The U.S. Grains Council is seeking a new leader. Tom Sleight, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Grains Council since 2012, will retire this summer following the appointment of his successor, the Council's Board of Directors announced this week at the organization's membership meeting in Cartagena, Colombia.
“I have done what I intended to accomplish, and as I move forward to this new phase of my own life, I am confident the Council is headed in the right direction and poised for continued growth as a relevant, innovative and impactful organization,” Sleight said.
Sleight leaves with the organization with expansion on the horizon. The Council was recently awarded nearly $14 million from USDA’s Agricultural Trade Promotion Program; was also recently awarded an increase in funding from USDA’s hallmark market development programs, the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program; and enjoys strong support from its growing membership.
“The Board of Directors of the Council has been preparing for this transition for some time, and we have a strong global team in place that Tom has conscientiously built to be able to take on the challenges of a dynamic market development portfolio,” said Jim Stitzlein, chairman of the Council’s Board of Directors.
“We would love for Tom to stay, however we are fully understanding of his desire for what is hopefully a long and well-deserved retirement with his wife and family.”
Stitzlein has appointed a search committee comprised of representatives from its diverse membership, including the corn, sorghum, barley, ethanol and agribusiness sectors.
Sleight has worked at the Council a total of 25 years, beginning in 1983, and having done nearly every job the Council has to offer. Beginning in program implementation, Sleight went on to serve overseas in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, then returned to Washington to direct European, Middle East and Asia regional market development programs. Sleight complemented his international background by also serving in the U.S. administrative side of the Council’s operations, directing its membership, communications and administrative programs.
He left the Council in 1999 to lead the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ marketing division and later the New York Farm Viability Institute in his home state.
Sleight returned to the Council as vice president in 2010 before being selected as president and CEO in 2012.
“When I look back at my time with the Council, I have always been impressed by how nimble the organization is, able to turn over rocks and work where the market does not to find global opportunities for U.S. agriculture and the coarse grains sector,” Sleight said.