For over 15 years and under three governors Gene Hugoson led the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) during a time of tremendous change and transition modernizing the agency for the 21st century and tirelessly advocating on behalf of the state’s agriculture and food sector.
A native of East Chain, Minn., Hugoson earned a degree in social science education from Augsburg College in 1967. After graduating he served in the United States Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, and worked as a high school social studies teacher in Lakefield and St. James. First elected in 1986, Hugoson served five terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he was Assistant Minority Leader for four years.
On July 1, 1995, Hugoson was appointed Minnesota’s agriculture commissioner by Gov. Arne Carlson. He was reappointed by governors Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty. Hugoson’s lifelong farming background helped him maintain a producer’s perspective on the challenges facing Minnesota’s rapidly changing agricultural industry. He recognized the need for the agency to focus squarely on its stakeholders and undertook a reorganization of the MDA. Working diligently to strengthen the state’s value-added industries such as renewable fuels and the livestock industry, Hugoson’s administration also was recognized nationally for enhancing Minnesota’s food supply safety by ensuring timely response to food-borne outbreaks.
Hugoson understood that helping meet the food needs of a growing global population was important to the long-term profitability of Minnesota agriculture and made international market development a key priority during his tenure. With 96 percent of the world’s population living outside the United States it was and is crucial for Minnesota—which ranks seventh among states in agricultural exports—to develop relationships with key international customers. Hugoson participated in successful missions to China, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Denmark, New Zealand and Vietnam.
Throughout his career in public service as a legislator and commissioner, Hugoson and his family have operated a corn and soybean farm in Martin County.