Hallock farmer finishes presidency with national sugarbeet group
By Anna Jauhola
Dan Younggren did not expect to be president of a national organization during a worldwide pandemic. But he regrets nothing about the last two years. Like with everything growers handle, he took the hand and played the cards he was dealt.
Younggren was elected president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association (ASGA) in 2019. Prior to that, he served as vice president.
“It has been a humbling experience, especially going through a pandemic, during my presidency,” Younggren said. “Some people have asked if I ever felt cheated out of anything. And I said, ‘The work continued no matter what.’ I have no reservations and if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope there isn’t another president that has to go through what I went through.”
Nate Hultgren, a grower from Raymond, Minn., is now president while Younggren will serve as an ex-officio member and help guide the new leader.
The biggest accomplishment for the sugarbeet growers while Younggren headed the group was figuring out the Mexican Sugar Suspension Agreement, he said. That was at the top of the list and ensured a safeguard for the sugar industry. Crop insurance also continues to be an ongoing issue.
“It was fun taking the challenge on,” Younggren said. “Moving into a pandemic, and then out of a pandemic … it’s always going to be a tool in our toolbox now.”
The pandemic also altered how Younggren oversaw the organization as president. There was little to no travel. Groups did not gather for national events like the American Farm Bureau Convention, the Commodity Classic and the ASGA’s annual convention. Nearly everything was done virtually.
“I, for one, am sick of the word ‘Zoom.’ Washington, to this day, is virtually shut down on Capitol Hill,” he said. “Even the streets of Washington are ghost town-ish – between the pandemic and the insurrection.”
He said it was a challenge juggling the four ASGA employees remotely and there were many calls made just to boost morale. Despite that, his tenure as president was still a great ride.
Working his way up to a nationally held position wasn’t always on his to-do list, but Younggren knew he’d always be involved in the inner workings of the sugarbeet industry. He has farmed for 40 years, having grown up on the family farm north of Hallock. He now operates Younggren Farms with his cousin, nephew and son. He started as a member of the Drayton Factory District board for 10 years, and served as chairman for four years. He is a past president of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association and was on the board for eight years. He then moved to the position of board member of the ASGA.
He knows he could not have spent so much time on regional and national growers boards without a lot of support at home. He thanked his late brother, along with his cousin, nephew, son, daughter and wife.
He commended his board members throughout his presidency as well, noting, “They all stepped up to the plate and did what I asked of them. I can’t let it go unnoticed with the board of directors, who put their trust in me to navigate this ship through the last two years. I appreciate it.”
While a few Red River Valley growers have served as president of the ASGA board, Kittson County can boast two of their own as past presidents. Kelly Erickson, who farms near Kennedy with his son, Scott, was president of ASGA in 2012-14.
“I don’t know where things will take me now — I’m turned out to pasture,” Younggren said, laughing.
He hopes to see the younger generation of growers, like his nephew Corey and son Blair, step up and get involved as well.
“They will in their own time and way. It starts right here — you’ve got to get on your factory growers board,” Younggren said. “I would encourage anybody to be involved with something.”