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NSA Board of Director Changes

Saturday, September 1, 2012
filed under: Marketing/Risk Management

Outgoing National Sunflower Association board member John McLean sums it up well in saying, “The unique organizational structure of the National Sunflower Association that combines both producers and industry membership to the benefit and growth of the sunflower industry was a visionary strength of the original organizing group.”

McLean spent 12 years as part of this unique group, alongside producers from North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Colorado, combined with industry representatives from all sectors, that make up the NSA board of directors.

The NSA honored McLean and two other board members in late June at the 2012 Summer Seminar. Those leaving the board included North Dakota producers Tim DeKrey and Reg Herman and industry member McLean of Cargill, Inc. Herman, a Brinsmade area farmer (north central North Dakota), served one three-year term. Both DeKrey and McLean had been on the board for four terms.

DeKrey, of Steele, N.D., has been farming for nearly 35 years. In 2001 he was called upon to fulfill a term vacated by another south central North Dakota farmer and has never regretted his decision to join the NSA board. He subsequently moved up through the board ranks, serving as president and chairman.

Quick to point out the group effort that drives the NSA, DeKrey credits Larry Kleingartner’s leadership in helping make sure all producers’ voices are heard. “I represented the smaller producer, and I may have had a different perspective based on the size of my operation,” he says. “Larry made sure all producers were made to feel valuable and had their opinions and ideas heard.”

DeKrey decided to stick around for as long as is allowed by the group’s bylaws: four consecutive three-year terms. “It takes about five years on the board before a member can become effective and have a clear understanding of how things work and get accomplished. Larry was a great motivator in getting board members to that point where they could be an effective spokesman for the industry,” DeKrey says.

John McLean has been a spokesman for the industry for almost 40 years. He’s worked in the grain industry since 1973, with 32 of those years at Cargill. His primary responsibility for Cargill is commercial seed origination. He’s also involved in other merchandising activities in the West Fargo office and represents Cargill with outside organizations such as NSA, the Flax Council of Canada, Northern Crops Institute and the North Dakota State Chamber of Commerce. Tentative plans are to retire from Cargill in January of 2013. “I have very much enjoyed my association with the NSA, both as a member of the NuSun development committee and the 12 years that I served on the board,” John shares. “Several things come to mind as I think back on the time spent with NSA.” The foresight of the organizers of NSA to have a board of directors made up of both producers and industry personnel was something McLean credits as the foundation for success of the organization and the crop. “That decision brought many different points of view and revenue sources to solving the many problems that we tackled,” he states. “The high-quality people — staff, producers, government and industry members — all made serving with the NSA a challenging and rewarding experience. We identified and worked hard on solving a great many problems and issues that faced the sunflower industry, and, for the most part, made progress to the benefit of all parties.”

DeKrey agrees, saying, “To have a board where there’s an interaction of industry and producers, whether it’s the processors, seed companies or confection guys, we all work together for the common good of promoting the crop. To have everyone literally at the same table interacting is valuable to the crop.”

Many accomplishments and advancements of the crop over the years come to mind for both men – big improvements in insurance, herbicide tolerance and hybrid development, just to name a few. “It was a great experience overall; but to see so many positive things happen for the crop while I was on the board is special,” DeKrey notes. “My interest in the board came off a difficult year raising confection sunflower in the late 1990s when we had serious problems with dark roast and Sclerotinia. At the time, those issues were not covered by insurance. We worked with RMA, and it took almost five years. But we got them to cover those perils.”

McLean says there were plenty of problems faced by the board, but most had positive outcomes. He points to the conversion of the crop to NuSun as the highlight of his time spent with NSA.

Both DeKrey and McLean exit their seats at the table with a few regrets and some unfinished business. “There were so many good things we accomplished; but if I had to pinpoint one disappointment it would be that the deal with Frito-Lay using sunflower oil exclusively didn’t work out,” DeKrey relates. “That was unfortunate, but it made us work even harder to make this crop survive in the end.”

McLean says dealing with blackbirds remains the biggest frustration of his time on the board. “I personally believe there are technical solutions to this problem. But there are just too many political roadblocks to implement the solutions,” he ventures.

Despite some setbacks and battles with certain ongoing issues, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives for both men. DeKrey has fond memories of trips to Washington, D.C., and to corporate headquarters for hybrid seed and chemical companies. But it’s the caliber of people he worked alongside over the years that really stands out.

McLean responds similarly when asked what he might miss most about being part of the association. “There were many spirited discussions on how to solve issues that came before the board, but solving the problem was always the priority,” he states. Looking back, it will be the people I will miss the most.”

New Board Members Welcomed

The National Sunflower Association recently welcomed three new members to its 19-member board of directors made up of producers and industry representatives from across the nation’s primary sunflower producing regions. New members are North Dakota producers Clark Coleman of Bismarck and Todd Lasher of McClusky, along with Tyler Schultz, of Cargill, Inc., West Fargo, N.D. All began three-year terms.

Coleman manages the family farm with his brother near Baldwin, N.D., where they raise sunflower, canola, winter wheat, spring wheat, malting barley, corn, peas, pinto beans and soybeans. The Colemans also operate a cow-calf operation on the family ranch, dating back to the 1940s.

Lasher has managed the family farm in Sheridan County in central North Dakota since 1982. The diversified Lasher operation includes beef cattle, and several crops: sunflower, spring wheat, oats, corn, millet, peas, durum, malting barley, canola and flax. Todd also owns and operates a trucking firm.

Schultz represents the industry sector on the NSA Board of Directors. He began his career with Cargill as an intern in the company’s soybean crushing business in the Des Moines, Iowa, office. He later worked in Sioux City and Kansas City before transferring to Cargill’s West Fargo facility about two years ago. Schultz is responsible for managing all of the facility’s commercial-related activities, including seed purchasing, meal sales, oil sales and facility run schedules.

— Sonia Mullally
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