Texas Grain and Feed Association (TGFA)
Established in 1898, the Texas Grain and Feed Association (TGFA) has been active in Fort Worth, Texas, for more than a century. The organization supports some 400 member companies ranging from sizable producers to medium and small-scale family-owned companies such as feed producers and grain marketing businesses.
When TGFA began, Texas had been a state for only 45 years and there were few state or federal government regulations or agencies in the grain and feed industry. When members of the association bought or sold grain and feed ingredients, it was often in very large quantities and confirmed with an oral agreement. Simple terminology such as freight rates, weights and measures and storage costs varied widely, making buying and selling difficult and inefficient. TGFA constructed industrywide trade rules and an arbitration system to give members peace of mind when doing business. Its mission was to create order, trust credibility and integrity in the industry, and that remains the mission today.
A lot has changed over TGFA’s 118-year history, but the last two years have brought about major changes for the widely respected agribusiness organization that strives to promote producers’ best interest and fair trade. TGFA has appointed a new president, launched a brand-new website and systems technology, developed new leadership programs and spearheaded major legislation all in just a few years. For TGFA, this change is bringing about a new era of success and attracting the next generation of leaders to the longstanding organization.
“A few years ago, we were a bit behind,” admits Tara Artho, now president of TGFA. “While TGFA has had great success over the last century, there was concern for our future. We didn’t have much of an online presence and with an aging membership, we needed to attract and engage a younger audience. And to seem legitimate to younger generations you have to be online.”
The new face of TGFA
Artho has been at the forefront of shaking up TGFA business model by investing substantial resources into a new website, social media accounts, new online directory and the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), an initiative started two years ago to advance the opportunities in agribusiness and educate members that wanted to become more engaged.
Born and raised on a farm in the Texas Panhandle, Artho left her family’s farm to pursue a career in radio and communications. “I worked in radio in downtown Dallas for about seven years and moved to Fort Worth to take the communications director position with TGFA in 2013,” she recounts.
After 23 years of service, former TGFA president Ben Boerner died from a heart attack in 2015, leaving major shoes to fill. “I worked with our 12-member board of directors to find and review applicants, but after several rounds of interviews they felt as though I had the knowledge of what our members needed and wanted to continue my training in the role of president,” explains Artho. Megan Giles has assumed Artho’s role as the new TGFA communications director and has done some amazing work to create an online presence for TGFA.
“Our board chairman, John Long, has been a huge help in making this a smooth transition and I feel so blessed to have such strong, talented people with so much knowledge and industry background to support me,” says Artho. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
TGFA has joined Texas A&M to start a scholarship fund in the former president’s name — Ben’s Memorial Fund Endowed Scholarship. The award will be given annually to a student of the family’s choosing. So far the scholarship fund has collected more than $19,000 and the goal is $25,000.
If you are interested in making a contribution, please go to tgfa.com for more information.
The scholarship is just one aspect of TGFA’s commitment to attract the next generation of industry leaders. “Two years ago, we launched ELP to increase understanding and knowledge of TGFA’s mission and services, and to increase understanding of state and federal legislative regulatory process,” says Artho.
While the program is designed to attract youth, there’s no specific age restriction. The 2015- 2016 ELP agenda includes everything from the annual Washington, D.C., “fly in” with the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), grain and feedlot facility tours, regional dinners and social events and an opportunity to speak about their experience at the 118th TGFA annual meeting & expo. “The program has been a tremendous success so far and we’ve received so much positive feedback,” says Artho.
Honors at the 118th Annual Meeting & Expo
At the organization’s annual meeting ELP will honor a member with a Rising Star award. “Last year, we had ELP members come and speak at the annual meeting about the program and the benefits and we’ve really used that as a springboard to recruit the new class. In fact, one of our Emerging Leaders is now a member of the board of directors. It’s not only about trying to get the younger generation involved, it’s about giving them a voice and responsibility moving forward,” says Artho.
Artho says ELP has upped the attendance of the annual meeting — held April 13-15, 2016. “We expect about 200 people this year and we’re going to have several different speakers, including a breakout speaker from Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] and a speaker from USDA to speak on members changing licenses from state to federal to save on fees. There will also be a speaker from the American Feed Industry Association to focus on the changes and new regulations in the Food Safety Modernization Act,” says Artho.
In closing, TGFA will honor one member at the Lone Star Brunch with the annual Lone Star Award. "This is the most coveted award that we give out to a member who’s gone above and beyond for our industry, it’s like a lifetime achievement award for grain and feed,” says Artho.
Advocating for members
On the state level, there’s been a dramatic increase in fees for TGFA members. The newly appointed commissioner of agriculture for the Texas Department of Agriculture, Sid Miller, promised no new taxes, but raised in-state fees considerably upon election. TGFA is working with TDA to find a happy medium.
With agriculture so closely tied to the Texas economy, TGFA does all it can to protect the proliferation of the industry and shield members against unnecessary loss. “Our industry has been dealing with issues surrounding the Indemnity Fund for several years now,” says Artho. “When everybody has good business practices and keeps their noses clean, everyone is happy. However, there will always be a few bad apples in the bunch. Our challenge is to make sure those with bad business practices don’t get the same amount of coverage as those doing it right.”
Federal matters affecting TGFA concerning regulatory issues range from the impact of the Affordable Care Act to the continuous wrangling over new regulations to the FSMA. TGFA is working diligently with both the American Feed Industry Association and the National Grain and Feed Association to minimize the economic impact that the rules will have on the industry.
Making a living in the grain, feed and related agribusiness industries isn’t always easy — TGFA members face the uncertainty of weather, commodity prices and a slew of new regulations that all put the pressure on business. Fortunately, members of the Texas Grain and Feed Association have an industry advocate working on their behalf to ensure fair trade, create order, trust, credibility and integrity.