Gene Hugoson grabs grandson Leighton’s hand and strolls down the farm lane to inspect a freshly planted corn field. After a whirlwind week of meetings in Washington, D.C., and the rigors of politics in St. Paul, Minnesota’s former Commissioner of Agriculture has returned to his favorite place on earth. Back home on his farm near East Chain, Hugoson’s weekend with family will include a Saturday of moving corn.
As one of the longest serving top agricultural officials of any state, Hugoson has worked for three administrations. Many of the issues that occupy his time today—food safety, the environment and renewable fuels—were barely on farming’s radar when he took over the post in 1995.
Throughout the years, Hugoson has traveled the globe on international trade missions. Arguably his most famous mission was with former Gov. Jesse Ventura and a Minnesota delegation to Cuba
and one-on-one meetings with Fidel Castro. Hugoson supports trading with everybody, including Cuba.
"We’re in a severe battle with some pretty aggressive and talented agricultural producers in other parts of the world," he says, mentioning Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Canada and Eastern Europe. He says the international trade changes he’s seen have been "phenomenal. It’s amazing through the years, watching how the standards of living have changed, the westernization that has gone on in Asian countries, including a great interest in Western diets. It’s certainly given us a lot of opportunity."