SPOKANE — Two longtime Washington Grain Commissioners will depart the board at the end of the year.
Steve Claassen, of Asotin County, and Dana Herron, of Connell, served at their final board meeting as commissioners Nov. 20 in Spokane.
Claassen served four years on the Washington Barley Commission before it merged with the Washington Wheat Commission to become the Washington Grain Commission in 2009.
Claassen recalled being on the board when the commissions merged, bought the current commission building and bringing in CEO Glen Squires when Tom Mick retired in 2012.
Claassen believes the commission became more of a “working team” with the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and Washington State University during his time on the board.
Claassen will continue to farm on 5,000 acres with his brother. His son may join the farm, he said.
Herron recalled shaking hands with the president of a Japanese food agency, who told him he valued a handshake as much as a contract.
“It meant a great deal to me to have a customer thank us for coming over and seeing him,” Herron said. “Those relationships that were cemented years ago are paying huge dividends today.”
Herron served on the board for 12 years.
He’s proudest of the five endowed chairs at WSU formed during his time on the commission and leveraging grower money to benefit the industry.
Herron said he is reducing his hours as co-owner at Tri-State Seed in Connell. He is working with his successor for 18 months to ensure a smooth transition. He plans to consult and invest in businesses.
“I like young entrepreneurs and I like helping them out,” he said. “I’ll probably do a little more of that.”
Both urged their fellow growers to get involved in the industry.
“Decisions made today will affect our profitability going forward,” Herron said. “Even though you don’t think you can make a difference, your attendance and vision as a businessperson are valued. The time I’ve spent on the commission benefitted not only my own self-education, but my own business, too. The relationships you make are some of the closest you’ll have in your life.”
“Everybody’s time is valuable, very precious, but however you can get involved with any part of the industry is going to help push then forward and the industry as a whole forward,” Claassen said.
Interacting with millers and bakers will give farmers a completely different perspective on their industry, Claassen said.
“Most of us just dump our wheat in a pit and want our money at the end of the day,” he said. “You realize why you have to be growing quality products.”
Commission board members Gary Bailey of St. John and Brit Ausman of Asotin are slated to be reappointed by state Agriculture Director Derek Sandison, said CEO Glen Squires. Ben Barstow of Palouse is slated to be appointed, replacing Claassen.
Brian Cochrane of Kahlotus and Stacy Kniveton of Pasco are running for Herron’s position. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 25.