as five years old, was his right-hand man. Brad was very good at directions and would ride his Honda 50 to the field to flag each pass. He was paid a penny an acre and loved the work. We almost take GPS for granted today, but prior to its invention teamwork was necessary and highly valued on the farm.

Fast forward to college: Brad graduated with a degree in accounting and went on to work as an accountant for seventeen years. Joyce received a degree as a dental assistant, a career she worked in for many years. During this time, Joyce and Brad raised their son and three daughters in the Moorhead area.

Call of the North

Around 1997, the desire to farm started to take hold, leading them back 120 miles north to where they grew up. They had family land there that was expiring out of the Conservation Reserve Program. They bought a 9380 Stieger tractor and an Ezee-On field disk and started working their ground. Nearby landowners took notice and were quick to hire Brad and Joyce to custom disk their land. The seeds of farm growth grew quickly.

Joyce says one evening stands out: She had finished disking a mile-long field. It had grown dark. Her vehicle was on the opposite end of the field. This was before cell phones. She made the long walk back to her car alone. Crossing a deep ditch, listening to the coyotes’ howl, she told herself, “Brad and I need to plan this teamwork a little better!”

The farm mostly grew wheat, soybeans and even some certified organic production. Brad tells the story of how the next seed production idea was planted, “I wanted Granite wheat seed and was visiting with my local seed supplier and grain buyer, and he said there is none available. I made up my mind right there, we are going to grow seed for ourselves and the area. I am always looking for ways to add value and improve our farm.”

Shift to Seed Production

Brad contacted MCIA. He and I met and had extensive discussions. Brad decided to purchase registered seed. His certified production was cleaned at Swenson Seed, in nearby Oklee, and sold to his grain elevator, an MCIA-approved seed conditioner and bulk handler. After visiting Swenson Seed and owner Ray Swenson’s operation, Brad again met with MCIA and Forsbergs, Inc., of Thief River Falls, a supplier of seed conditioning equipment. Within twelve months, his own MCIA-approved seed conditioning facility was up and running.

Brad says, “I cannot express enough how much I admire Ray Swenson and I look to him as a mentor. I know it may seem like we could be competition with each other, but he has been so kind and helpful I cannot thank him enough. He has forgotten more about the seed industry than I will ever know.”

Brad Barth Farms today grows certified wheat varieties that they sell and supply to many area growers and MCIA-approved facilities. NDSU wheat releases such as Faller and Prosper and University of Minnesota releases such as RB07, Linkert, Shelly, MN-Washburn, MN-Torgy, and MN-Rothsay have led the way. Brad says his seed customers that also are grain elevator buyers want quality varieties that also have yield and straw strength and do well in this region.

Brad and Joyce have also grown conventional soybean varieties such as Traill, along with glyphosate-tolerant soybeans from NDSU. Today, almost all their soybean seed production is herbicide tolerant for a private company and that has worked very well. They also added 200 acres of irrigation this past year. Brad stated, “with this farm and these projects we must thank our long-time employee, Corey Larson. He has been my right-hand man for many years.”

Industry Leadership

Brad is finishing his sixth and final year on the MCIA board of directors. He served five of those years as the board’s chairman. Serving on the board was a great learning opportunity. He gained insight into the many areas of seed production in the state and across the country. Hosting the AOSCA annual meeting in Minnesota was a highlight for Brad and Joyce. Meeting other growers of certified seed of all kinds of crops—from cotton to peanuts to wheat—was both enjoyable and eye opening.

Looking to the Future

The future is bright for Brad and Joyce they say, “With nine grand kids and one son farming nearby, the farm and seed business will eagerly continue. We love what we do and are so fortunate to have children and grandchildren. We make it a priority to stay connected and visit our four children often and they have blessed us with their wonderful children.”

As our visit was wrapping up, and on cue from Brad, one of his grandchildren exclaimed, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”


President’s Corner

Dr. Fawad Shah addresses the 3rd Pakistan Seed Congress.

By Fawad Shah, President/CEO

How do you go about sharing knowledge and expertise where they are needed the most?

A wide range of activities and goals are included in the comprehensive process of capacity-building. It is, in essence, an effort to prepare for the future and provide technical and operational training along with policy development guidance toward a common goal. It usually involves public-private partnerships in support of strengthening institutions, facilitating the private sector, and adequately training professionals. For over a century, MCIA has played a vital role in ensuring genetic purity and identity of crop varieties through the seed certification system and delivering exemplary services.

In the recent past, MCIA has been leading a new initiative of capacity-building by working with domestic and international organizations. One such effort was undertaken during the Third Pakistan Seed Congress that was held April 29 –30, 2024. All major players were in attendance, including government officials, senior leadership from various academic institutions, industry representatives, exporters, and media.

The Seed Congress was followed by a three-day workshop. Participating in the workshop were Alan Gaul (Iowa State University) on Seed Conditioning, Filippo Guzzon (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) on Dry Chain Technology to preserve seed quality, Dr. Fiona Hay (International Seed Testing Association) on Seed Drying and Storage, and Dr. Waseem Abbas (University of Agriculture Faisalabad) on Controlled Atmosphere Technology for Stored Grain Pest Management. I presented on the topic Seed Sampling, Seed Germination and Viability. Around 30 participants from public and private sectors as well as students from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad were in attendance. In addition to adopting best practices in all areas following harvest, Pakistan’s seed sector, both public and private, needs to align with international standards and strive to become a member of international organizations.

My next stop in capacity-building was at the University of Sargodha, where an international seminar on Revitalizing Pakistan’s Seed System was held. I spoke about the holistic seed system, essentially from the time a variety is released and onward to condition, store, secure intellectual property protection, establish marketing and distribution, comply with truth-in-labeling regulations, certification, and rule-making. Participants from row crop and vegetable seed industries, officials from the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department of Pakistan, and faculty and students were in attendance. Institutions such as the University of Agriculture Faisalabad and the College of Agriculture, University of Sargodha are making strides to provide education about the fundamental role of seed as a component for resilient agriculture, to lessen seed imports by producing quality seed at home, and consequently ensure food security in Pakistan.

During an earlier trip to Pakistan, in 2022, I conducted a workshop followed by a roundtable discussion for staff from the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department of Pakistan and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations office. This was an effort in capacity-building, to prepare Pakistan to become a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Seed Schemes. I am pleased to now learn that Pakistan recently applied to become an OECD Seed Schemes member. The process usually takes one to two years. In addition, the University of Agriculture Faisalabad is constructing an International Seed Testing Association lab. The lab will have germination, purity, genetic testing, germplasm storage, sample storage, and a training facility. This is a major step in the right direction for Pakistan’s seed industry. The lab is expected to be finished later this summer. MCIA is delivering on its efforts in building capacity and developing strong partnerships with international academic institutions and related organizations, identifying new opportunities for growth within the United States as well as in foreign countries.

So, why share knowledge and expertise? These exercises create and develop a framework for capacity building wherever it may be advantageous, ensuring market growth and food security wherever it may be desired or needed.


Chairman’s View

Photo by greymatters from Pixabay.

By Brad Barth, Board Chairman

Usually in the summer edition of my column I talk a little about the weather and how it affected the spring planting season. Spring weather is a lot like some of the idiotic things one sees on the internet, kind of crazy and weird. Of course, this year was no exception, almost a 180 of last year. We had very little snow and a warm winter, which should turn into an early spring, right? Yes, farmers were in the field early and wheat seed sales saw an increase in volume accordingly. After a quick start Mother Nature turned on us and showed all who was really in charge. As of Memorial Day, when I penned this report, northern Minnesota is probably still barely past the halfway mark of being done seeding. Just proves that we may be good at what we do, but we are not totally in charge.

At the Annual Meeting in St. Cloud this past January we discussed succession planning and what we can do to keep our young adults in our industry. On Friday, Joyce and I attended high school graduation and saw our oldest grandson graduate with honors. We are very proud of his success as a student and how he has matured into a fine young man. Our family has never pressured any of our young adults to go to school for anything but what is in their hearts. Well, this boy has decided to go to the U of M in Crookston for agriculture, I am so proud. I am glad to see that being born and raised on the farm was a positive experience and has become his first career choice. Granted there are four years ahead of him and he could change his mind, but he seems to be pretty determined that this is his path. When he is ready, I hope to mentor him in the seed industry and someday, maybe, he will become one of “us.”

I would be remiss if I did not spend a little time discussing the health and direction of our organization. MCIA is a unique and (121 years strong) successful organization which has excellent leadership and very talented personnel. There are many exciting opportunities for MCIA on the agenda in the future, but as always it is focused mostly on taking care of its members and their current needs. This organization has been solid for the past 121 years and will be for the foreseeable future.

I hope the summer of 2024 treats you all well.


Foundation Seed Report

MN-Rothsay Wheat. Photo by Dylan VanBoxtel. © Regents of the University of Minnesota.

By Carl Anfinson, Foundation Seed Services Manager

It appears this spring is attempting to make up for the small amount of moisture we received this past winter. I have a feeling, though, that the lack of a true Minnesotan winter, which most of us experienced, will be remembered for quite some time. Looking at the USDA latest planting progress report for Minnesota, many of our crops appear to be ahead of or near to the five-year average for the end of May, despite the wet spring.

Foundation Seed Sales

Overall foundation seed sales for 2024 declined compared to recent years. Seed growers indicated that initial interest was good after the 2023 harvest year for varieties like MN-Rothsay. However, at the end of the day, demand for foundation wheat was lower than initially expected. Compared to last season, we have had about a 50 percent reduction in wheat sales. There are many variables and factors that might be linked to lower overall foundation seed sales and especially sales of foundation wheat seed.

The demand for oats has been holding steady these past few years. The continued availability of a good number of popular public varieties has helped support that consistency.

Soybean seed sales for food-grade varieties and our contract production were also down compared to last year. This accounts for the drop from the large increase we had last year.

The table below provides a five-year sales summary of the three highest selling crops. I have excluded crops with less significant sales.

Meetings and Grower Visits

I am still in my first full season as Foundation Seed Services manager, and I am looking forward to meeting more seed growers in person at the various meetings and visits throughout the year. Each season the Foundation Seed Services department does its best to help meet the needs of certified seed growers, collaborate with University of Minnesota researchers, engage with outside entities, and work cross-functionally with other MCIA departments.

I am excited to continue the great work that this department has been a part of for numerous years. I know that each season will be different and will have its interesting and challenging moments. I am looking forward to another growing season and connecting with many of you!


Field Notes

Soybean field inspection. © Minnesota Crop Improvement Association.

By Kris Folland, Field Services Manager

There was almost no doubt it was going to be an early spring in Minnesota after the mild and mostly snow-free winter. Unless, of course, you are familiar with the weather between the 43rd and 49th parallels and do not take anything for granted.

Hopefully, spring planting is wrapped up and we can move on to the summer field inspection checklist:

  • Save proof of seed source for fields to be field inspected.
  • Apply for field inspection after planting.
  • Contact your MCIA field supervisor with any questions or updates prior to harvest.
  • Be certain your field has been inspected prior to harvest.
  • Small grains fields can be inspected after they are fully headed.
  • Soybean field flower inspections are usually performed in July and final pre-harvest inspections are done at 75 percent leaf drop or within about 7 days of harvest.
  • Forage and mulch applications are due 4 weeks prior to cutting.
  • We can accept late applications if there is enough time to inspect. MCIA will make every effort to inspect, but the sooner you notify us the sooner we can schedule and complete your inspection. Late applications will incur a late fee.

As always, we wish you a bountiful, enjoyable, and safe growing season.


Lab Report

Photo by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay.

By Chase Mowry, Seed Laboratory Manager

With summer upon us, submissions of samples for testing have begun to slow. Samples submitted for certification during the spring continued to show high quality across all crop groups. Samples continued to have few disease issues. The number of samples tested this year surpassed those of previous years—partly due to an increase in the number of service samples submitted. The lab also reached a milestone: We have tested 20,000 samples since reopening in 2016.

Our focus has begun to shift to other duties and responsibilities, when time allows. OECD soybean grow-outs have been organized and delivered for planting to conduct post-harvest evaluation of phenotypic traits in the field. We have placed orders for two new germinators and a seed blower. The review and revision of SOPs has started. Revisions to the fee schedule are also underway. We will also begin lab equipment calibrations once their respective due dates arrive, along with other accreditation requirements. We will send out our Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey via email in June to solicit your feedback on this past season. As previously, I will keep the survey minimal. It will only take a moment to complete if you choose to participate. We appreciate any feedback you provide us.

I am happy to announce that the MCIA Seed Laboratory is now a CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) Officially Recognized Foreign Seed Testing Laboratory. This recognition is based on the laboratory’s USDA ASL accreditation and successful completion, in April, of an evaluation regarding the Canadian Methods & Procedures for Testing Seed. In the future, you will notice some differences in how we report results for Canadian testing; they will more closely resemble the Canadian standardized report format.


Organic Corner

Photo by Level_Up_Filming from Pixabay.

By Michelle Menken, Organic Services Manager

Organic Corner

This has been a really busy start to the year for us. We have hired three new people—one in April, one in May, and one who started June 1: two certification specialists/inspectors and one administrative specialist. This means we are spending a lot of time training people. Plus, everyone here has been training because of the three big rule changes to the Organic Standards.

The first rule change was the Origin of Livestock (OOL). It says a dairy operation can only transition a dairy one time and transitioned dairy animals can only be used for milk production on that farm. They cannot be sold as organic. If you have transitioned animals on your farm, we have marked them as “TRANSITIONED” on your Livestock List. If you had an organic dairy in the past and want to start a new organic dairy, you must now buy organic animals to build the new herd.

The second rule change is the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standard (OLPS), which sets standards for livestock housing, outdoor access, and stocking density rates indoors and out. It is primarily for poultry and hogs. It lists maximum numbers of birds per square foot for pullets, layers, broilers, and other poultry. OLPS requires that ammonia levels are kept below 20 ppm in poultry barns. So, poultry operations and inspectors should be doing testing in barns this year.

The third rule change is Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE). Every operation is now required to have a Fraud Prevention Plan (FPP) as part of their organic system plan. We created an FPP form and information sheet that went out with renewal packets to all organic producers. If you did not get the FPP form, please contact the office. SOE requires us to spend more time reviewing supply chains (which is looking at the records that show who you buy from and who you sell to). For livestock operations this means we will be looking at all your purchased feed records this year at inspection. For handlers, we will be looking to see if you have clear records of all your suppliers and traceable records of purchases and sales. Preventing fraud is everyone’s responsibility. Make sure you are getting and giving good receipts: receipts should identify products bought and sold as “organic,” use a lot number, list the quantities, include the date of the sale, and include the buyer’s and seller’s names. We have a Bill of Lading/Clean Truck form you can use. Ask us for copies if you need them. For livestock sales, be sure you identify individual animals (ear-tag number or a name that matches what is on your Livestock List) and say if they are eligible for organic slaughter or not.

All crop and livestock applications should now be in. Starting June 1, we will be charging late fees. If you did not get an application, call us now. The mail has been bad this year. Several people have called us who said they did not get their applications. Files are going out to inspectors now, so the inspection season is starting.

The NOP will audit MCIA’s organic program this year in July. This inspection happens for us every two and a half years and takes a week. The auditors will follow two of our inspectors on inspections—one handler and one crop farm this year. Then they select files here at our office to be sure we have been keeping complete records.


Staff News

Frances Schuster, left, and Maddie Barkholtz, right.

Minnesota Crop Improvement Association welcomes Frances Schuster to the staff of Organic Services. Frances started work on April 1, training with Rose-Marie Odell as the department’s new administrative specialist. Rose-Marie has plans to retire from MCIA later this summer.

Frances is passionate about organic farming and is eager to contribute to the department’s work. Frances holds a B.S. degree in plant sciences with an emphasis in organic horticulture and local food from the University of Minnesota.

Since 2020, Frances has run a small cut flower operation, Seeds to Stars. Their farming experience includes past work at Racing Heart Farm, a no-till vegetable operation in western Wisconsin, and as the team lead at Loon Organics, where Frances was responsible for leading harvest crews, Loon’s high-volume farmer’s market booth, and comanaging the greenhouse and seeding operation.


MCIA also welcomes back Maddie Barkholtz, who was recently re-hired as an organic certification specialist/inspector for the Organic Services department.

Maddie has returned to MCIA after completing an M.P.H. degree in environmental health from the University of Minnesota. In addition, Maddie holds a B.S. in animal science from the University of Minnesota, College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences, where she was on the Dean’s list.

Maddie has an interest in agricultural sustainability and environmental health and is knowledgeable about USDA National Organic Program certification standards. She has hands-on experience working with dairy and beef cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry. In addition to her prior employment with MCIA, Maddie’s past work experience includes being a manager at Core Pet Zone’s Legends Rescue.


List Your Carryover Seed in the Directory

The 2025 MCIA Directory will include a listing of carryover seed. Growers: If you have seed you want to list, please submit the Directory Carryover Seed Inclusion form that was included in your field inspection information packet.

You may also access the Directory Carryover Seed Inclusion form from the Client Resources page of the MCIA website, https://www.mncia.org/resources. The form is listed under Certification Services, Seed Certification Program, Field Inspection, Annuals.

Or simply send MCIA the following information about your carryover seed: crop variety, your name, address, and telephone number.