Press Release | FIRST founder Kevin Coey retiring

Farmers’ Independent Research of Seed Technologies (FIRST) independent variety trials are announcing the retirement of owner Kevin Coey from active management of the program. Coey has spent 38 years working in the seed industry.

Coey said, “It is great to start playing the role of advisor in the group, though I plan to stay involved particularly with soybean research”. He is handing of business management duties to a three-member executive board of active FIRST research managers. The executive board will be involved with business decisions needed through the year, working with all FIRST managers for broader decisions. Program Manager Jessica Prenger Bhalerao continues to handle day to day operations for the trials, including data and information technology, publications and promotion. The program is now organized under the business name and brand Farmers' Independent Research of Seed Technologies LLC. The FIRST program is in its 27th season running independent variety trials.

With the launch of the GMO revolution in 1997, FIRST trials were patterned after methods used by the seed industry to select experimental varieties for commercial production. Today, FIRST provides American farmers with information about the performance of commercial seed products from a large number of brands across the Corn Belt and beyond. At the heart of the program, farmer members host and manage the test plots in the same way as their fields, providing genuine, real-world comparisons between hybrids and varieties available in the market. FIRST has expanded into 15 states, and conducts corn, soybean, and corn silage research.

In 2022-2023, the FIRST board included veteran FIRST managers Jason Beyers, Corey Rozenboom, and Mark Querna. They helped guide the initial restructuring and arrangements. Jason Beyers is planning to retire after the 2024 season, with other managers taking over his areas. Corey Rozenboom is training new personnel to manage FIRST trials in Iowa and Nebraska so that he can focus on his research organization, Alpha Ag Research. The FIRST board selected in the summer of 2023 is comprised of chairman Mark Querna, Klint Tucker, and Ed Dahle.

Bhalerao said, “With new business management there is an opportunity to renew how FIRST serves the agricultural industry for the next generation of farm decision makers. Independence and accuracy in the data remain our top priority.” FIRST continues to explore new ways to present trial results to make them useful and accessible for seed companies and farmers alike.

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