The American Seed Trade Association looks to continue driving progress on issues important to the seed industry, while pausing to recognize those who have contributed to its success. 

A place where young seed professionals came to learn from each other as well as experts in the industry. A place where leaders gathered to discuss policies and set priorities. A place where achievements were recognized, and new leaders were installed. The place was Denver, and the city was home to the American Seed Trade Association’s 2019 Policy and Leadership Development Conference.

For the second year, the programming focused on leadership development for young professionals and policy issues, both at the state and national levels as well as that of the association. Sessions ranged from talent management and personal branding to phytosanitary and intellectual property rights, and from hemp to consumer food trends. Additionally, the more than 200 attendees had the opportunity to tour Applewood Seed Company and visit the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation.

If you missed it, here are the highlights.

New Officers Elected

Jerry Flint, who served as ASTA chair during the past year, passed the gavel to Wayne Gale of Stokes Seed. Gale serves as chair for the 2019-20 year. 

In taking the gavel, Gale said: “It’s an honor to have the opportunity to serve as chair of ASTA, and I look forward to working with all of our members in the coming year. With recent developments in world politics, climate fluctuations, and unprecedented advances in new breeding technologies, the rate of change is accelerating at an incredible pace.

“And just as our industry always has, I am confident that we will continue to rise up and evolve to meet the challenges of today, and tomorrow, with new and innovative solutions for farmers and consumers. This will require us to think differently than in the past 50 years, and it will require us to embrace new ideas for the path forward.”

Joining Gale are John Latham of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds as first vice president and Brad May of BASF as second vice chair.

In Denver, Jerry Flint passed the gavel and title of ASTA chair to Wayne Gale of Stokes Seed for the 2019-2020 year. 

May was previously representing the southeastern region as a regional vice president. Taking his place is John Seymour of Roundstone Seeds. Andy Ernst of Ernst Conservation Seeds ended his term representing the northeastern region. Taking his place is John Bozeman of Seedway. Bill Merrigan of Blue Mountain Seeds also ended his term representing the northwestern region. Pure Seed’s Crystal Rose-Fricker has stepped up to fill that spot.

Regional vice presidents that remain in place are: Jim Schweigert of GroAlliance, Canada; David Pearl of The CISCO Companies, central region; John Romines of Winfield Solutions; north central region; Angel Saavedra of Corteva Agriscience, Mexico; Coby Kriegshauser of Scott Seed Company, southern region; and Rick Falconer of Rijk Zwaan, western region.

While new leaders prepared to advance the initiatives of the association, time was taken to honor and recognize those who had helped to get them this far.

Honoring Excellence

ASTA members spotlighted Blake Curtis of Curtis & Curtis Inc. and John Duesing of Corteva Agriscience with the Lifetime Honorary Member Award. As one of the highest awards given out by the association, it recognizes individuals for untiring service to the association as well as the seed industry.

“Honorary members distinguish themselves in leadership, vision and service,” said Flint, who presented the award. “These two certainly do all of these.”

Hailing from Clovis, N.M., Curtis grew up in the family seed business and has held leadership positions with ASTA since 2004, including serving as chair of the Environmental and Conservation Seed Committee and vice president for the Southern Region. He also served as ASTA chair in 2012-13 and president of the New Mexico Seedsmen’s Association from 1996-1998. Today, Curtis serves as the on-call advisor for the third and fourth generations of Curtis seedsmen.

Outside of the seed industry, Curtis has been active in the New Mexico legislature, serving as minority caucus chairman, minority whip and minority leader. Between 2006 and 2010, he served on the New Mexico State University Board of Regents, including the positions of chairman and secretary. In addition, the New Mexico Finance Authority, New Mexico State Fair Commission and Clovis Chamber of Commerce have also benefitted from Curtis’ leadership.

Jerry Flint presents Blake Curtis with the Lifetime Honorary Member Award. 

Another seedsman who has demonstrated leadership in the plant variety protection arena is John Duesing. After more than 35 years in the plant biotechnology and seed industry, Duesing retired from Corteva Agriscience in May. For the past four-and-half-years, he led the company’s Intellectual Property Asset Protection group. Through the years, his work spanned global plant variety protection, trade secret risk management and monitoring research activities for compliance with commercial agreements.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with John for the past 10 years,” Flint said. “He’s been active in ASTA’s International Executive Committee for the past five years. He’s been instrumental in shaping ASTA’s U.S. Plant Variety Protection strategy, our involvement in UPOV policy and the International Seed Federation … John continues to work on germplasm security and enforcement at the international level.”

In his remarks, Flint summed up Duesing as a relentless advocate for ASTA and the intellectual property protection of seed.

In accepting the award, Duesing said: “It’s been truly a collaboration working with ASTA — for ASTA — on a global basis, looking for every opportunity to present our global seed industry’s success and our vision to the broader seed industry more widely and to the governmental sector to ensure that ASTA is foremost in their minds as a critical global player for seed and farmer success worldwide.”

The association presented two more awards during the meeting, the Distinguished Service Award and an all-new Better Seed, Better Life Ambassador Award.

Upon graduating from Purdue University in 1975, Alan Galbreth began working for the Indiana Crop Improvement Association (ICIA) where he spent the next four-plus decades working in and on half of the seed industry. For his commitment and dedication to the seed industry, Galbreth was honored with the 2019 ASTA Distinguished Service Award.

Through the years, Galbreth has served on numerous committees representing the many facets of the seed industry, from seed testing with AOSA (Association of Official Seed Analysts) and SCST (Society of Commercial Seed Technologists) to regulatory with AOSCA (Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies) and the commercial sector with ASTA.

Galbreth was appointed CEO in 2011 and has served ASTA as chair of the former Seed Analyst Liaison Committee and most recently as chair of the Seed Industry Relations Committee. He also represents ASTA internationally as a liaison to the OECD Seed Schemes.

“I’m so appreciative of this recognition. To be recognized at the same meeting that recognizes John Duesing and Blake Curtis, who I’ve had the privilege to get to know and work with, is very humbling,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for the ASTA staff … and all the work they have done and are doing for this organization and what they’ve done for our industry through the years.”

Alan Galbreth was honored with the 2019 ASTA Distinuished Service Award.

Galbreth also recognized the ASTA membership.

“The leaders of this organization have taught me so much over the years,” he shared. “You’ve enhanced my career in more ways than I can list. It’s been my great pleasure to serve the seed companies and our industry over the past 43 years.”

Designed to recognize an individual for exemplary advocacy on behalf of the seed industry, the Better Seed, Better Life Ambassador Award was given to Lileen Coulloudon of the Texas Foundation Seed Service.

New to the seed industry and a recent addition to ASTA’s Seed Ambassador Leadership Team, Coulloudon has demonstrated true leadership in advocacy by sharing the “Better Seed, Better Life” message online and within her community, said Brad May, who presented the award.

“We in this room all know the critical role of seed in our daily lives,” May said. “It really does all start with the seed. We know the importance of the seed industry in finding innovative solutions to address local, regional and even global challenges by producing better seed for a better life. We also know there’s a lot of misinformation being spread about agriculture and our industry. It’s our job to tell the story.”

There’s many ways you can help the industry navigate new frontiers. If you need ideas, help and training, ask about ASTA’s SALT program and mark your calendar for the 2020 PLDC meeting June 13-17 in Indianapolis, Ind.