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Business & Economics

McCook County Farmer Leads South Dakota Corn Growers Association

South Dakota Corn Growers Association
Mike Jaspers, former Secretary of Agriculture and McCook County corn farmer was recently hired to serve as interim director for South Dakota Corn Growers Association.

McCook County farmer Mike Jaspers was recently hired to serve as interim executive director for South Dakota Corn Growers Association. SDPB’s Lura Roti visits with the fifth-generation farmer about this new role.

An estimated 6 million acres of corn were planted in South Dakota this spring. And recently former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Jaspers was hired on behalf of South Dakota farmers who care for these corn acres to serve as interim director for South Dakota Corn Growers Association.

As to how he plans to lead, Jaspers says he will let the farmer-leaders and mission of the organization serve as his guide.

“It really comes back to the primary mission. What can we do to support the corn producer out? The one who is planting the seed, who is monitoring it, who is making every decision they can based on what the weather is or is not giving them for challenges or for benefits. And then, once they have the corn produced, how do we help them get he most value out of their corn? With expanding and encouraging/supporting different markets and opportunities to sell their corn. So, all those things together are just things that the corn organizations have been doing for the last two or three decades and that’s our focus going forward is on each individual producer and how we can we help them be more successful,” Mike Jaspers says. 

Taking on leadership roles in South Dakota is not new for Jaspers. As a South Dakota State University student, he served as the State FFA President, he served in the South Dakota Senate, as the state’s Secretary of Agriculture and in 2007 he was appointed by President Bush to serve as state director of USDA Rural Development. 

“Mike is a guy that provides instant credibility, if you look at his background, he has served in the state legislature, served as agriculture secretary for the state of South Dakota and he has experience at East River Electric and Rural Development. He provides nice synergy which allows him to represent corn farmers well and continue to fight for the mission of improving corn farmers here in South Dakota,” says Scott Stahl.

Scott Stahl is a Bridgewater corn farmer and President of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association. With 800 members, the Corn Growers Association is a farmer-led policy organization.

Scott Stahl sums up the work of the organization this way.

“We work hard to represent the hard-working farmers across the state of South Dakota and look for opportunities to help improve the situation of corn farming across the state,” Stahl says.

When Mike Jaspers was asked to serve after the former executive director resigned late July, he says he didn’t hesitate to take on the leadership role.

“I truly believe the world is run by those who show up. And you know I look at it from a corn farmer’s perspective, knowing that every bushel that comes into the corn head, this fall especially, with the weather conditions we’ve all endured, it’s really going to matter. And I look at that and say, “you know, I have an opportunity to step up and help this organization through some transitions right now and get them moving forward again.” And that’s really the perspective that I took,’” Jaspers says.

As interim director, Jaspers will serve until South Dakota Corn Growers Association selects a permanent executive director. He says there is no fixed timeline.

“When you have leadership that’s been there for nearly 25 years, you’re going to have a little transition and how to help move that forward, so that the organization can take their time to re-evaluate where they’ve come from and where they are and where they would like to move forward. …You know just like a farmer doesn’t get up and punch in at 8 o’clock and punch out at 5 o’clock. A farmer gets up in the morning and works until their job is done no matter what the sun says for the day. That is how I am looking at this too. I have a task to do to help the Association, and that is what I plan to do,” Jaspers says.

Because Jaspers is a corn farmer, Scott Stahl says he is in a unique position to lead the organization through this time of transition.

“He is a corn farmer from South Dakota. He has had to make the decisions that corn farmers have to make regarding decisions with crop rotation and profitability. And also, as a cattle producer, he has a nice viewpoint of what South Dakota farmers face on a day-to-day basis,” Stahl says.

In addition to his leadership role with South Dakota Corn Growers, Jaspers will continue to farm and work as the Business Development Director for East River Electric Cooperative.