ASGA’s New President
Though already known by many in the audience, the new president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, John Snyder of Worland, Wyo., formally introduced himself to the group as he took over the reins from Minnesota’s Kelly Erickson at the conclusion of the 2014 annual meeting.
Snyder was born and raised on a small farm near Worland established by his great-grandfather in 1914. Dairy, beef cattle, sugarbeets, small grains and alfalfa were staples in the north central Wyoming farming operation. Like most farm kids of that era, his childhood was shaped by work. “One thing instilled in me was a very strong work ethic,” Snyder noted. “The other thing that I developed was a very, very strong dislike for the dairy side of the business!”
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His desire to put plenty of distance between himself and the cows led Snyder to the University of Wyoming, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in ag economics (farm and ranch management). He moved to the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas, where he worked as a quality control manager for a produce farm. That was followed by a relocation to Hereford, in the Texas Panhandle, and employment as a truck dispatcher and produce salesman.
Wyoming’s lure drew him back, though, as did his high school sweetheart, Janet. They married in 1979, and John joined Janet’s parents and brother in their farm operation, Sage Creek Land & Cattle Co. “My dad had sold most of his farm [by then] because of worn-out knees, shoulders and back — not to mention my earlier announcement convincing him I did not want to farm,” Snyder recounted.
The young couple jumped into life in Washakie County “with both feet,” starting a family (sons Jason and Steven), expanding the farm — and buying a small dress shop in Worland, still known as Janet’s Boutique. Today, they farm about 2,600 irrigated acres of sugarbeets, malt barley and corn. Son Steven “has joined our farming operation and is the reason that I can spend this much time working on sugar issues,” John noted. Formerly president of the Washakie Beet Growers Association, Snyder currently serves as a member of the Wyoming Sugar Company Board of Managers.
‘Our job is not to let things happen or to watch things
happen — but to make things happen.’
"Faith, family, farm and sugar are my priorities,” John Snyder affirmed to the ASGA Tampa audience. “Friends are in there, too, but they come from the four priorities because there are good people to be found there.”
Noting that his ancestors and, likewise, those of Janet helped build and develop the sugar industry in the Worland area, “we, like you, want to make sure it is strong for future generations,” Snyder stated. He recounted several personal sugar-related experiences that have helped mold and cement that commitment:
• “When I sat on the witness stand in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, as the lone grower defendant testifying for Roundup Ready® Sugarbeets, staring down a legal team that wants to deny us our tools — and receiving the cold, icy stares of court clerks who appear to resent modern agriculture advances — you get tough, and you get strong.
• “When I walked in the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow (in 2013) and met face-to-face with the producer leaders of the largest beet sugar industry in the world — who look to us for leadership and guidance on biotechnology — you come to appreciate our important role in the international sugar industry.
• “When I faced those in the sugar trade and customers in the heart of New York City and began a dialogue of what it takes to do what we do and the cost of doing it to meet their needs, you begin to open the eyes of those who see the sugar world differently.
• “When I work closely with our congressional delegation year-in and year-out and stand up for them and defend them, they go the extra mile for you. When you walk mile after mile of congressional hallways, giving staff and members a first-hand understanding of industry and policy, you learn to teach and sell.
• “And it’s when you come to the rescue of a neighbor, at night in the rain, mud and snow of early November, to help get the crop in. That’s what farmers do. That’s what beet growers do.”
Unity of purpose has been the bedrock of success for the domestic sugar industry, and we will continue that unity within the beet sugar industry, with our cane industry [colleagues], with other commodity and farm organizations — and often our allies, who are also our foreign suppliers,” ASGA’s president declared. “We fundamentally understand that in unity there is strength; and we are strong as long as each unit in our organization functions with precision.
“Our job is not to let things happen, or to watch things happen — but to make things happen. Focus and persistence are essential to what we do. It is, in fact, what we have done and will continue to do.”
In closing, John Snyder called upon his fellow sugarbeet growers to support their leadership. “Get 100% participation in your local political action committee,” he encouraged. “Thank your elected leaders for their hard work and vigilance. The investment of time and effort that each of us makes today is essential to preserving the future of this industry for generations to come.”
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Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower