TAMPA, Fla. – Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill Value Added Meats Retail in Wichita, Kan., will serve as the National Turkey Federation's 2012 chairman, after NTF’s board of directors elected him to that post.

"It makes me proud to be part of an industry that pulls together and works in unison to manage challenges," Willardsen said. "It will be an honor to lead an organization that is so effective in successfully resolving challenges by turning them into opportunities."

NTF and its members will address many issues in 2012, including food safety practices, renewable fuels, the environment and animal care practices, Willardsen said. He added that a key in managing challenges is NTF's ability to maintain a progressive, innovative outlook when problems arise.

"The industry will only get better as we manage challenges and work to balance them with proactive opportunities," he said.

Willardsen oversees the cooked meats business and US turkey operations for Cargill Value Added Meats. The company employs more than 6,000 people who work at the company's four turkey processing facilities, five cooked/processed meat facilities, three breeder/hatcheries, five feed mills, two distribution centers and corporate headquarters. Branded products include Honeysuckle White turkey, Shady Brook Farms, Schweigert, Plantation and Charter Reserve.

Before joining Cargill, Willardsen was chief operating officer for Rocco Enterprises Inc., where he directed the company's turkey and chicken businesses in Virginia and North Carolina. He was also complex general manager for Cargill's California, Mo., plant.

In other NTF news, the organization's board of directors elected John Burkel, director, Northern Pride Inc., as vice chairman; and Gary Cooper, vice president and chief operating officer, Cooper Farms, as secretary-treasurer. Richard Huisinga, executive vice president of Willmar Poultry Company, is the immediate past chairman.

The board also reelected Jihad Douglas, Aviagen Turkeys; Yubert Envia, Foster Farms; Jim Leighton, Perdue Farms Inc.; Walter Pelletier, Butterball LLC; Ron Prestage, Prestage Farms; John Reicks, Sara Lee Food and Beverage; and Carl Wittenburg, Protein Alliance Inc., to the Executive Committee (EC).

Serving their first term as executive committee members are Glenn Leitch, Jennie-O Turkey Store and Jeff Sveen, Dakota Provisions. The elected EC members appointed Matt Cook, Norbest Inc., and Ron Kardel, West Liberty Foods, to the Executive Committee as at-large members.