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Daniel Amstutz Tribute
A Lasting Tribute
Throughout his very successful career Dan Amstutz represented and championed ideas and goals of NAEGA membership . As we reflect on the life of our friend and associate this tribute is intended to provide an opportunity to express thoughts in a memorial to Dan's contribution to our industry, country and mankind.
Please contribute (email) to this tribute with your comments, public documents and recommendations for the Amstutz Award.
I first worked closely with Dan Amstutz during the 1985 farm bill. As a legislative aide I dutifully carried the Under Secretary’s briefing book as we attended countless meetings or hearings on Capitol Hill to discuss the impending legislation. He rarely needed anything out of the briefing book I worked diligently to compile but he did share with me the frustration he felt in trying to explain market-based policy imperatives in the highly politicized environment of Capitol Hill! Later I found myself serving as his confidant in the late hours of the evening as he tried to better understand the bubbling of thoughts and concerns that occurred within the agencies he managed. Higher level managers were obligated to make more sterile presentations to the Under Secretary but Dan seemed to appreciate knowing more intimately what his subordinates were really thinking and worried about.
I saw him countless times over more than 20 years. Because of his immense intelligence, I always felt benefited by his presence. His importance to me as both an industry icon and as a friend struck me most deeply when we appeared together in February of this year on a panel about Iraq. While I focused and worried about his health condition, he made it clear to the organizers that he would not miss the opportunity to share his wisdom and experience on how to solve the problems in Iraqi agriculture. Dan had such immense abilities that he did not have to come to Washington over 20 years ago; he did not have to do the mental struggle with politicians and bureaucracy, and he certainly did not have to incur the physical struggle that was obvious at this past February’s conference on Iraq. But Dan had something to give and the result is that we have all benefited from his many sacrifices to public service.
Through this message, I offer sincere condolences to the Amstutz family and to all who have lost a dear friend, confidant, supporter, neighbor, and source of encouragement. Dan Amstutz left us too soon, and he will truly be missed - for his leadership in the agricultural field as well as for his philanthropy to many who benefited from his helpful encouragement and generous support.
The Reagan Administration was fortunate to have the talents of such an outstanding leader at USDA as Under Secretary Daniel G. Amstutz, who was proud to serve President Ronald Reagan, a leader he respected and revered. Dan Amstutz had a great love for freedom and democracy, and was an extremely patriotic person.
Dan Amstutz was a person who loved life, was curious and interested in almost everything under the sun, and appreciated literature, the arts, music of all kinds, and excellent cuisine. He also loved to laugh, and I can remember hearing laughter coming from staff meetings during his USDA years, as the group broke up after sharing private jokes!
Dan Amstutz not only loved life himself, but sought to help others with problems. In his 2005 Christmas message, he shared his latest interest and concern: "I have learned much about the difficulties faced by people with handicaps and am becoming a vocal proponent of their needs." It sounds just like Dan Amstutz, to be thinking of how to help others even as he was experiencing pain and lack of mobility. May his legacy of caring and generosity live on through efforts of others concerned with the health, safety, and welfare of others around the world. We were fortunate to have known Dan Amstutz, and will hold his memory in our hearts.
I would be remiss and WPI would be remiss if we did not note the passing of Dan Amstutz, who succumbed to cancer 20 Mar after experiencing health problems for a few years prior. Dan was one of the most widely known individuals involved in agriculture for the last few decades and deservedly so. His experience in agribusiness, high level government posts and non-profit organizations made him unique.
I will not bother with a detailed description of his career. Anyone interested can pull up his obituary. I will only note briefly that he spent 25 years with Cargill Inc in various roles followed by 5 years with Goldman Sachs as a general partner. In 1983 Pres Reagan appointed him Under Secretary of Agriculture for International Affairs and Commodity Programs. In 1987 he was named Ambassador and Chief US Negotiator for agriculture during the Uruguay Round. Thereafter, he headed the International Grains Council (IWC) in London and subsequently the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) in Washington, DC. As someone formerly employed by agribusinesses, while in government Dan was a frequent target for criticism from those that believe such experience somehow disqualifies one for a government position related to agriculture.
In 2003 Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman appointed Dan to lead the efforts to rebuild Iraq’s agricultural productive capacity and infrastructure. His role in Iraqi agriculture drew especially harsh “knee jerk” criticism from Oxfam and other similar groups that were convinced Dan would insure that multinational agribusinesses would be the beneficiaries of Iraqi agricultural recovery. Anyone who knew Dan also knew of his high integrity and how scrupulously he kept all former commercial allegiances totally separate from his public service. Such unfounded charges made those organizations appear even sillier than usual.
Several years ago the CFTC pressured the CBOT to change futures contract delivery terms to something other than instore Chicago and Toledo elevators. The CBOT asked Dan to help design a new delivery structure. The Chicago-St. Louis inland waterway delivery system now in place was largely Dan’s concept.
Dan and I entered Cargill’s training program on the same day in July 1954. We roomed together for awhile. For years our career assignments seemed to thrust us together one way or another, and we became good friends. I am proud of Dan’s career and his contributions in public service. Dan’s passing is a personal loss for me as well as a tremendous loss for all of agriculture. May he rest peacefully!
Undersecretary Amstutz led our agricultural delegation for the opening session of the United States/Canada Free Trade Agreement negotiations in the late 1980s. I was fortunate to be a member of the agricultural delegation for this first meeting, which took place in a secluded ski resort area in Canada. Of course our meeting occurred in the summer, so with the exception of our respective delegations, the resort was deserted.
Agriculture was one of the first issues to be discussed in the plenary meeting. With the afternoon dedicated to non-agricultural issues, Undersecretary Amstutz decided to check-out the surrounding agricultural area. As the junior member of our delegation, I had been designated as the driver. So, in an unexpected twist, I ended up spending the afternoon one-on-one with Undersecretary Amstutz.
At the time, I could only think about what a great opportunity this was for me to pick the brain of someone I considered to be very intelligent, while trying not to make myself look stupid. Far be it for me to say so, but Undersecretary Amstutz’s abundance of intelligence definitely met my high expectations, while at the same time he was very open to my questions and facilitated our conversion, knowing full well that I was the benefactor. I was duly impressed and could not help but to think about how much some people would have paid to spend the afternoon discussing various issues with Dan Amstutz.
As the years passed, Dan and I stayed in touch and became colleagues and friends. I will always be thankful for having had the opportunity to know him and will miss our discussions.
Although I've known Dan since 1982, the special memory I'd like to share comes from just a few years ago when Dan and I served together on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC), which is a private-sector group of about 30 people who provide policy advice on trade issues to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). At that point Dan had retired from NAEGA and become a consultant and I was still living in Minnesota and working for Cargill. This particular APAC meeting was held sometime in the autumn. Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota had just played their annual football game the previous Saturday. Most APAC members were aware of Dan's great affection for Ohio State. I don't recall which issue was being discussed, but Dan offered a comment with which I did not completely agree. (Yes, that did happen occasionally.) I made a good-natured remark to the effect that we needed to expect Dan to be a little cranky because Ohio State had just lost to Minnesota in Columbus for the first time in (if memory serves me correctly) 48 years. Dan turned to me and said more or less the following: "Yes, it has been a long time, but I remember that previous game well. My father took me to it."
That response surprised me, of course, and we visited about it afterward. It helped me better understand his long and ardent support for his alma mater. In a deeper sense, though, it also gave me a clearer perspective into the passion, dedication and personal touch Dan brought to the other things that were important in his life: the pursuit of open and competitive markets; the search for policies that would encourage economic growth by allowing individuals and nations to reach their full potential; and his family. He mentioned his mother, sister, niece and nephews often enough so it was obvious they were very dear to him.
The world has lost a man whose knowledge, wisdom and friendship will be greatly missed by me and by many others.
I met Dan Amstutz for the first time in 1980. He chaired the National Grain and Feed Association's Commodity Exchange Committee for a number of years and served on both the NGFA's Board and Executive Committee. In his service on NGFA committees, Dan taught me a great deal about futures markets, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and government relations work. Dan had a tremendous appreciation and passion for free markets. His vast understanding of markets and agriculture were exemplified by his ability to explain complex matters in straightforward concise terms that anyone could understand. He could write policy statements and letters just as he spoke----with great precision, skill and to the point.
In his service to the industry and with his roles in government, no one conducted business with higher integrity that Dan Amstutz. His knowledge of the business contributed strongly to his performance at USDA. I still remember Dan investing so much time in re-designing the export enhancement program (a grain export subsidy program) to make it more cost-effective and to add more bushels to U.S. export volumes. It was a painful exercise for Dan, as he found such non-market programs distasteful, but he tackled the job because he knew he could improve its performance. And he did.
I'll admit that Dan and I didn't always agree 100% of the time, and during his tenure as the NAEGA CEO there were times that he and I would end a conversation saying, "well, we will just have to agree that we're not going to reach agreement on this one!" But Dan never let such disagreements get in the way of dealing cooperatively on the next item on the industry's agenda.
I don't think there is anyone I have known in agribusiness that was more widely revered and respected for his knowledge, business acumen and capacity to contribute than Dan Amstutz. He will be missed by many.
As we pass through life we seek people that we consider to be role models. Those individuals that possess the
skills, abilities and traits that we want to model our lives after. Those individuals that have the ability to handle and manage challenges with wisdom and courage. Dan Amstutz was a role model that many individuals have been blessed with knowing. Dan was generous in his ability to share his knowledge, wisdom and
passion for our industry. We are all truly blessed to have had Dan in our lives and in our industry.
I first met Dan in March of 1955 at the Cargill Lake Office where I was going through a series of job interviews prior to graduating from Amherst College. It happened that we were both members of Chi Phi Fraternity. It was the beginning of a life-long career at Cargill for me.
Dan and I went our separate ways in the early years until we ended up on different grain desks at the Lake Office in 1968. The two of us, Flint Harding, Mel Middents, and Bob Hatch shared the west end of the office. We had many laughs and good times there for four years until Dan left to start CIS, and I went to Toledo in 1972. He would come over for dinner on Friday nights to a house full of children, and we would tell stories and reorganize the senior management of Cargill on a regular basis.
He visited us in Toledo from Chicago on consecutive Thanksgivings in 1972 and 1973. We attended two Ohio State - Michigan football games together, and his love and enjoyment of anything to do with Ohio State was obvious. We still remember the air of excitement - almost electricity - when we walked into the stadium at Columbus and crammed three of us into two seats to accommodate a "shortage" of tickets at the event.
We somewhat lost contact with Dan when he left CIS for Goldman Sachs and then the Government, but happily we "found" each other again in the 90's. Both of us retired from formal business attachments and had the time to travel and enjoy life. We met in Florida, and Dan came to Minneapolis and became a member of the Cargill 25-Year Club. Then, along with Flint and Janet Harding, we spent a long weekend at his beautiful log house in Park City, Utah last summer. It was a happy time, full of story telling about the old days at Cargill and featuring huge breakfasts prepared by our host.
The five of us made plans to have similar "reunions" in the future, but they never happened, as Dan's back surgery and then untimely death cut short our happy times together on this earth.
We remember and loved Dan for his wit and self-deprecating humor. Mary Ann once accused him of loving his own jokes, and he readily admitted that this was true. We admired his long public service, his knowledge of agriculture and government. Being with him was a true pleasure. We loved him, and were saddened by his death. Our condolences go to his mother and his sister and her family. We miss him.
The April 22, 2006 Memorial Celebration of the life of Daniel Amstutz will certainly bring out highlights of his long and successful career. It is an admirable record, though anyone who knew Dan recognized his talents and drive and were not surprised with his impressive achievements.
We'd like to remember other features of Dan's life. Knowing him since the early 1960's Cargill days allowed us to witness some of his traits. He was very loving of family and most loyal to friends. Many of us remember him by his smile and sincerity. He seldom forgot a name nor often even that of a persons spouse or family member.
Dan encouraged and defended young newcomers to business. There is a beautiful story of his walking out in protest to a manager demeaning trainees assigned to his office. This and other happenings became humorous and lore with decades later telling.
Dan's sense of humor and his ability to relate to all ages and to people from all walks in life were unique. Our condolences to this good man's family, as well as comfort to them in knowing he led a good and contributory life.
News Stories & Public Documents
The amazing career of Daniel Amstutz - Milling & Baking News - April 25, 2006
Dan Amstutz Remembered - May 12, 2006
Milling and Baking News article - February 24, 2006
Obituaries and Memorial / Donation
Obituary - Published in Florida Today, Melbourne FL, on 3/28/2006
Obituary - Published in The Washington Post, on 4/9/2006