MCGA Annual Awards spotlight the essentials: farmers who experienced production success & those who help all farmers achieve success & leaders who strengthen MCGA’s grassroots

When hundreds drew together for the Minnesota Corn Growers Awards Banquet on Monday, January 17, during MN Ag EXPO, they applauded MCGA’s top membership recruiters who have kept the rolls over 6,000 members once again–a key to commanding the attention of key elected officials and policy makers in Saint Paul and Washington.

“I want to congratulate MCGA for another successful year,” said Jerry Ploehn, a farmer in Alpha, Minnesota, and chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council. He told the audience, “We want to thank all you folks for your support of the corn industry and the corn check off. Looking back, 2010 was a very busy and productive year. We funded projects and saw exciting progress in biomass energy, distillers grains, and water quality, among others. We also forged important and exciting partnerships that help us reach out and tell the farmer’s story to a growing number of people, through new partnerships with Twins Baseball, the University of Minnesota Gophers sports teams and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, to mention a few.”

The presence of the incoming and outgoing Minnesota agriculture commissioners signaled the special place that Minnesota Corn Growers Association holds as a leadership group ensuring a bright future for our state. Commissioner Gene Hugoson, the longest serving state agriculture commissioner in US history, ended his 15-year tenure–held across three governor administrations–came to the stage for the Kernel Award–MCGA’s highest recognition. Since his appointment in 1995 by Gov. Arne Carlson, Hugoson successfully steered the state’s agriculture program to ensure that Minnesota farm producers enjoyed one of the most prosperous periods ever–through support of value added agriculture, exports, as well as educational programs and programs to benefit the environment.

As Hugoson left the podium, he received warm congratulations from Dave Frederickson, who began this month as the new Minnesota commissioner of agriculture. Frederickson comes to the role at the pinnacle of a distinguished career of service to agriculture that has included a tenure in the state senate when he helped pass Minnesota’s groundbreaking ethanol programs–the producer support program and the ten percent ethanol gasoline blend requirement. Frederickson went on to serve as state and national president of the Farmers Union, and has worked most recently as a constituent liaison for US Senator Amy Klobuchar, focusing on farm and rural issues. Both Frederickson and Hugoson remain active in farming, which members of MCGA have sited as a key qualification–these officials know firsthand about the needs of agricultural producers.

Three University of Minnesota agricultural scientists received MCGA’s Friend of Agriculture award–recognition of distinguished careers, and also underlining the interest of Minnesota corn producers in achieving environmental benefits through better agricultural science. Soil Scientists Gyles Randall, Satish Gupta and John Moncrief received this award. As the debate over the environmental impact of agriculture intensifies, the work of these scientists and those following them will lay the foundation for a model in which agriculture becomes more productive while managing its environmental impact so that everyone can enjoy the state’s vast natural resources for generations to come.

“They go after the truth,” MCGA Pres. Greg Schwarz told the audience. “What we are looking for is what is actually happening in the rural landscape, and that is what their scientific research is establishing.”

Recognition also went to a group of leaders who have all given generously of their time, most for more than a decade, who are retiring this year from the MCGA board of directors: past MCGA president Doug Albin, Roger Dale, Tim Dolan, Tim Dritz and Jeffrey Larson. The immediate past-president, DeVonna Zeug, received the MCGA Presidential Gavel award.

Of Zeug, Schwarz said, “What always impressed me and has truly influenced me in DeVonna’s leadership style was that, when we debated big questions, she would say ‘What’s in the best interest of Minnesota Corn Growers, what’s in the best interest of the farmers?'”

MCGA’s top recruiters for the year were Lori Feltis, Connie Mulder, Robert Nelsen, Myron “Mickey” Peterson and Doug Toreen–all achieving 350 points or more in the recruitment ranking. Gayle Bergstrom and Dale Sunderman achieved 250 points; Denice Dirks achieved 200 points; Larry Litzau and Ryan Buck achieved 150 points; Wade Kallevig, Wes Nelson, Richard Peterson and Jerry Ploehn surpassed 100 points and Tom Haag, Nathan Haag, Byron Olson and Thomas Williamson surpassed 50 points in recruitment–all signing new members and getting commitments from existing members to continue their membership in MCGA.

Also honored were Minnesota’s top producers in the NCGA National Corn Yield Contest. In a bin buster year for Minnesota growers, there were still more than a dozen standout producers recognized.

The contest recognizes to achievers in six different categories of cultivation method:

In AA No Till/ Strip Till, Non-Irrigated:
First Place: McNallan Farms of Kellogg with a yield of 252.7
Second Place: Paul Hamann of Fountain with a yield of 247.1
Third Place: Jordan Redalen of Fountain with a yield of 244.9

AA Non-Irrigated:
First Place: Craig Leland of Bricelyn with a yield of 263.6
Second Place: Kevin Zimmer of Fairmont with a yield of 260.9
Third Place: Gary and Jim Sobeck of Winona with a yield of 257.7

No-Till/Strip-Till Irrigated
First Place: Braun Farms, Inc., of LeSueur with a yield of 237.1
Second Place: Jeff Tiemann Royalton with a yield of 235.3

Ridge Till Non-Irrigated
First Place: Charlie Hamm of Litchfield with a yield of 249.5
Second Place Bruce Hamm of Litchfield with a yield of 231.7
Third Place: Fred Behnke of Grove City with a yield of 220.8 

Ridge Till Irrigated
First Place: Crow River Farms, Inc., of Darwin with a yield of 232.3 

Irrigated
First Place: James Gergen of Hastings with a yield of 245.0
Second Place: Bill Schaffer of Hastings with a yield of 244.1
Third Place: Roger Peine of Cannon Falls with a yield of 243.0

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