Mark Johnson, the manager of national sales for John Deere’s agricultural division, died on October 3 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. Though his name may not be familiar, he was a tremendously important person to the Thoroughbred industry for more than a decade. In his position at John Deere, Johnson played a pivotal role in establishing John Deere as a preferred-pricing provider of farm equipment to the horse industry. John Deere first became affiliated with the NTRA in 1999, and in 2001, the company became an official partner of the Breeders’ Cup. Over the past 12 years, John Deere’s sales to the equine industry have exceeded $400 million.

“Mark was a gentleman and a great friend to the horse industry,” said D.G. Van Clief Jr., President of the Breeders’ Cup from 1996-2006 and Commissioner of the NTRA from 2004-2006. “He should be remembered for creating one of the longest enduring relationships in the history of the equine business.”

Johnson is survived by his wife Laurie, daughter, Julie, and son Mark, as well one grandchild.