This quarter, Ag Innovation News is highlighting two of its current board members—recently elected Senator Rich Draheim and current Secretary-Treasurer Art Brandli. Both Directors show a great dedication to AURI and its endeavors, while having unique backgrounds. Hopefully you can see from the side-by-side interviews how diverse opinions and visions for the organization’s future work together harmoniously to strengthen AURI.

AURI: What do you feel is your most important duty as an AURI board member?

Sen. Draheim: The most important duty as a board member is to bring new ideas and a different perspective to enhance the mission of AURI.

AURI: Do you have an agricultural background?

Sen. Draheim: I worked 20 years for John Deere dealership groups. It really helped me understand a lot about the ag community.

AURI: Tell us about your work on the Senate Ag Committees?

Sen. Draheim: I worked on getting large animal veterinarians, correcting and amending the buffer law, and promoting the general growth of state agriculture.

AURI: What would you like to see AURI accomplish during your term on the board?

Sen. Draheim: I would like to see us bring a new innovation to the market that is a game changer in the ag community.

AURI: Do you have a philosophy about the role of the Board of Directors ?

Sen. Draheim: My philosophy is to bring my unique outsider point of view to the board to keep our ideas diverse and fresh.

AURI: What kinds of projects/initiatives do you feel offer farmers the best opportunities in Minnesota today?

Sen. Draheim: I am a firm believer that new uses and/or byproducts offer the best opportunities.

AURI: How important is value-added agriculture to Minnesota’s economy?

Sen. Draheim: Value-added ag is very important to the economy and it is very under appreciated.

AURI: What kinds of projects/initiatives do you feel offer the highest value for Minnesota ag producers and processors today?

Sen. Draheim: I am a fan of expanded markets and new initiatives to help boost interest and output for agriculture.


AURI: Have you worked with value-added ag in the past?

Art Brandli: My first involvement with a value added product was Swheat Scoop cat litter. Over 20 years ago, while I served on the Minnesota Wheat Council, secondary wheat was suggested as a possible biodegradable alternative cat litter. Today, it is available throughout the US and many countries worldwide. Certainly a success story!

AURI: What direction do you see value-add ag going over the next 3 years?

Art Brandli: Value added agriculture products will continue to command high interest among entrepreneurs due to the abundance of standard commodities and consumer demands. Adding value to a product can mean many things from utilizing by-products to unique labeling.

AURI: What are your goals as an AURI Board of Directors member?

Art Brandli: My primary goal as an AURI board member is to be knowledgeable about various areas of agriculture and use that knowledge to assess projects that fit the mission of AURI. In addition, I try to increase the visibility and capability of AURI across Minnesota.

AURI: What do you hope to accomplish during your time on the Board of Directors?

Art Brandli: AURI is a rather unique organization that utilizes a combination of tax, commodity, and entrepreneur dollars to develop projects. Because of the three funding avenues, it is critical to maintain strong leadership and budgeting. As a board member, I push to support these areas while analyzing projects for approval.

AURI: What kinds of projects/initiatives do you feel have the best opportunities in Minnesota today?

Art Brandli: The four focus areas (Food, Renewable Energy, Biodiesel, & Coproducts) cover a lot of agriculture territory! With new consumer demands in the market, it appears the opportunities in the food area are heating up. An example could be the Protein Highway interest. The other three areas will continue developing and building on past successes.

AURI: What would you like to see AURI accomplish during your term on the board?

Art Brandli: First and foremost, I have pushed for a unified board that supports the mission with strong Executive Director leadership. Funding is an issue, so I have encouraged support beyond the borders of Minnesota and new sources of revenue. Additional/new revenue is an area that needs continued assessment and support.

AURI: Do you have a philosophy about the role of the Board of Directors?

Art Brandli: My philosophy as a board member is that, in reality, it is the staff who makes the organization successful! My role is to help provide the tools, leadership, and funding to accomplish the tasks they are presented. I am proud to have been involved to help AURI achieve successes.