A Salute to Retired CropLife America President Jay Vroom
Editor’s note: It goes without saying that crop protection manufacturing is a central point of interest to readers of this publication. So it makes perfect sense that CropLife® magazine (sister publication to AgriBusiness Global) and CropLife America, the organization that represents crop protection manufacturers, have enjoyed a strong decades-long relationship. (As an aside, while we share the name, we are not affiliated in any way.)
Dating back to the 1950s, when it was called the National Agricultural Chemical Association, the incoming chairpersons were featured on the cover annually. And for more than 40 years, the editorial lynch pin in this relationship was Charlotte Sine.
Char provided an important and influential voice to the distribution channel as well as crop protection manufacturing. She observed, reported, and editorialized on everything from Silent Spring to the formation of the EPA to the Food Quality Protection Act, providing reasoned and rational perspective. And she knew everyone.
There have only been four presidents of CropLife America over the years, and Char knew all of them personally, including Jay Vroom. We asked her to tell the story of Jay’s tenure at the organization, mixed in with some personal anecdotes and experiences. We, like Char, appreciate Jay’s contributions and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
If you’re looking for a key to Jay Vroom’s decision to step down as president of CropLife America after 30 years, this might be it. Asked what he likes to do in his free time, he answers, “What free time?”
Jay has given 110% from Day One. Make that 150%. He’s always done that, it’s just part of his makeup. He’s not flamboyant, he’s not a glad-hander, nor one to grab all the credit when victories are achieved — or try to avoid blame when failures happen. Most of all, he’s a great communicator and a guy with a knack at getting people with diverse, often conflicting interests to work together. It’s a lesson he learned in his youth as a member of 4H and later FFA.
Jay grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm in Illinois. He was active on the farm, involved and interested in agriculture. “When I was transitioning from 7th to 8th grade,” he says, “my vo-ag teacher came to visit me and my parents and laid out a plan for my next four years, with an emphasis on being active in FFA and then heading off to University of Illinois with a major related to ag. ‘Do that, and life will be great,’ he said. I’m an unabashed supporter of FFA. In fact, I will be heading their Industry Giving Council for the next two years. FFA showed me what collaboration can accomplish.”
Following graduation with a degree in ag communications, Jay joined the staff of the National Plant Food Institute (now The Fertilizer Institute [TFI]) working with Don Collins, Vice President for Communications. “Don was one of the very best professional communication leaders in ag, a particularly good writer,” Jay notes. “I honestly didn’t have much interest in writing, but he convinced me writing was as important as verbal communication. It’s been an unbelievable asset these 30 years.”
After several years, Jay left to become Chief Executive of the Merchants Exchange in St. Louis, then six years later was named head of National Fertilizer Solutions Association (now Agricultural Retailers Association [ARA]). In 1989 he was approached by Keith Boyer of Brayton Chemical to join the National Agricultural Chemicals Association, CropLife America’s original name, as Vice President of Communications, becoming President when Dr. Jack Early retired. “He convinced the board I was the right choice. So, ‘Thank you, Keith.’ You’re responsible for these last 30 years,” Jay says with a smile.
Jay took command of a streamlined operation in 1989, following a reorganization that created Oversight Committees on Public Affairs, Science and Regulatory, and Legislative and which sunset all but four of 39 standing committees (Law, Washington Representatives, State Affairs, and International.) “We were clearing the decks of a somewhat convoluted committee structure to be able to react more quickly and efficiently,” he says.
Another important step — reaching an accord with TFI to work together on projects to support retail dealers and their state and regional associations with the primary focus on legislative and regulatory issues.