ASTA’s Craig Newman reflects on his year as chairman.
For AgReliant Genetics’ Craig Newman, 2013/14 has been years in the making as he has worked his way up through the ranks of the American Seed Trade Association and helped elevate industry issues through work on Capitol Hill and his involvement in communications and educational initiatives.
In an interview with Seed World, Newman shares his thoughts about his year as chairman and his involvement with ASTA.
SW: As your year as chairman comes to a close, what are you most proud of?
CN: During my year as chairman, ASTA’s board of directors and I have worked to boost member participation, increase educational opportunities and continue to implement ASTA’s five-year strategic plan. In the 131-year history of ASTA’s annual convention, this is the first time it’s being held in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is not only the crossroads of the United States, but also the crossroads of ASTA. Two-thirds of the members are within driving distance of Indianapolis, which makes it easier for people to participate. To help increase educational opportunities for members, we are partnering with Purdue University to host a Seed Leadership Program, which sold out — so there’s clearly a need there.
SW: As you’ve become increasingly involved with ASTA, how has your perception of the organization changed?
CN: As I’ve progressed in leadership roles with ASTA, my knowledge level has increased as has my appreciation for the organization. I didn’t know what I didn’t know when I first joined the ASTA board. Even when I was in a top management role within our company, my awareness of the issues ASTA works on was really limited. I became extremely grateful that someone was watching out for our industry and our company — intellectual property rights, phytosanitary issues, educating policymakers at the state and national levels. I was extremely impressed by the professionalism and knowledge level of the staff and they continue to excel and provide solutions to over-arching industry issues.
SW: Given your knowledge and experience, what’s your view of the future for the seed industry?
CN: All companies — large and small — benefit from ASTA’s work. Despite what you might read about consolidation within the industry, the association and the industry are both healthy and thriving. ASTA has more than 700 members and continues to grow. There is so much innovation and excitement within the industry right now; it’s a great place to be. In the next three to five years, the protection of intellectual property will continue to be a priority, as well as harmonizing phytosanitary rules. We’ll continue to work on domestic policy, such as GMO labeling. Seed as an innovation is amazing; farmers don’t necessarily realize what all goes into every bag of seed they plant. The work ASTA does really benefits farmers. It is “First-the Seed.”
SW: What do you want others to know about ASTA?
CN: If people want to be heard, they need to get involved. Everybody can participate and have input into the future of their industry.