MCGA elects Greg Schwarz president for 2010-2011

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

At its September meeting, Minnesota Corn Growers Association board of directors elected Greg Schwarz the new president of the 6,000-member farmer organization, which has headquarters in Shakopee.

Schwarz, of LeSueur, Minnesota, has served for three years on the MCGA board and most recently filled the post of secretary. He is also president of Scott-LeSueur County Corn and Soybean Growers Association. He will succeed current president DeVonna Zeug on October 1.

Both Zeug and Schwarz joined the Governor’s Trade Mission to China, which spent twelve days, from September 10 through 22, meeting with business and agricultural leaders in Shanghai, Beijing and in rural China.

Schwarz, 44, is a 1988 graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in animal science and agricultural economics, believes that diversification is the necessary foundation for prosperity in agriculture, and his operation speaks to that–he produces corn and soybeans, turkeys and is a founding member of the local ethanol plant, Heartland Corn Products in Winthrop.

Since Heartland came online in 1995, it has grown from 10 million gallons per year production up to 100 million gallons. But Schwarz has also produced turkeys for the past eight years. It has been one of Schwarz’ key issues since joining the MCGA board of director, to encourage the various segments of agriculture to work together in order to achieve common goals.

“One of the first things I wanted to push when first got on the MCGA board was the need to work better with other organizations, other parts of agriculture,” said Schwarz. “I think we’re improving on that front. But we still have a ways to go. We in commodities don’t have nearly as much public support and political support as we used to, so we can’t let issues divide us and keep us from finding that common ground.

“It’s going to be more important than ever to work together especially when we come up against things that effect us all, like the farm bill, or how HSUS portrays animal welfare, water quality, federal dust regulations…there are any number of issues, and we have more of an impact when we work together.”

Like Zeug and a number of MCGA grower leaders, Schwarz is a graduate of the Minnesota Agricultural and Rural Leadership program, based at Southwest State University in Marshall. The two year series of seminars brings together leaders from across the spectrum of ag and rural life in order to gain knowledge and sharpen skills that will make them more effective in their roles directing organizations.

“MARL really develops the skills necessary to be an effective leader,” said Schwarz. “It is perfect for leaders in an organization like corn growers or any other commodity group in Minnesota. As far as skills, the number one skill you work on is listening, number two is how to work with a diverse group of people. We saw people from a broad spectrum of the Minnesota economy, and gained a new appreciation of how everything fits together. It teaches you to always look at the other side of the issue. There is always more to the story.”

 
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