I am heading to Chicago for the 68th annual Corn and Sorghum Seed Research Conference/43rd Soybean Seed Research Conference on Monday where I will be joined by Leah Guffey to bring you coverage of this important meeting “where seed business gets done.” Thanks to ASTA and BASF Crop Protection for sponsoring our coverage. BASF will be will be discussing their seed solutions profile today since they officially announced their plans with Becker Underwood at this meeting last year.
The new portfolio is the result of combined breakthroughs from the BASF global research and development platform and Becker Underwood’s biological seed treatment, seed treatment colors and polymer technologies.
Andy says there will be a big focus at the meeting this year on seed treatment stewardship and a new guide available under the industry banner of Seed Treatment Matters. “We got together with CropLife American, and the major grower groups – National Corn Growers, American Soybean, National Cotton Council and American Farm Bureau Federation – to talk about the adoption of new technologies we’ve seen on seed,” he said. “We want to make sure that technology is properly stewarded.”
The guide developed by the groups is available at seed-treatment-guide.com and it will also be offered and discussed at 2014 grower meetings.
An alliance of organizations supporting biotech crops has named a leader to help “spearhead collaborative efforts to improve the environment for technology innovation and the market for U.S. crops produced through modern biotechnology.”
Dr. Michael J. Phillips has been selected as the first secretariat for the U.S. Biotech Crops Alliance (USBCA), which was established by several organizations under a memorandum of understanding signed in 2012. The USBCA has been developing and working to “implement consensus positions on key policy issues designed to improve the introduction, stewardship, domestic and international regulatory policy, and distribution in U.S. and export markets of commodities and processed products containing or derived from modern biotechnology.”
In his capacity as secretariat, Phillips will be the focal point of the group’s efforts to further advance the reach, work and wide range of activities being pursued under the expanding broad-based national initiative that currently consists of 11 influential national organizations representing U.S. biotechnology providers; seed, grain and oilseed producers; grain handlers, feed manufacturers, grain processors and millers; exporters; and other end-users. The secretariat also will serve a key role in helping develop and implement consensus positions on specific policy issues.
Phillips is president of MJ Phillips and Associates LLC, an agricultural consulting firm that specializes in agricultural biotechnology issues, and prior to that was vice president for science and regulatory policy for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
Michelle Kohn, formerly a research analyst for agriculture consulting firm, Agralytica, has been named Director, International Programs and Policy, said Andrew W. LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA).
In this new role at ASTA, Kohn will be responsible for the management and direction of USDA Cooperator/donor-funded programs and for assisting in the development of ASTA’s international policies and priorities. She will be the staff lead for the International Executive Committee and the major foreign markets (Argentina, India, Mexico, China and Brazil) committees.
Formerly at Agralytica, Kohn provided analysis and support for market research, program evaluations and strategic market analysis for government agencies, trade associations and US exporter organizations. Among the industries she analyzed were soybeans, wheat, grains, oilseed and animal agriculture; and among the issues she evaluated were crop insurance, tariffs and trade barriers.
Prior to Agralytica, Kohn provided writing, research, statistical and other project management support for an environmental nonprofit. A graduate of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, Kohn is currently working on an MS-MBA in Food and Agribusiness Management from Purdue University and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
The 130th ASTA annual meeting gave attendees an opportunity to receive an update on the progress of the Accord initiative that is a joint effort of ASTA with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “The Accord is an industry-led framework that is meant to address situations when biotech events go off patent and how we maintain the regulatory approvals worldwide for those events,” Bernice Slutsky, Senior Vice President for Domestic and International Policy for ASTA, said. Accord includes two major agreements, the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement (GEMAA) and the Data Use and Compensation Agreement (DUCA).
The update provided at ASTA’s annual meeting informed ASTA members that the GEMAA had been completed and open for signatures and currently has 10 signatures. The DUCA is scheduled to be completed and opened by the end of the year. “The DUCA is a larger agreement. It is meant to address some of the more complicated regulatory issues associated with stacked products,” Slutsky said.
According to Slutsky, the framework will hopefully ensure that farmers and stakeholders will be able to continue to trade their products uninterrupted as the biotechnology events go off patent.
The American Seed Trade Association introduced their new seed advocate program at the 130th ASTA annual meeting. The intention of the program is to help grow grassroots leadership to communicate with policy makers about the seed industry. “We will provide them with the information and tools they need so they can continue that interaction with their government employees for positive policy for the seed industry,” Pat Miller, Director of State Affairs for ASTA, said.
Miller said the main issue that they are looking at advocating currently is favorable labeling laws for genetically modified seeds. He said that ASTA also monitors policies that affect taxes and regulations of the seed industry. Members of the seed advocate program would receive information from ASTA on issues like these to be able to engage their local policy makers in conversations about them.
According to Miller, anyone interested in the seed industry can be a seed advocate. People involved in advocacy currently range from large corporation representatives to location managers. If you are interested in more information about the program or would like to get involved, click here.
Risa DeMasi was elected as the second Vice Chair of ASTA at the 130th ASTA annual meeting. This election is marks a memorable moment for ASTA as DeMasi is the first woman to be elected an officer. She will serve a three year term in which she serves as the second Vice Chair in 2013-2014, the first Vice Chair in 2014-2015 and the Chair in 2015-2016.
As a member of the officer team, DeMasi hopes to focus on creating open and effective dialogue across the diversity of the seed industry. “I’m really looking forward to facilitating more conversations on behalf of my sector,” DeMasi said.
DeMasi is on the sales team at Grassland Oregon, which specializes in turf grasses, forage grasses and cover crops.
The Future Seed Executives (FuSE) program was initiated as a branch of the ASTA Management Skills Committee in 2004. According to Liz Pestow, immediate past chairman of the FuSE initiative, “The focus of FuSE is to provide educational and networking opportunities to those in the industry with seven years or less experience,” Pestow said. Members involved in FuSE range from those who have recently graduated college to supporters and mentors for the program that are upper executives, CEOs and presidents of companies.
The Campus Connections program, the college student branch FuSE, was present at the ASTA annual meeting. Students in their junior year of college have the chance to apply for a scholarship to attend the ASTA national meeting. While at the convention, they are mentored by executives attending the meeting for their companies. They sit in on many sessions and committee meetings to get a real world perspective of the seed industry.
Pestow was a product of the FuSE program. Her background is marketing in the automotive industry. She got involved in FuSE in 2007. She said that it gave her an opportunity to really learn about the industry and especially to network with colleagues.
Challenges facing the seed industry were the topic of discussion at Tuesday morning’s general session at the 130th ASTA annual meeting. The state of agribusiness panel was composed of Ross Harvey from AdFarm, Blake Sieker managing partner at The Context Network and Kevin Ferguson farm management extension area specialist with the University of Tennessee. The panel was moderated by Lowell Catlett, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University.
Harvey opened the panel by discussing issues facing seed companies related to marketing. He mentioned three major areas that the seed industry must address related to marketing including the impact of producer consolidation, the human talent challenge and data driven decision making. Harvey also talked about marketing execution and management issues. “Use fewer tactics and don’t do some things and stay the course,” Harvey said. “Annual planning cycles don’t mean we have to reinvent our marketing initiatives every year.” According to Harvey, great marketing groups are disciplined, consistent, and are great at execution.
Listen to Harvey’s remarks here: Ross Harvey
The focus of Sieker’s comments was the status and future dynamics of corn and soybeans. He discussed the evolution of the business, industry trends and drivers and key characteristics that will keep the agriculture sector strong. According to Sieker those keys were “managing volatility, keeping pace with velocity and creating and providing value.”
Listen to Sieker’s comments here: Blake Sieker
Ferguson rounded out the panel by talking to attendees about the challenges that the American farmer faces in the changing industry. He discussed the change over that is occurring especially related to the transition of resources and management from one generation to the next. Additionally, Ferguson spoke on the challenge farms have to plan during profitable times. “Planning during the good times is often much more successful than planning during the bad times,” Ferguson said.
Listen to Ferguson’s presentation here: Kevin Ferguson
I also caught up with Ferguson after the panel and you can listen to my interview with him here: Ferguson Interview
Andy LaVigne, ASTA President and CEO, opened the ASTA 130th annual meeting by welcoming everyone to Nashville and taking a look at what attendees would hear about and discuss over the next two days. His opening remarks surrounded the evolution of the seed industry. LaVigne said the seed industry has a great opportunity to bring its message to the world, and it comes with the responsibility to feed the world.
LaVigne said participants could look forward to hearing more about advocating their industry and their strategic plan to do so. “You will see our focus in the future in our strategic plan is intellectual property,” LaVigne said. “It’s a responsibility to tell a story.”
He concluded his comments by saying, “Your association’s in great shape, and it’s because of you.”
Kelly Keithly was awarded the Honorary Lifetime Member award at the ASTA 130th annual meeting. Keithly is the president of Keithly-Williams Seeds (KWS). He has been involved in the seed business since he graduated from college. Keithly began the company in 1981 with his partner, Walt Williams, and two employees, and it has since expanded to 150 employees and in 18 western states and more than three-quarters of Mexico. KWS is now the largest seed dealer in North America with over $110 million in sales.
As a member of ASTA, Keithly has served as the 2008-2009 ASTA Chairman, a Director-at-Large and the Western Regional Vice President. He got involved with ASTA and had the opportunity to meet many of his suppliers and people in the industry. He said he also had the opportunity to learn about seed beyond vegetables. “The future for the organization is great because the staff and the people involved will continue to figure out how to meet those needs and changes and be a part of them,” Keithly said.
The current and incoming chairmen of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) are pleased with the state of the industry and looking forward to a bright future.
Blake Curtis, Curtis & Curtis, has served as the chairman of the organization for the past year, which he says has gone by very quickly. “It has been a year of successes,” he said. “A number of things our past chairman put into effect we’ve been able to finish up this year – the strategic plan, intellectual property rights protection bureau – these are on-going projects that we’ve been able to bring to fruition and implement.”
Newly-elected chairman Craig Newman, president and CEO of AgReliant Genetics, is especially excited about the future of the industry and ASTA’s Future Seed Executives (FuSE) program. “I’m one of the mentors of one of the students and actually our company has already hired three of that group already,” he said.
Nashville has been a great venue in the heartland for the convention and both Craig and Blake are really looking forward to racing into the future for next year’s convention in Indianapolis.
The 130th American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) annual meeting opened today with a look into the future of the seed industry provided by Dr. Lowell Catlett, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at New Mexico State University. Catlett is a self-professed “weirdo” who provided his perspective on what it takes to look to the future with optimism and to be prepared to face the challenges of a growing world.
Catlett painted a picture of a world that is searching for ways to live longer and more fruitfully. He pointed to agriculture as a wonderful place to be for this development. “You want to have healthy people you can’t separate them from plants and animals and people,” Catlett said. He emphasized that agriculture has the plants and the animals and the people the world needs to stay healthy. Many times throughout his presentation, Catlett called today the “golden age of agriculture” and challenged those in the room to embrace it and keep moving forward.
The opening reception for the 130th American Seed Trade Association annual convention was held at the Grand Ole Opry and the entertainment was provided by an up-and-coming country artist who is now starting to get so popular that he is having less time for his job as a Syngenta Seeds sales rep. Not coincidentally, the reception was sponsored by Syngenta Seeds.
He grew up on a dairy farm, studied Ag Econ at Purdue, and worked as an intern with Golden Harvest prior to its purchase by Syngenta Seeds, but he always loved music. “I sang with the Purdue Varsity Glee Club and I just had a passion for country music,” which Levi said led him to put a band together and start singing at county fairs.
Last night was the first time that Levi, with his sister Lauren and brother-in-law, played the Grand Ole Opry but with songs like “Born to Farm” it probably won’t be the last! “Corn and beans, green and red machines, he was born to farm!”
The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) is holding its 130th annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee this week and it goes without saying that the organization is facing issues today that members at that first meeting never even dreamed about.
“It’s really exciting when we look at 130 years of all the issues that impact the seed industry and how the industry has changed just over the last 10-15 years, let alone 130,” said ASTA President and CEO Andy LaVigne.
Today the big issues for the industry include dealing with new breeding methods, handling of seed treatment, and advocating for the seed industry on the local, national and even international level.
On the national front, Andy says they are kicking off a new seed industry advocacy program to help members become more involved in legislation and regulatory issues; and on the international front they are continuing to make progress on what is know as “The Accord” – an industry-wide effort to address the opportunities and the challenges associated with biotechnology patent expiration. “The whole program will be up and running by the end of this year and the opportunity for generic products to come into the marketplace or be stacked will be there,” said Andy, just in time for the first commercial biotech event to come off patent.
What better place is there than Nashville to celebrate 130 years of the seed industry’s strong roots while charting a path for the progress and innovation of our present and future?
I am heading to the 130th American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) annual meeting at the Gaylord Opryland and joining me will be AgWired summer intern Maggie Seiler. Among the events we will be covering for you at ASTA will be an address by nationally known agriculture economist Lowell Catlett, who will kick off the convention on Monday morning, followed on Tuesday by a State of Agribusiness panel discussion. There will be lots of focus on trends, challenges and opportunities, here and abroad, facing seed companies, large and small, over the coming year.
Breakout sessions will feature up-to-date reports on intellectual property rights, phytosanitary issues, food safety and seed stewardship and more. In addition, ASTA will also hold its annual elections and welcome in new leadership for the coming year.
Stay tuned to AgWired for full coverage and all audio and photos will also be posted on AgNewsWire.
It is time for National Ag Day and activities to celebrate it will kick off today in Washington, DC. National Ag Day is a project of the Agriculture Council of America.
My coverage of this year’s activities is being sponsored once again by the American Seed Trade Association along with BCS Communications. I talked with Andy Lavigne, President/CEO, ASTA, about this year’s theme of Generations Nourishing Generations. It evokes a great image of the family and most people need to know that it is mainly family farmers who are providing the food on their table. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that message out so people who are far removed from the farm will better understand it and not fall into the trap of believing very erroneous messages being spread by organizations and people with an agenda that is very detrimental to today’s sustainable farming practices.
Andy urges all agribusiness companies and farm organizations to support National Ag Day and the activities that take place each year.
Listen to my interview with Andy here: Interview with Andy Lavigne
March 19th is National Ag Day, a time when producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America gather to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture.
As the world population soars, there is even greater demand for the food, fiber and renewable resources produced in the United States. Continue reading →
I spoke with Andy Lavigne, ASTA President/CEO, during Commodity Classic about this project which is very timely since growers are getting ready to get back out in the field. The guide will answer questions like, “How can I protect my treated seeds; What environmental factors should I consider when planting treated seeds; Am I following state and federal regulations for treated seed and What should I do with unused treated seed?”
Right now growers have an incentive to visit and sign up for notifications at www.seed-treatment-guide.com. Two lucky people will win a $500 cash prize!
Cindy spoke with Allen Wilson, Ag Marketing Manager for Harvest Masters, during the event. Allen shared how the two year long process to develop this software resulted in a brand new generation. Not simply a new addition to the previous version.
“The Mirus software that we just released works with our harvest data collection for research combines. It’s a Windows based platform. We have been using Windows mobile, but this is a Windows so it will be running on tablets, Windows XP and Windows 7 & 8. We are in that Windows environment. It is a next generation software to work with our hardware that we previously put out. This is a lot more flexible and easy to use. The operators are now able to see four different screens at one time about their system statues and yield levels. A lot more information available for the operators.”
“The feedback we got back from our beta testers, which were about 20 people that have run our previous software, all said it’s intuitive, it’s easy to use and they don’t have to go struggling through a bunch of different screen to find the information they need or settings to change. It’s a precision piece of equipment so they have to be monitoring it and watching to see if there are changes occurring. It was really over-whelming to hear these people that have used our software say we have made a step forward.”
You can find more information about the release of this new software on a previous post on sister site Precision Pays.
Last night we had our first snow of the season, if you can call it a snow. It was more like hurricane winds blowing around a few specks of white stuff. The roads aren’t bad but I don’t dare take my little car out for fear of getting blown off the road!
Our horse decided that cold triumphed over food and is standing in the barn out of the wind. And the two male cats that typically uphold their battle lines have decided to huddle together on a bale of hay.
I’ve already been asked three times by our son, “Do you want to farm with me?” Maybe I will have to take the afternoon off to do that because after all, “real” farmers don’t have the day off so why should pretend farmers?
And as much as I dislike snow, we need the moisture. I’m afraid the sled might not make it out of storage again this year.
One company that was generating some buzz at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CSS 2012 and Seed Expo was MS Technologies, which made a name for itself a few years ago by collaborating Bayer CropScience on LibertyLink soybeans.
At ASTA, MS Technologies was talking about two new projects – Enlist E3™ with Dow AgroSciences and another Bayer collaboration currently known by its working name of FG72. I had hoped to catch up with MS Technologies Brand Manager Lauren August at ASTA, but since I was unable to do so we did a phone interview last week about the collaboration innovations they have in the pipeline and you can hear more about it in this week’s ZimmCast.