WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — After more than 31 years of dedicated service, National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) President Kendell W. Keith is retiring, the NGFA announced on Feb. 17.
Keith, who served as the group’s top executive staff officer for 25 years, is only the fifth person to have that position and only the second to serve a quarter century or longer.
“The industry is extremely fortunate to have had the benefit of Kendell’s strong leadership, vision, hard work and unswerving dedication for more than three decades,” said NGFA Chairman Hal Reed, chief operating officer for The Andersons, Maumee, Ohio, U.S. “Working with our Board of Directors and industry committees, he literally elevated the NGFA to the preeminent national leadership role on rail, commodity and futures market, agricultural, grain warehouse, and many other critical public policy areas.”
Keith has accepted the NGFA’s invitation to attend its March 18-20 convention in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S., where he will be recognized for his three decades of service to the industry.
Randall C. (Randy) Gordon, a 33-year veteran of the NGFA’s staff who currently serves as vice- president of communications and government relations, has been selected to serve as NGFA’s acting president.
Prior to being elected NGFA’s president in 1987, Keith served as vice-president and corporate secretary/treasurer from 1985-87. In that capacity, he administered the operation of the NGFA’s Trade Rules and Arbitration System.
He joined the NGFA’s staff in 1980 as director of economic services, with expertise in a wide range of public policy matters, including government commodity, agricultural policy and grain storage programs; international trade; domestic grain markets; and livestock marketing. He earned his undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degrees in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University.
NGFA Executive Committee Chairman Tom Coyle noted that in a matter of months after joining the NGFA’s staff in 1980, Keith worked with the Reagan administration’s new leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve dramatically the efficiency and reduce the overhead costs of its federal grain inspection service.
“He never let up, using facts, consistency and objectivity to constantly elevate the NGFA’s influence on federal policies that are absolutely essential to the efficient functioning of our industry and the free enterprise system,” said Coyle, general manager for Nidera North America Grain and Oilseeds, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Keith said his work at the NGFA has been “extremely gratifying.”
“There are few things I would change about that part of my career,” Keith said. “NGFA, as a major agribusiness organization, has had huge success in Congress and with the federal government in farm policy, trade policy, environmental policy, transportation, feed and food industry issues, and many other areas.”
He attributed those successes to a strong commitment from staff and industry volunteers “to get the job done, and to represent this industry with the highest integrity and in the professional manner it deserves.”
Keith said that perhaps the most satisfying part of his career with the NGFA involved the consistent application of the organization’s overriding philosophy.
“The NGFA’s membership believes in free markets and economic growth through free enterprise,” he said. “The organization is committed to a sound and respected government that does not unnecessarily interfere with a capitalist economy, enabling it to perform to its highest potential to generate higher incomes and good jobs.”
Keith said that “with this kind of consistent philosophy, the NGFA positioned itself with a high degree of credibility” in Washington’s policy-making environment. “Given the challenges facing the federal government today in trying to reshape its role to be more effective and affordable, the NGFA’s message is needed more than ever,” he added.
NGFA Chairman Reed also cited Keith’s leadership in the “tremendous growth” in the NGFA’s membership, particularly during the past decade despite the challenge of increased industry consolidation.
“Further, his strong management of our Association’s finances has put the NGFA in the enviable position of being able to reduce or provide rebates of our members’ dues investments in three of the last four years,” Reed said. “I’m not aware of another national trade association that can make a similar claim.”
Keith said the ability to attract companies and grow membership came hand-in-hand with the NGFA’s growing reputation as an effective policy voice in Washington and elsewhere.
“In that regard, the NGFA has never been stronger,” he said.
Keith also extended his appreciation to the NGFA’s staff and officer leaders, as well as the “outstanding” industry members serving on the NGFA’s 17 committees.
“I had the good fortune to hire all the current staff except Randy Gordon (who joined the NGFA’s staff in 1978), and take great pride in the quality of the staff I’ve been able to attract to serve the industry,” he said. “The organization is in incredibly good hands. As I leave the NGFA, I’ll be doing some new things with and for the industry, and plan to maintain contact.”