With a career spanning 40 years, including 35 years at Michigan Agricultural Commodities, Bruce Sutherland is a well-known name in the grain industry.
“It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been great to grow with MAC, see it advance and do as well as it has, but it’s time for a new chapter,” Sutherland says about his impending June 30 retirement.
Sutherland has held a range of leadership roles at MAC — the largest privately held grain handler in the state — starting as a grain merchandiser, subsequently serving as merchandising manager and vice president before being promoted to lead the company as president the past five years. MAC has seven elevators, including one in Canada, and has more than 44 million bushels of storage and about 100 employees.
In addition to his work for MAC, Sutherland has had some strong leadership roles in the industry, including serving on the Michigan Agri-Business Association board of directors and as chairman; the board of directors, executive committee and foundation of the National Grain and Feed Association; committee member on the Federal Grain Inspection Service; and National Rail Car Counsel. Most recently, he was named a trustee on the Michigan 4-H Foundation.
“He had a keen interest and expertise in a wide variety of industry issues, and a strong commitment to pursuing research and education initiatives through NGFA’s Foundation — particularly to enhance the safety of commercial and on-farm grain handling activities [such as preventing engulfments in grain bins] — and to provide scholarship opportunities for minority students interested in pursuing careers in agribusiness,” says Randy Gordon, immediate past president and CEO, National Grain and Feed Association.
In 2020, Sutherland helped lead efforts to reauthorize the U.S. Grain Standards Act — the only reauthorization bill for any agency enacted by Congress that year.
“Bruce gave critically important testimony on behalf of NGFA before the Senate Agriculture Committee,” Gordon says. “This extremely important law establishes factors to determine quality of grains and oilseeds. It also is the statute used to provide official inspections of U.S. grain exports — one of the linchpins in marketing American farmers’ commodities to both domestic and global customers.”
Sutherland says he enjoyed the markets, but especially liked working with producers and being a part of their marketing programs. “We [MAC employees] strive to give them the best information, even if they don't do business with us,” Sutherland says. “If we can help contribute to their success, that's a win.”
With his retirement, the average age of MAC employees goes down, he jokes. “We've always tried to support our young people, giving them every opportunity to grow and develop,” he says.
Ted Tucker, who has 28 years with MAC, will serve in MAC’s lead position as executive vice president and chief financial officer.
“Bruce has always cared very much for the people he has worked with in and outside the company,” Tucker says. “I consider him a friend and will no doubt remember many things I’ve learned from him as we look to the future.”
Jim Byrum, retired president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, says, “He has always been a gentleman and exhibited the utmost professionalism. His leadership at both the state and national levels demonstrated the broad respect he has among his peers. Bruce’s retirement will leave a void tough to fill in Michigan’s grain trade and agribusiness community.”
Jim Zook, executive director of Corn Marketing of Michigan, adds, “I had the pleasure of working with Bruce on a board and within the corn industry. He brought great insight into the markets. He was always very calm and thoughtful, treating others with respect and conducting his job with integrity. He was, and is, a mentor to many in the industry.”
Upon Sutherland’s retirement, and in addition to Tucker, MAC will promote Robert Geers to vice president of merchandising and originations, Adam Geers to vice president of operations, John Ezinga to vice president of agronomy and Chuck Kunisch to director of safety.
Sutherland’s wife, Teresa, retired two years ago as a middle school teacher. They sold their home in Okemos and are moving to their condo in Ludington.
“I look forward to dialing it back a bit and not having to worry about crop weather and the volatility, the futures, competition and those types of things,” Sutherland says. “I look forward to spending more time with my family, including four grandchildren, and going fishing and hunting.”