MCGA elects officers, John Mages of Belgrade to become MCGA president for 2011-12

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) board of directors held annual elections at its most recent meeting and voted for officers to lead the grassroots, farmer organization.

MCGA, based in Shakopee, Minnesota, represents the interests of 6,000 farmer members through activities that educate the public and inform legislators, media and business representatives, as well as other important state and community leaders about the issues that impact farmers and the role that farmers play in bringing food, fiber and energy products to the consumer.

John Mages, of Belgrade, was elected president. Other top officers are Tom Haag of Eden Valley, vice president; Ryan Buck of Goodhue was elected for a second term as treasurer; Bruce Peterson of Northfield will serve as secretary.  Their terms begin October 1 and run through September 30, 2012.

Mages, 54, raises corn and soybeans on his farm in Belgrade, in Stearns County. He has been involved in leadership positions with MCGA for nearly six years, most recently serving as vice president for the organization.

“The single most important issue now facing farmers is what’s going to happen to the next farm bill,” said Mages. “What kind of protection will the farmer have if there is a collapse in prices or a collapse in yield? What kind of bill will help Middle America stay healthy–we need a viable safety net that can be successfully maintained within current federal budgetary constraints. We also have an important message to bring to the public about ethanol, and that is to remind people of the importance of energy independence–depending on foreign oil is a risk not only to our national security, but also to our economy, and a growing renewable energy industry–with farm-base energy strongly represented in the portfolio–is the way for America to step away from its unhealthy addiction to oil.”

Among his formative leadership experiences, Mages counts as most important his participation in the second class of Minnesota Agricultural and Rural Leadership program, or MARL. This is a highly competitive, two year program of seminars that brings together 30 rural leaders, the majority of them farmers, to learn about the regional, state, national and global economies and how farming and other industries fit within these systems. The seminars each take place in a different location around the state of Minnesota, to help participants become familiar with all of the state’s regions and network with leaders in these places. The MARL program also includes a weeklong experience in Washington, DC and a week-to-ten day experience in a foreign country with an important role in international commodity markets. Mages also has taken part in the very selective Syngenta Leadership Training program, which brings candidates together at the leading crop tech company’s world headquarters for training in a range of leadership skills including how to successfully run meetings, develop consensus on issues where there are multiple, divergent views, and how to interact with the media.

“One of the most important underlying concepts we took home from MARL is that, if you want to have a say in what the future will be for yourselves or your kids when it comes to agriculture, then you have to get involved,” said Mages. “Organizations like MCGA are the means for keeping America’s farmers prosperous and independent, through well-thought out policies and laws that are based on thorough scientific research. It takes grower leaders to step up and carry these messages to the public and to elected officials.”

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