The former leader of the Indiana corn and soybean organizations, who left in 2008 for the position of CEO at the National Pork Board, is now heading back to the world of corn. Chris Novak will become CEO of the National Corn Growers Association in October, succeeding the retiring Rick Tolman.
Martin Barbre is a southeastern Illinois corn grower and president of the NCGA, and he told HAT that Novak’s vision for their organization set him apart from other candidates.
“Chris came into our search committee, and understanding I wasn’t part of the search committee. I appointed the committee and our chairwoman Pam Johnson chaired that committee. But the report we got was as Chris was interviewing with them his vision with where we could be going just really stood out from some of the other candidates. We had a lot of highly qualified candidates and the committee actually did final interviews with four, but they said Chris’s just stood out as a vision for where we could go.”
Barbre said that Novak’s vision was well synced with the board’s vision.
“We had a board call about 2 weeks ago and at that point had not mention Chris’s name to the board, but as Pam described him everyone on the board just got highly excited, not even knowing who it was.”
Once he begins Novak will have a couple of key priorities to focus on.
“One of the very important things for NCGA is our relations with our state corn grower associations. That’s one thing that Chris talked about during the process and it’s highly important. We know he’s had a great history of working with state associations in the organization he’s with now. Obviously we’re looking for corn demand. That’s going to be the big thing we’re looking for is to create more demand as we keep raising larger crops.”
Barbre said Tolman is going out on a high note and leaves Novak with an organization of over 42,000 dues paying members that grows every year. NCGA is also on solid financial footing with strong political and state association ties. He says all of that makes it a great time for the CEO transition.
After a comprehensive recruitment process with many strong candidates, the National Corn Growers Association announced today that Chris Novak will become the organization’s next chief executive officer, taking the place of 14-year veteran Rick Tolman, who earlier this year announced his intention to retire from the organization.
“We’re thrilled to have Chris join us at NCGA,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre, a corn grower from Illinois. “He has all the right qualifications to take the reins of this growing organization and keep it moving in the right direction, continuing the tradition of success we saw under Rick Tolman.”
Novak’s first day as NCGA CEO will be Monday, Oct. 13. He currently serves as chief executive officer of the National Pork Board, a position he has held since October 2008. Prior to that, from 2004 to 2008, he was executive director of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, the Indiana Corn Growers Association and the Indiana Soybean Alliance. Novak also has served in positions at Syngenta and the American Soybean Association, and worked on Capitol Hill.
“I am very excited about this opportunity to work with a terrific team of grower leaders, state affiliates and the NCGA staff,” Novak said. “With a record corn crop predicted for this year, corn farmers must work together to build new markets that keep up with our increasing productivity. I’m looking forward to working with the team to meet this challenge.”
Novak holds a master’s degree in business administration from Purdue University, a law degree from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in public service and administration from Iowa State University. Novak and his wife, Julie, have three children.
Barbre appointed a cross-functional search committee to aid in the placement, led by NCGA Chairwoman Pam Johnson. The committee retained the services of Kincannon & Reed, an executive recruitment firm that specializes in the global food and agriculture sectors and has extensive recruiting experience for agricultural associations.
“Our search committee was impressed with the caliber of candidates, and we faced a lot of tough decisions, but in the end, we knew Chris would be a great fit with NCGA,” said Johnson. “I’m grateful for the hard work of our search committee and for the guidance of Kincannon & Reed for making this a great process.”
Outgoing CEO Tolman had announced in March that he would be retiring from NCGA at the end of the association’s fiscal year, to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.
“NCGA has a great future ahead of itself with Chris as its new chief executive,” Tolman said. “I am extremely confident that he has the experience and expertise to lead it boldly and continue its trajectory as a respected national trade association growing in membership and influence. In the weeks ahead, we will be working together on a smooth and productive transition as corn farmers face continuing challenges from several fronts.”
Tolman joined NCGA in September 2000, having previously served as executive director of the U.S. Grains Council, and has received numerous awards and recognition in his time at NCGA. Later this year, he and his wife, Linda, will relocate closer to family in Utah, where they are building a home.