Annual President’s Report

Fawad Shah, MCIA President/CEO, addresses the Association’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Photo © 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 12, 2023.

After introducing MCIA’s staff members, the President reported that fiscal year 2021–2022 was financially successful for MCIA. Organic Services led all departments in revenue generated, showing sustained growth over the past five years. Revenue from the Field Services and Foundation Seed departments increased slightly. Revenue from Certification and Seed Laboratory Services declined slightly. Organic Services expenses showed a slight decrease over five years, mainly due to staff changes. Field Services expenses also decreased. Foundation Seed Services expenses increased slightly. Seed Laboratory Services expenses increased, mainly due to new staff. The trend for Certification Services expenses remained steady.

MCIA continues to collaborate with the University of Minnesota, acting as licensing agent for its crop varieties, increasing foundation seed, providing seed laboratory services in support of academic research, and developing curriculum for a Seed Science, Technology & Society course.

The President then reported on personnel changes. Since January 2022, those who resigned their positions at MCIA included Tom Keskey, Field Services; Connie McDowell, Seed Laboratory; and Karen Gjelhaug, Cherry Flowers, and Tyler Tisdale, Organic Services. New hires include Keith Marti, in June as District 3 field supervisor; Claire Biel, in October as seed lab technician; and two organic certification specialist/inspectors—Shauna Ilse, in August, and Lauren Martin, in January 2023. One organic certification specialist/inspector position remains open.

MCIA continues to work with University of Minnesota and Farmers Yield Initiative to stop the illegal sale of PVP seed. Recent court judgments were entered against two Minnesota farming operations in a case brought forward by the Regents of the University of Minnesota to stop unauthorized use of PVPA-protected oat varieties. The judgements were in the amounts of $50,000 and $150,000.

The President conducted an in-person OECD Seed Schemes roundup at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) office in Pakistan. The participants included staff from the country’s Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, the FAO, and private company representatives. While in Pakistan, the President also gave a presentation on corn seed production at a conference held at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. In October, MCIA hosted a tour of our facilities for a group of professors and university administrators from Zimbabwe.

MCIA’s Field Services inspects nearly 180 facilities each year for the Approved Facility Program. In 2022, five facility inspections were completed under the U.S. Identity Preserved Program. Field Services also administers the MnDOT Approved Seed Vendors Program and MCIA representatives serve on the Minnesota Soybean Council and the Minnesota Turf Seed Council.

The MCIA Seed Laboratory is accredited by the USDA’s Accredited Seed Laboratory Program through 2025. Thus far, laboratory reports indicate that seed quality is high with some mechanical damage on soybeans. The Seed Laboratory circulated a customer satisfaction survey. Feedback was positive for quality, turnaround time, and customer care.

Foundation Seed Services installed a Meyer M-1 Color and Shape Optical Sorter. It was used to improve the purity of soybean and barley seed lots. Spring Foundation seed sales increased 10.5 percent compared to 2021. Wheat sales were up 31 percent and oat sales were up 6 percent. MCIA prepared new license agreements for one winter barley line and two soybean lines.

Updated Organic Services fee schedules, with changes effective January 1, were recently mailed to clients. Due to personnel changes over the past year, hiring and training of new Organic Services staff members continues.

Certification Services saw a decrease in final certification fees for fiscal year 2021/22 of approximately $20,000, mainly due to perennial grasses and drought conditions. Compared to last year, in fiscal year 2022/23 there is a decline in hybrid rye, oats, tall fescue, and wheat and an increase in corn and perennial ryegrass.

MCIA will host AOSCA’s 2023 international annual meeting in June. In conclusion, the President stated that MCIA will continue to work on database improvements, fill vacant positions, and train newly hired staff. MCIA looks forward to ongoing collaboration with SSGA, the University of Minnesota, MDA, MnDOT, and other state and federal agencies throughout the year to increase its visibility, market its services, and engage in capacity building.

Note: The full, official minutes of the 2023 MCIA Annual Meeting, which include the President’s Report, were published in the spring 2023 issue of the Minnesota Seed Grower.