Each year, at ASTA’s annual convention, leaders in the seed industry who have contributed significantly to advances in their areas of expertise, to their business sectors and/or states or regions, and to the efforts of ASTA to serve their industry are recognized by their peers with the highest honors bestowed by the seed industry.
The ASTA Distinguished Service award was presented to Mary Smith, Arkansas State Plant Board and Wayne Parrott, University of Georgia. The award recognizes those whose efforts have made a significant contribution to the association and the U.S. seed industry.
Mary Smith graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a Master of Science in Plant Pathology in 1974 and came to the Arkansas State Plant Board in 1981, serving as a seed analyst, germination supervisor and then head of the seed lab from 1988 – 1990. From 1990 through September 2019, as Seed Division Director, she served as Seed Control Official for Arkansas and directed the Seed Regulatory Program, where her duties included overseeing and coordinating activities of the Arkansas Seed Certification program and Official State Seed Laboratory. During this time, Mary contributed significantly to the seed industry. She served as President of the Southern Seed Control Officials Association (SSCOA) from 1993 to 1995, then later as their Secretary/Treasurer. She was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture as a Member of the Plant Variety Protection Board from 1995 to 1999. Later, she served as President of the Association of American Seed Control Officials (AASCO) from 2003-2005 and as a contributing author on AASCO’s Handbook on Seed Sampling in 2006. In October 2017, an additional role was added to her work at the Arkansas State Plant Board after the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program was passed by the AR legislature, when she was assigned to write regulations for this program, which became effective 8-31-2018. Mary was also a contributing author to the Arkansas Soybean Handbook, Chapter 4: Seed Grain Composition, Quality and Testing for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
In addition to this ASTA Distinguished Service Award, Mary Smith has also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for developing the pamphlet “What’s in a Name,” providing guidance to the Seed Industry on Variety Labeling in 2006. She earned recognition from the Arkansas Seed Dealer’s Association for the Seed Division’s work on seed quality control, seed arbitration and other regulations affecting seed and turfgrass in Arkansas in 2007 and also received the Pioneer Award from the Arkansas Seed Dealer’s Association for many years of service to the Seed Industry in 2017.
Pat Miller, ASTA’s Director of State Government Affairs, has worked closely over the years with Mary Smith. “Mary has always been friendly, knowledgeable and willing to assist whenever I contacted her (even though I admit I asked some dumb questions sometimes). And, what I know for sure, is that she is like that with everyone,” Miller says. “I feel confident that I follow the sentiment of everyone else in the seed industry that she will be missed as she enters her well-deserved retirement.”
Wayne Allen Parrott is a professor of crop sciences in the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Athens. Since 2017, he has also been an Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Parrott became interested in the clover plant as a teenager growing up in Kentucky. He received his B.X. in agronomy from the University of Kentucky, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985.
Parrott joined the faculty of the University of Georgia in 1988. Founder of the Parrott Lab, he has researched the genetic map of the soybean, with the goal of identifying genes that control its growth. He is also researching the genetic origins of the four-leaf clover, and his lab as come closest to discovering the plant’s genetic roots.
Wayne Parrott has been a tireless advocate in efforts to reach the public, elected and regulatory communities to address evolving plant breeding methods. As part of these efforts, he has testified before Congress and served as part of a recent joint National Association of Plant Breeders and the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee-ASTA Plant Breeding Innovation session for federal regulators in Washington D.C. He has always been there when the American seed industry needed his expertise and knowledge and we congratulate and thank him for his tremendous service.
To see past recipients, click here.
The ASTA Honorary Lifetime Member award was presented to Tom Moore, HM.CLAUSE, and Bernice Slutsky, ASTA. Honorary Members distinguish themselves through leadership, vision and service.
Tom Moore is currently the West Coast Production Manager for HM.Clause. In that role, Tom is responsible for domestic and international production of foundation and stock seed, plus all commercial small seed production within the USA. Previous assignments were as the Offshore Production Manager, Quality Assurance Director, and Market Seed Quality Manager. Tom has been with HM.Clause for 24 years.
Tom served on several committees within the American Seed Trade Association. He is Past Chairman of the ASTA Phytosanitary Committee, the ASTA International Executive Committee and the ASTA Emerging Diseases Committee. Tom has just stepped down as the ASTA representative to the International Seed Federation Phytosanitary Committee, which included a seat on the ISF Global Phyto Response Team representing the Americas.
Tom has been a tremendous leader for ASTA during his long and distinguished career and a major asset to the U.S. industry. He is now looking forward to the relaxing days of retirement in New Mexico!
In April 2006, Dr. Bernice Slutsky joined the staff of ASTA as Vice President, Domestic and International Policy and quickly moved to target ASTA’s policy programs around the association’s recently updated strategic plan. With her extensive experience in negotiating international trade policy regarding agriculture sciences, Bernice quickly built upon the international program foundation developed by ASTA’s former President and CEO Dick Crowder. She also placed added emphasis on ASTA’s national leadership on domestic policy issues impacting the plant breeding, research, genetics, and plant sciences that is the heart of the American seed industry.
Bernice’s deep interest in plant genetics and breeding really started when she was completing her post doc work at Plant Genetic Systems in Belgium in the 1980’s. Following her time at PGS and Michigan State University, Bernice relocated to Washington D.C. and began her career driving policy around biotechnology, both pharmaceutical and agricultural.
Prior to joining ASTA, Bernice served as Senior Advisor for Biotechnology in USDA’s Office of the Secretary, for Secretaries Ann Veneman and Mike Johanns, coordinating USDA policies and activities in agricultural biotechnology. Before that role, she served as Assistant Vice President, International Regulatory Affairs at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers (PhRMA) and preceding that as Biotechnology Coordinator of International Trade Policy at the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service. Bernice earned her doctoral degree in biology from the University of Iowa.
The coordination and focus that Bernice brought to the association enhanced ASTA’s strong leadership role in furthering policy around emerging and evolving plant breeding innovation; intellectual property rights policies regarding plant genetic resources; and international trade and policy. This enabled ASTA to continue to build on its strong reputation with Capitol Hill and the relevant departments and agencies across the Administration.
The American Seed Trade Association is stronger because of Bernice’s commitment and dedication over the past 15 years.
Blake Curtis was introduced to the seed industry in his early childhood as he traveled across the harvest fields and range with his dad. He came into the family seed business formally in 1979, where he serves as Senior Vice President of Management and Sales. Meanwhile, he also served on the New Mexico State Legislature from 1986 to 1995, in the roles of Minority Caucus Chairman, then Minority Whip, and finally Minority Leader. Blake was President of the New Mexico Seedsmen’s Association from 1996 to 1998, and served on the New Mexico State University Board of Regents between 2006 and 2010, including the positions of Chairman and Secretary. He has also held positions on the New Mexico Finance Authority, New Mexico State Fair Commission and Clovis Chamber of Commerce. He has held leadership positions with ASTA since 2004, including Environmental and Conservation Seed Committee chair and Southern Regional Vice President, and in recent years has been a true champion for advocating seed industry legislative concerns both nationally and in New Mexico, with notable victories on key legislation.
Blake’s greatest accomplishment is that he is currently serving as the on-call advisor for the third and fourth generations of Curtis seedsmen. And finally, Blake was our own ASTA Chair from 2012-2013.
To see past recipients, click here.