ASTA Honors Industry Groundbreakers

  • On June 13, 2023

ASTA Honors Industry Groundbreakers

Sacramento, CA—June 13, 2023—The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) honored seed industry groundbreakers during its annual Leadership Summit, June 10 -14 in Sacramento. Awardees were recognized in the following categories: Heritage, Distinguished Service, Lifetime Honorary Member, and Excellence in Science.

The Heritage Award serves to preserve and build seed industry history by honoring and recognizing individuals who have significantly impacted the American seed industry and ASTA. This year’s award was bestowed upon two worthy individuals: Richard Crowder and Bill Latham.

Richard “Dick” Crowder, PhD, has spent more than 50 years in senior executive and policy positions in the food and agriculture industry, advancing the interests of farmers, ranchers, and the industries that produce food and fiber. Before becoming the Chief Agricultural Negotiator and Ambassador in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, he served as President and CEO of ASTA. Dick’s 30-plus years of domestic and international private sector experience includes senior management positions in a number of companies throughout the food industry. He served as Under Secretary of International Affairs and Commodity Programs for the United States Department of Agriculture from 1989 – 1992, where he was responsible for all USDA agencies dealing with international trade and development as well as domestic farm programs.

Bill Latham (1941-2015), Latham Seed, Inc., was raised on a grain and livestock farm in north central Iowa. He was a 1963 graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in agronomy, where he was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and initiated into the Alpha Zeta agricultural honor society. After service in the U.S. Marine Corp Reserve, Bill came home to the family seed business in 1966 where he became its president. The company grew to become one of the most successful soybean seed producers and marketers in the upper soybean belt, with a dealer organization in seven North Central states. Bill served as President of ASTA, the President of the Independent Professional Seed Association and Iowa Seed Association. Bill and his wife Linda had two sons, John, and Christopher. Both, along with John’s wife Shannon, are now owners of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to the association and the seed industry. Donn Cummings, National Association of Plant Breeders was this year’s honoree.

Throughout his career, Donn has been a tireless and articulate advocate for the plant breeding profession. He served for 37 years in the global seed industry and eight more in volunteer work as a retiree. Donn is formerly: Monsanto’s Global Breeder Sourcing Lead; a successful Monsanto/Dekalb corn breeder in Indiana; a Regional Research Director; and a scientist, site lead, and people manager. He has been exceptionally active in a wide range of professional organizations, including the Crop Science Society of America, the National Council of Commercial Plant Breeders (Past President), ASTA and the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. Donn not only initiated the NAPB Borlaug Scholar’s Program, but continues to serve as a mentor for dozens of students and aspiring plant breeders globally, currently serving as a Liaison between NAPB and ASTA.

ASTA’s Lifetime Honorary Member Award is one of the highest awards bestowed by the association and is in recognition of untiring service to ASTA, as well as the seed industry. This year’s award was given to Craig Newman, AgReliant Genetics/Finding Black Ink, LLC.

The former President & CEO of AgReliant Genetics, Craig’s career began with seven years spent at Procter & Gamble in Ohio. He then entered the seed industry at Akin Seed Company, in 1979 in St. Francisville, Illinois, and spent over 40 years in our industry, with various positions at Akin Seed and AgriGold Hybrids, including General Manager. His final role was as President and CEO of AgReliant Genetics. Craig served as President of the Illinois Seed Dealers and as Central Region Vice President and Chairman of the ASTA Board of Directors.

The Seed Science Foundation’s Excellence in Science Award recognizes the outstanding achievement by a public or private researcher whose accomplishments have had an impact in the areas of Breeding Systems, Seed Quality, Seed Production and Technology, Seed Health and Pathology, Digital Agriculture, or Seed Applied Technology. This year’s award was given to Manjit Misra, Iowa State University/USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Misra was recently appointed as Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), working to advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. Prior to joining USDA, Dr. Misra served as a Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University, where he was Director of the university’s Seed Science Center for over 30 years. Misra has served on more than 60 local, national, and international Boards and committees, including ASTA’s “First the Seed Foundation.”

For more information, including full bios of the award winners, view the Awards Commemorative Program. For photos of award winners, contact Bethany Shively.


Founded in 1883, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) represents over 700 companies involved in seed production, plant breeding and related industries in North America. ASTA is the leading voice of action in all matters concerning the development, marketing and movement of seed, associated products and services throughout the world. The association’s broad membership offers varieties from alfalfa to zucchini and all production types including conventional, organic and biotech. ASTA promotes the development of better seed to produce better crops for a better quality of life.