Willis elected chair of MCR&PC

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Chad Willis, the new chairman of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC) understands the importance of the whole spectrum of agribusiness to the ongoing vitality of rural Minnesota and the whole Farm Belt.

“Corn production and the value-added businesses that have developed around it contribute billions of dollars to Minnesota’s economy every year,” said Willis.

At 46, Willis has farmed for the past 13 years in Willmar, Minnesota, producing corn and soybeans. After completing an educational program in agricultural business, Willis worked in a variety of agribusiness settings before becoming a full-time farmer, including positions at a farmer’s elevator and at a wet-mill corn processing plant.

“One of our top priorities will be maintaining the market for ethanol,” said Willis, who noted that the changing federal policies regarding support for ethanol will make the activities of groups like MCR&PC vital to the expansion, especially of blends above 15 percent ethanol–which is where future growth for the farm-based, renewable, cleaner burning fuel will occur. “American-made ethanol is a very successful engine for jobs and economic activity and we are going to work hard to continue to build on that success.”

Willis is starting his fifth year on MCR&PC, and has previously served as vice chairman and treasurer. He has been a principal organizer for Minnesota’s corn organizations of the Governor’s Ethanol Challenge, a racing series that takes place each July and promotes consumer awareness of ethanol as a high performance fuel.

Other officers elected in the MCR&PC election are: Marty Amundson of Zumbrota, vice chairman; Richard Peterson of Mountain Lake, treasurer; and Lori Feltis of Stewartville, secretary. The new slate of officers became effective July 1. The MCR&PC is comprised of eleven district representatives, including four officers.

“We are stewards of the check-off fund,” said Willis, referring to the funds collected from the sale of corn in Minnesota. All corn producers who sell grain in Minnesota can take part in the election process. “We’re here to make sure these dollars are invested in a way to help farmers increase their profitability, not only now, but as we move into the future.”

Research into water quality is another area of investment for MCR&PC, as it has been for many years. Funding for projects that investigate means for drainage that conserve soil and maintain water quality can help farmers meet public expectations while still producing the highest yields–necessary to meet the world’s growing demand for food, feed, fiber and energy.

Leaders for Minnesota’s corn organizations are currently in Washington for “Corn Congress” — an annual gathering in the nation’s capitol to get a firsthand look at the latest developments in federal farm policy.

Shortly after that, MCR&PC expects to receive a report from Informa Economics, a leading corporate consulting firm with expertise in the agriculture sector.

“MCR&PC has a basic structure of four teams: Producer Services, Expanded Uses, Production Stewardship, and FAB — Food and Bioenergy,” said Willis. “Informa will help us decide if this is the most effective structure or whether we need to make changes, in order to achieve progress on behalf of the farmers we work for.”

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