Refereeing The Seed Industry

Chet Boruff has made a career protecting agricultural producers and consumers through regulatory affairs.

Boruff (’76 farm operations) is the chief executive officer of the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). The organization is “like the NCAA of the seed industry,” he says.

“We govern how the seed industry plays in terms of isolation, handling and maintaining identity, purity and quality. We protect farmers to make sure what they buy is what they get,” Boruff says.

The association’s members are certification agencies in 45 states and Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa. These agencies administer seed certification programs protecting the varietal purity and quality of a wide range of seeds and plant propagating materials.

“AOSCA has always worked to ensure genetic purity and varietal identity are maintained and preserved. We are simply working with different technologies than we were in 1919 when the organization was created,” Boruff says. “We want to make sure there is credibility in the seed market and our members have active participation in decisions regulating the seed industry.”

Throughout his career he has operated a farm near his home in Moline, Ill., which he credits for helping him stay focused in serving agricultural producers and consumers.

Boruff was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity while at Iowa State and met his wife Joy, a journalism grad. What strikes him most about his Iowa State experience is that at the time, he didn’t appreciate student access to “highly-esteemed” professors like Neil Harl, whose lectures were like “opening a fire hose” of knowledge.

Prior to his current position, Boruff worked in agricultural finance, sales and marketing.

Thanks in part to networking and experience gained as part of the inaugural class of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program, Boruff was selected to serve as the Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. He worked for seven years under former Governor Jim Edgar, overseeing regulatory and natural resource programs.

Manjit Misra, director of the Seed Science Center and the Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products based at Iowa State University, considers Boruff a capable leader and spokesperson with the ability to anticipate and meet the needs of member organizations.

“Under Chet’s leadership, AOSCA has become a visible and effective organization,” Misra says. “AOSCA recently developed an organic seed database that I’m hearing very good things about. They serve both conventional and organic agriculture, giving farmers access and choice.”

The online organic seed finder brings buyers and sellers together and assists organic certifiers. It is one way AOSCA is evolving with the industry.

“The introduction of new types of technology will continue to provide challenges for seed producers and those that regulate and audit the seed industry,” Boruff says, “as will consolidation of companies and the impacts of decreased funding for public agricultural research.”

Boruff says AOSCA will continue to serve and maintain the relevance of seed certifying agencies to the agricultural industry.