Daren Coppock heads to Agricultural Retailers Association
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Some of Daren Coppock's favorite moves in basketball weren't the shots he took, but the passes he made to teammates where they scored.
That's how Coppock summarizes any success he had in his eight years with the National Association of Wheat Growers.
"All the things we do in the wheat industry are team efforts," he said. "State associations, growers on the board, national staff, allies in other ag associations -- because of that, we were really able to do some really amazing things."
Beginning Nov. 1, Coppock will split his time between the association and the Agricultural Retailers Association, where he will assume CEO duties full-time effective Jan. 1.
Association chairman Ken Manning said Coppock's experience and track record with the wheat growers were key to making the decision to hire him as CEO.
Coppock replaces Jack Eberspacher, who died of cancer in July.
"We are so fortunate that Jack assembled such a strong staff," Manning said. "The staff carried on business as usual during the interim after Jack's passing. They really pulled together, and we never missed a beat. With Daren Coppock on board as our new leader and the commitment and abilities of our current staff, we have a great team at ARA to carry us forward into the future."
Coppock said he wasn't actively looking to leave the wheat association, but had begun to consider the next step, since he had given the wheat association board a promise to stay at least five years, but no more than 15.
"It's healthy not only for the association to have new blood at the helm, but it's healthy for the executive, too," he said.
The two associations are similar in their policy objectives, Coppock said, including chemical site security, tariffs on imported fertilizer and weight regulations for truck drivers.
The leadership at the retailer association and its mission impressed Coppock. The move also appealed to him because it allowed him to remain in agriculture.
He intends to ensure the transition is smooth at the wheat association for his replacement while working to keep a few of the "really important balls in the air," such as biotechnology and research appropriations work. A search for a new CEO is under way at the organization.
Coppock considered one of the signature NAWG achievements in the past few years to be defending direct payments in the 2008 Farm Bill.
"Nobody else wanted to fight that battle, but we did, and we were able to hang onto them," he said.
Several Pacific Northwest wheat representatives last week mentioned that Coppock's exit means the loss of a regional representative in a national position. Coppock was born in Oregon and served on the Oregon Wheat Growers League for five years as executive vice president.
Coppock said he strove to make sure the national association picked up issues of national interest, steering clear of subjects that would pit one region against another. But Coppock confessed to a soft spot in his heart for Pacific Northwest regional issues like the Columbia-Snake River Dam system, which benefits the whole nation.
"The regional and state organizations are the ones that really carry the water for local issues," he said "Those people are still going to be on the NAWG board and state executives in the Northwest association."
The key for the organization is to find a person who can carry its agenda into the next decade, he said.
For his part, Coppock hopes to keep his finger on the pulse of an industry he has been in for 20 years, since he graduated from college, and to help NAWG achieve its goals where he can.
"I've just really enjoyed being in wheat and cereal grains," he said. "It's going to be a bit of a change for me to move to a different sector, but I'm not moving that far away."
Matthew Weaver is based in Spokane, Wash. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Association of Wheat Growers: www.wheatworld.org
Agricultural Retailers Association: www.aradc.org