South Dakota Corn Growers present awards at annual meeting

SIOUX FALLS, Jan. 9, 2016 – The South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) recognized outstanding achievements in the promotion of farmers, service to agriculture, legislative issues and public outreach during the organization’s 30th annual meeting Jan. 9 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

The association honored the Poet ethanol company as Most Valuable Player in Agriculture, farmer David Gillen of White Lake for Excellence in Agriculture, Lynn Tjeerdsma on U.S. Sen. John Thune’s staff for Outstanding Legislative Leadership and Lance Nixon of the Pierre Capital Journal for Excellence in Public Outreach.

South Dakota Corn also honored two directors of its boards, Jason Kontz of Colman and Mark Gross of Bridgewater, for their service.


Most Valuable Player in Agriculture – Poet

Poet played a lead role in completely changing the landscape of agriculture in South Dakota, a state that now uses 370 million bushels of corn to produce 1 billion gallons of ethanol annually.

Poet operates a network of ethanol plants that have an enormous impact on the economies of the seven states where the plants are located. The plants produce 1.7 billion gallons of ethanol, 4.6 million tons of distillers grains and 75 million pounds of corn oil annually.

The Broin family began experimenting with making alcohol on its Minnesota farm in 1983. Within a few years, the company got its start at a small ethanol plant at Scotland, S.D. Today, the company is one of the largest ethanol producers in the world. It is headquartered in Sioux Falls and Jeff Broin is the CEO.

Excellence in Agriculture – David Gillen

David Gillen, who farms near White Lake, has been an agricultural leader in South Dakota for years. The award honors him as a difference-maker, someone who has always been passionate about agriculture, issues and policies.

He worked on those issues as a long-time director and president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and Corn Utilization Council. He also was active in shaping public policy with the national association.

The respect for Gillen’s ideas and opinions crosses party lines. Although Gillen is a Republican, Tom Daschle, while serving as a Democratic U.S. senator, drove to Gillen’s house at White Lake where the two hashed out issues that were instrumental in setting national farm bill policy.

Outstanding Legislative Leadership – Lynn Tjeerdsma

Lynn Tjeerdsma, senior policy adviser for U.S. Sen. John Thune, has been active for decades in crafting and implementing farm policies. Tjeerdsma, a Platte native, helped write the 1990 farm bill when he was on Sen. Larry Pressler’s staff.

As a member of Thune’s staff, he was deeply involved in the 2008 farm bill. He also wrote the Senate-passed 2012 farm bill and the final 2015 farm bill. Tjeerdsma also worked on the Energy Savings and Investment Act, which greatly expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard.

In addition, he worked many years with the USDA, playing a key role in drafting agriculture regulations.

Excellence in Public Outreach – Lance Nixon

This award honors Lance Nixon, managing editor of the Pierre Capital Journal for his thorough coverage of agriculture. Led by Nixon, the newspaper has made a commitment to extensive coverage of news, with a strong focus on the state’s No. 1 industry.

Nixon authored one of the most-significant agricultural stories of 2015, an in-depth article about rising yields and the expanding Corn Belt, which has been moving west. That story was picked up by the Associated Press and published by many newspapers across the nation.

Nixon was also recognized for his knowledge and commitment to producing stories that are well-researched, balanced and accurate.

Outstanding Service Awards:

These awards are presented to retiring directors of the South Dakota Corn organizations to honor them for their years of service.

  • Jason Kontz of Colman, a Corn Utilization Council retiring director
  • Mark Gross of Bridgewater, a Corn Growers Association retiring director