Seed World

Illinois Crop Improvement Association to Mark 100 Years of Safeguarding Seed and Grain Quality

Doug Miller, CEO of the Illinois Crop Improvement Association, sits down to talk about the history of the organization, successes it has had and how it is moving into the future. The ICIA will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022.

Over 90 years ago, the Ag Experiment Station and University of Illinois faculty and administrators were instrumental in establishing Illinois Crop as a freestanding, non-profit corporation to provide seed certification and crop improvement services in support of the state’s agricultural economy. The vehicle chosen to positively affect the state’s agricultural viability has been quality seed and, consequently, the grain derived from quality seed. Illinois plays a pivotal role in the global seed and grain industries from seed development through grain processing. Illinois Crop has grown into a leading source of authentication, testing and winter farm services known and respected worldwide.

Illinois Crop, being an independent service provider, develops and offers a wide range of technical and service programs throughout the greater food and agriculture system.

Doug Miller has been ICIA chief executive officer for 27 years. He started as the greenhouse supervisor, moved into field inspections, and then into a business development role where he got a chance to work in Puerto Rico. He studied plant genetics at Eastern Illinois University, and then got a degree in plant pathology from Kansas State University.

“The ICIA has a long history, one that began when professors at the University of Illinois were seeing that new varieties were not being maintained, and that seed certification would be a good solution for what was going on with farm-saved seed and the way that seed was being produced,” Miller says. “This is even before the seed industry as we know it today was was up and running and functioning.”

The ICIA is here to ensure the identity and purity of what the breeder releases.

“Now, as seed industry has changed, most of the corn that we certify does go through OECD or the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development. So it is largely for export purposes. We still certify wheat that’s important in that market, as well as oats and some other crops. We are starting to see a little bit of hemp. We have our first certified hemp field this year, and we are looking at other crops. We also offer quite a few services that are not necessarily tied closely to seed certification.”

The ICIA has a wide range of customers working in a multitude of crops.

“We’re always looking for new opportunities as the industry changes,” he goes on to say.