Aug 01, 2021

NGFA Moves Into a New Age

Feed & Grain asks Mike Seyfert, the new president and CEO, about his priorities going into the future

Feed & Grain: Thank you, Mike, for talking with us during National Grain and Feed Association’s 125th Annual Convention, which is also your first Annual Convention as NGFA’s president and chief executive officer. How is the conference going?

Mike Seyfert: It’s going great! We have 420 members here and you can feel the excitement. What the NGFA is hearing from many folks is this is their first trip since the Annual Convention in March 2020, right before COVID-19 shut the world down. I’m excited to be able to meet a lot of the members and put names with faces as well as visit with our members.

F&G: What is it like coming into an organization that is 125 years old?

Seyfert: It’s humbling. When they told me I was only the seventh president and CEO of a 125-year-old association, it was intimidating and exciting. Any organization that makes it to 125 years and is arguably as strong as it has been at any time in its history is exceptional. The NGFA has a very talented, long-tenured staff, which tells me that they like working here and are genuinely passionate about the industry and our members.

F&G: What do you think has made NGFA such a success?

Seyfert: Our organization is as successful as it is because we get a lot of member support. Between our 17 standing committees, our board of directors and our foundation trustees, we have over 300 industry volunteers.

One of the things that attracted me to the NGFA was that it is not a top-down but a bottom-up organization. A lot of policies are formulated and developed at the committee level. It’s also important to realize that in addition to being the face of the industry, we have got two important programs for many of our members — one is our safety programs. If we didn’t provide that service, some of them would not have the capability to provide it. And NGFA runs the oldest-known functioning arbitration system in the country.

I have to keep moving the association forward to figure out how we can continue bringing in younger industry members, get them engaged in NGFA, and help them understand the importance of the association. We are also working on how we can diversify the group engaged within the NGFA. I am the father of two girls, and I want them to have as many opportunities as possible to engage in an association like ours down the road.

F&G: What is NGFA doing to engage the next generation of leadership?

Seyfert: We have two programs, the NextGen group and the Committee Apprentice Program. The Next Generation Agribusiness Leaders (NextGen) initiative is designed for early-career professionals employed by NGFA member companies and provides free access to webinars, networking and other education opportunities. For CAP, individuals must apply or be nominated by their company.

The CAP graduates continue to move up to leadership roles within their organizations or within the industry, and they understand why it is important for them to engage in the industry. As graduates of these programs continue to move up to a leadership role within their organization or within the industry, they understand the importance of what NGFA does to represent and advocate for the industry.

We will be looking at those programs and whether there is a way we can get more prospects into those programs. Are there other new ways we should be engaging? I am planning to do video meetings with the first 20 members that sign up each month. The only rule is that there is no rule. We can talk about anything they want. We can talk about policy, events going on at the association or even about baseball.

I want to do targeted versions of these meetings, too, by job level or the number of years in the industry. The goal is to get them more involved in NGFA and get them on a screen or in a meeting with each other. Young members need to know their colleagues in the industry, and I hope we can facilitate that network building.

F&G: What is NGFA doing to help diversify the industry?

Seyfert: There are a lot of opportunities to expand diversity in the industry. We recently started a program with MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences). NGFA set up a scholarship with MANRRS of $5,000 a year for three students studying ours or a related industry. It’s a superb opportunity to focus on getting some other youth into the industry and make the industry more representative of the population.

F&G: What other outreach messages do you have for the industry?

Seyfert: I really want to put an emphasis on outreach to our current membership as well as new membership opportunities. Our Treasurer and Senior VP for Marketing Todd Kemp is going to transition out of that role and become our executive director of Membership Services and Outreach.

Kemp is going to be focused on membership engagement and working with existing members to make sure they understand all the services that are available to them. It doesn’t matter if you’re big, small, medium-sized, or a private co-op — when it comes to infrastructure, working lands programs, safety or arbitration, what NGFA does impacts you, you business and the industry as a whole. ■

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