New National Turkey Federation Chairman Tells Industry to Turn Challenges into Opportunity

October 24, 2012

 The National Turkey Federation's (NTF) Board of Directors today elected Steve Willardsen to serve as the federation's 2012 chairman.  Willardsen is president of Cargill Value Added Meats Retail in Wichita, Kan.


"It makes me proud to be part of an industry that pulls together and works in unison to manage challenges," Willardsen said during his acceptance speech.  "It will be an honor to lead an organization that is so effective in successfully resolving challenges by turning them into opportunities."


Willardsen mentioned issues such as food safety practices, renewable fuels, the environment and animal care practices as areas NTF and its members will address in the year ahead.  Willardsen noted that a key in managing challenges is NTF's ability to maintain a progressive, innovative outlook when problems arise.


Near the conclusion of his acceptance speech, Willardsen spoke about the future of the turkey industry by saying, "The industry will only get better as we manage challenges and work to balance them with proactive opportunities."


During Saturday's meeting at NTF's Annual Convention, the Board of Directors also elected John Burkel, director, Northern Pride, Inc., as vice chairman; and Gary Cooper, vice president and chief operating officer, Cooper Farms, as secretary-treasurer.  Richard Huisinga, executive vice president of Willmar Poultry Company, assumes the position of immediate past chairman. 


At Cargill Value Added Meats, Willardsen is responsible for U.S. turkey operations and the cooked meats business.  Cargill Value Added Meats is an integrated grower and processor of live turkeys, producer of ready-to-cook and further-processed turkey products and producer of cooked and ready-to-eat beef, pork and poultry products.  The company employs more than 6,000 people who work at the company's four turkey processing facilities, five cooked/processed meat facilities, three breeder/hatcheries, five feed mills, two distribution centers and corporate headquarters.  Cargill Value Added Meats sells product to retail grocery chains and club stores, major food service distributors, convenience stores, the top 200 restaurant chains and food processors.  The business produces more than 1 billion pounds of finished goods annually.  Branded products include Honeysuckle White turkey, Shady Brook Farms, Schweigert, Plantation and Charter Reserve.


Prior to his role at Cargill, he was chief operating officer for Rocco Enterprises, Inc., where he was responsible for their turkey and chicken businesses in Virginia and North Carolina.  He also held the position as complex general manager for Cargill's California, Mo., plant.


During the convention, the Board also reelected Jihad Douglas, Aviagen Turkeys; Yubert Envia, Foster Farms; Jim Leighton, Perdue Farms, Inc.; Walter Pelletier, Butterball, LLC; Ron Prestage, Prestage Farms; John Reicks, Sara Lee Food and Beverage; and Carl Wittenburg, Protein Alliance, Inc., to the Executive Committee (EC).


The Board elected Glenn Leitch, Jennie-O Turkey Store, and Jeff Sveen, Dakota Provisions, to their first terms as EC members.


After the Board meeting, the elected EC members appointed Matt Cook, Norbest, Inc., and Ron Kardel, West Liberty Foods, to the Executive Committee as at-large members.


A full list of the 2012 Board of Directors is available here.