Former MPPA executive director recognized for his work in farm policy, disease preparedness and pork promotion.

February 14, 2024

7 Min Read
MPB

The Minnesota Pork Board has recognized Dave Preisler as this year’s distinguished service award recipient. Preisler was honored at MPB's annual award recognition reception on Feb. 12 at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato, Minnesota. 

The ability to connect people to each other and agriculture is a talent Preisler used throughout his career working on behalf of Minnesota pig farmers. The ability to identify what needs to be thought about today that may be a challenge tomorrow is a quality that served the industry well under Preisler’s leadership. 

The Distinguished Service Award description simply states that it ‘recognizes an individual who has contributed to the long-term success of the pork industry in Minnesota.’ Beginning his time at Minnesota Pork Producers Association in 1994 and retiring in June of 2022, it is safe to say Preisler demonstrated long-term success throughout his nearly 28-year long career. From his ability to navigate crisis to his dedication to serving rural America, Minnesota Pork is pleased to honor Preisler with this well-deserved award.

Learning to do, doing to learn

Growing up in northwest Minnesota near Mahnomen, Preisler was fortunate to have dedicated educators, his FFA advisor in particular, who inspired him to pursue an agricultural education degree. Upon graduating with this degree from North Dakota State University, Preisler spent two years as a high school agricultural teacher, helping foster young minds while building a strong network of peers. 

Being a member of 4-H in his youth led Preisler to pursue a county Extension agent position, moving his family to Le Sueur County to begin his new role. With experiences ranging from crop and environmental education to county planning and zoning, the job was a steppingstone to the adventure Preisler would later begin with MPPA. Working professionally in both FFA and agriculture created an invaluable network Preisler was able to draw on throughout his time working for pig farmers and bringing together the many sectors of agriculture in Minnesota.

After serving seven years in Extension, Preisler was hired as the executive director of the MPPA. Reflecting on his experiences and personal values of advocating for agriculture and rural communities, Preisler was eager to apply for the position. This marked the beginning of a 28-year career journey with the pork industry changing and evolving throughout his time on staff. 

With his calm demeanor and way of unifying others, Preisler was destined for success from the beginning. John Anderson, Minnesota pig farmer and past MPPA president, described Preisler’s contributions that led to his achievements.

“Dave is known for his ability to listen to farmer concerns and bring together the right groups of people to support and advocate for farmers while finding mutually beneficial solutions,” said Anderson. 

Nearly impossible to summarize the many trying experiences faced in one’s career, three notable times in particular to showcase how Preisler directed the pork industry through trials. Resilient in the face of adversity, Minnesota continues to consistently rank second in the United States for pork production, in both number and value, proving the tenacity of Minnesota pig farmers and Preisler. 

The first challenge is the structural change farmers saw throughout the ‘90s into the early 2000s. The quantity of farms decreased, yet the farms who continued in the industry increased the amount of pork they produced. Experiencing the number of farms decrease during this time was difficult, but the structure of pig farming merged into something more nuanced: contract growing. Within this time of change, Preisler and farmer leadership fought against the state approving moratoriums which would have prevented this growth in the industry. This included changes within feedlot permitting. Without their work in the policy sector, pig farming today could look much different.

“There are few people who know Minnesota’s Chapter 7020 feedlot rules better than David Preisler. He was at the table when the rules were being revised, and regularly advocated for farmers, ensuring family farms had the potential to begin, grow and thrive in Minnesota,” Anderson said. “Dave regularly supported farms in times of crises and often helped find resources or other forms of support for farmers in difficult situations. He was a trusted source of resources and information for farmers regardless of the difficult situations or circumstances.”

“Production has grown significantly, doubling in the last 30 years,” Preisler recalled. “Which is positive for many reasons. It creates jobs to support our communities, supplements corn and soybean production, helps ensure packers stay in the area with a high number of pigs to process and so on.”

A second challenge Preisler recalls is disease preparedness work, whether that was preparing for what was to come or dropping everything and actively working through a crisis, such as the H1N1 outbreak and COVID-19. The pork industry was forced to overcome challenges and evolve.

“As farmers, you hire someone to help you through challenges. And that’s the value proposition of having an association. Farmers should rightfully expect the association is going to help them. That is a fair expectation, and [the association] better deliver. They’re paying for it so they better get a return on that investment,” Preisler said.

Finally, an overarching challenge was the gradual addition of farmer image promotion alongside promoting pork the product. In the beginning of his career, almost all public outreach efforts had to do with educating consumers about eating pork, anywhere from how to cook to the nutritional benefits. While this side of promotion is still very evident, in the digitally connected world we live in today, working to communicate pig farmers’ values of raising safe pork continues to be a goal. Seeing the gradual rise in concern as media coverage grew was something Preisler, state and national leadership worked towards bridging.

Without the work Preisler championed in the years of uncertainty, the reputation of Minnesota pig farmers and future of their farms would not be in the state it is today. 

“Dave’s steady leadership and cooperation with farmer leaders and the greater agricultural industry played an important role in assuring Minnesota’s pig farmers were positioned to be industry leaders,” said Anderson.

During his time with the association, Preisler has certainly been led to success with the advice of those in his network. He recalled the many people who have impacted him.

“First and foremost, over the years we’ve had some tremendous Executive Boards of Directors. Really good thinkers, could see the big picture, and very steady in their leadership,” he shared.

 In addition to board members, Preisler’s mentors have included past National Pork Producers Council CEO, Neil Dierks; counterparts from other commodity organizations; Gene Hugoson, former legislator and commissioner of agriculture; among others. Preisler also credits the valuable MPPA staff he worked with over the years. The staff was instrumental in all the work Preisler was able to accomplish.

Service mindset

Since his retirement in June 2022, Preisler has stayed busy with numerous ventures – one in particular that proves his career truly was his passion. Just as he served Minnesota pig farmers, Preisler is now serving his local community as Le Sueur County Commissioner. Given his background in agriculture policy, service and teamwork, Preisler is a natural fit for the role.

“Two things that are really near and dear to my heart are rural communities and agriculture, and the role as CEO seemed to be just a really good fit,” said Preisler. “That experience is also what drew me to run for commissioner in a rural county. There are a lot of skills from my role at Minnesota Pork that are transferring to the commissioner role very well.”

It is apparent that Preisler continues to make an impact serving Minnesota. His ability to represent and serve Minnesota pig farmers has contributed to the ongoing success of the Minnesota pork industry. He has been recognized for his efforts by peers with many awards including the 2017 Ag Mafia Distinguished Service Award, the 2020 University of Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences Outstanding Friend and the 2021 Minnesota AgriGrowth Distinguished Service Award.

“Dave approached his work with integrity and determination and above all else, prioritized doing what was best for Minnesota’s pig farmers,” Anderson said.

“All of us have things that make us different. I’ve always had a passion for agriculture and rural communities. I think if you combine those two things up, pork production fit really well,” reflected Preisler. “You have the farmers in general who are really progressive, community minded, good business people and they want to do what is right for their communities. That is what really attracted me to stay for so long.”

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