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Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s Board of Directors Elects New Members

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) is pleased to announce four new members to its Board of Directors.

State Sen. Aric Putnam (DFL-St. Cloud) and State Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center) fill the two seats slated for lawmakers from the committees with jurisdiction over agriculture finance. Joe Serbus, Board Chairman for the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSR&PC) and Lauren McNamara, Vice President and Assistant General Manager for Plant Based Food & Beverage at SunOpta, were also elected. Board member Jeff Grev, Hormel Foods, was re-elected to a second three year term.

AURI’s Board of Directors is comprised of 11 members representing the state’s commodity groups, general farm organizations, agribusiness, at-large affiliates, and the Minnesota legislature.

Putnam was first elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 2020 and represents District 14. He chairs the Agriculture, Broadband and Rural Development Committee and Vice Chair of the Higher Education Committee, and serves as a committee member on the Jobs and Economic Development Committee as well as the Taxes Committee. He is a professor of communication at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

Vang was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2018 and represents District 38B. She chairs the Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee and is a member of three additional committees, including Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy, Higher Education Finance and Policy, and the Legacy Finance Committee. She works as an affordable housing advocate for a nonprofit organization in Minneapolis.

In addition to his role with MSR&PC, Serbus is a soybean, corn and sweetcorn farmer in Bird Island, Minn. He is a small business owner of MID Minnesota Agriculture, a Minnesota crop adjuster and serves on the Bird Island Hawk Creek Insurance board of directors. He was first elected to the MSR&PC in 2016.

McNamara is responsible for new business development, capability expansion, investments and day-to- day management and performance for SunOpta’s plant-based business. She is a current member of the board of directors of the Private Label Manufacturer’s Association, and a past member of Twin Cities Share our Strength and the Browndale Neighborhood Association. She also volunteers as a mentor with Minnesota Cup and the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator.

“A high-quality board of directors is critical to the success of an organization. We are grateful for the interest, support and enthusiasm of State Sen. Arik Putnam, State Rep. Samantha Vang, Joe Serbus, Lauren McNamara and Jeff Grev to advance AURI’s mission,” said Shannon Schlecht, Executive Director. “The expertise and knowledge our new and returning members bring to the organization will help us better serve our clients and deepen our impact on the region’s agricultural industry and economy. I look forward to working with our entire board of directors to further our mission and impact.”

About AURI
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s mission is to foster long-term economic benefit through value-added agricultural products. It accomplishes this by using science and technology to help develop new uses for agricultural products. It partners with businesses and entrepreneurs to generate economic impact in Minnesota communities by helping businesses take advantage of innovative opportunities in four focus areas: biobased products, renewable energy, coproducts and food. AURI provides a broad range of services, including applied research and development, scientific assistance and a targeted network of resources to develop value-added uses for crops and coproducts.