New Year Harbinger of Change

Published in the February 2014 Issue Published online: Feb 10, 2014 Luther Markwart, Executive Vice President
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Every February your grower leaders come together for the ASGA annual meeting to review all of the challenges, opportunities and activities we face in the New Year.

The “To Do” list is long and diverse and covers global, national, regional and local issues. We essentially conduct a threat assessment and look for opportunities to help beet growers add or protect the value of their business—both on the farm and as a cooperative. International trade agreements, farm policy (passage, defense and implementation), research funding, crop insurance, numerous biotechnology issues, Political Action Committee activities/elections, and constant communications—both internally as an association and publicly as an industry—are just a few of the major areas we focus on. Each of these issues has many subparts and groups of people who have to be educated and coordinated to achieve the intended result.

The added challenge to all of this is the movement of people. Members of Congress and their staff come and go. Administrations and administrators and their staffs are “in” and “out” of public service. Across the entire sector of public and private organizations people retire, get “termed out” on their boards, seek new job opportunities, move closer to family, etc. etc.

There is a constant choreography of people who have to be educated about our issues so that our industry is viewed in its proper context and for its important value to the nation.

So with each passing year there are many goodbyes to be said to faithful servants who have given their precious time, attention and talent to the service of others.

At ASGA we will say our difficult goodbyes to knowledgeable and seasoned veterans who have borne the responsibilities of leading and guiding the domestic sugar industry through both the bountiful as well as challenging and difficult times. Leaving the fraternity of beet grower leaders is one of the most difficult transitions for them. The mutual respect and friendships built over the years together is a truly a very special part of their lives. This is the glue that holds organizations together to work collectively, efficiently and successfully—year in and year out.

It is also a time to say hello to excited, energetic and very capable new leaders. They will get up to speed quickly and work hard to carry on the tradition of excellence that preceded them. It is always a blessing to work with and for some of the finest leaders that American agriculture has to offer. As growers, take time to thank your elected leaders again and again. They make many sacrifices on your behalf and their work should never be taken for granted.

At this year’s annual meeting ASGA President Kelly Erickson will have completed the maximum of two years as president. He has shepherded our industry and the sugar provisions through one of the most difficult political environments in the history of our nation. He has opened the door to a dialog on biotechnology with Russia and the Ukraine in an effort to attract more valuable technology to our crop in the decades ahead. He led grower leaders to the heart of New York City to explain to others in the sugar industry what our growers and their families need to survive in this business and continue to be the reliable suppliers of an essential ingredient in the nation’s food system.

On behalf of all of the growers across the nation, we express our deepest appreciation to Kelly and his family for their sacrifices to secure a bright future for the beet sugar industry.