OLIVIA, Minn. — The Honorary Title of “Kernel” was bestowed upon Gerald and Connie Mulder on Aug. 27 for dedicated service to the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.
This ‘crowning event’ occurred in Olivia, Minn. — the self-proclaimed Corn Capital of Minnesota — at the Cenex service station on busy U.S. Highway 212. The 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ceremony had a courtyard of spectators too. A special banner — courtesy of MCGA — read “Fuel Promotion Day” and helped draw the crowd. Cenex offered discounted fuel prices such as E85 fuel at $1.04 per gallon and E60 at $1.24.
For Gerald, now wheelchair bound, and wife Connie, it was a most surprising and enjoyable event. “Certainly didn’t expect this!” exclaimed Gerald. “Good to see some of my long-time Corn Grower Association friends too. We’ve been blessed in many ways through our work with corn growers and staff.”
Gerald has carved a distinguished history with the MCGA: nine years on the state board; 35 years as a dues-paying member. The Mulders also have a reputation as prime membership recruiters for MCGA.
Relates Gerald, “Corn Growers Association accomplished many things over the years … various research projects — both with producers and University of Minnesota researchers — and so much more. I got very involved in membership recruitment. Yes, that took some time, but it was fun time, too! I feel proud about growing our membership. Plus yearly visits to the big National Corn Expo always added to the satisfaction.”
I had to ask if MCGA will ever catch up with membership of the Iowa Corn Growers. Gerald chuckles, “Every time we get close they just go out and buy more members.”
Like most corn growers in Minnesota (and Iowa), Gerald is frustrated by the ongoing battle with the Small Refineries Association for not including ethanol-enriched fuels in their distribution to fuel distributors. “Hopefully, our National Corn Growers are making progress,” he said. “I’ve been out for a while so really don’t know the issues. But it does worry me that South Dakota now advertises attracting Minnesota business firms to South Dakota. I think our Minnesota folks need to wake up and start putting some serious effort into keeping Minnesota businesses in Minnesota.
“Clamping down on law and order would be a good start. I think this lawless rioting is killing us. Some aren’t even scared of our cops anymore. Common sense has got to come back. That means better relations with our colored people too … we’re all in this together.”
Gerald is optimistic for 2020 crop yields. “I think 250 bushels will be the low; I think beets will make 40 tons. Yep, we’re having an incredible year. Thank the Lord. Renville County will continue support of activities and projects of the Minnesota Corn Growers. We’re the highest membership by far. I think Renville County will go over 1,000 members this year!”
On hand at the Cenex station to congratulate the Mulders was Brian Thalmann, a Plato, Minn. corn farmer, past MCGA President and now a board member of the National Corn Growers Association. “Grass roots is what separates us from many organizations,” Thalmann said. “That’s because our growing and very active membership is a defining attribute — especially when we are doing comment letters at our state capital and comment letters to key Congressional people in D.C. To be able to say to these people that we’re representing thousands farmers across America brings some added power to our message — both with state legislators and members of Congress.”
So are corn growers’ political muscles still growing? Thalmann had this intriguing response: “I think we’ve always been able to punch above our belt … both because of issues we deal with and because of our people. There’s a real face to our organization: the face of the American Farmer. And as you’re seeing in today’s political spectrum, that carries a lot of weight.”
Does that mean E-15 will soon be locked in as a nationwide fuel standard? Thalmann feels strongly on this issue and is much aware of the political constraints of the oil industry. “That continues our number-one priority — just as it was this past legislative session. Covid forced us to take a step back; but going into this next legislative session, this will be our number-one focus.”
Summed up MCGA Executive Director Adam Birr, “How fitting here today honoring Gerald and Connie. Their resolve helped greatly in the success of our organization.”
Nice going, Kernel Mulder!