Conference Speakers

Ruth Bauer is chief financial officer for United Farmers Cooperative (UFC). She has held this position since November of 2013. Ruth is responsible for all finance, accounting and audit operations at UFC. Ruth has over 30 years of accounting experience in the manufacturing and cooperative sector. Prior to joining UFC, she held the position of Treasurer of Hutchinson Technology Inc. where she was responsible for all finance, cash management, bank relations, and debt financing. She is a member of the MN Association of Finance Professionals. Ruth holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors for RSFiber Cooperative.

Matt BechdolMatt Bechdol, Interim Executive Director of the Agricultural Data Cooperative Mr. Bechdol was recently selected by a coalition of grower advocacy groups, universities, and industry to lead the early stages of an Agricultural Data Cooperative (ADC) to support producers in the new era of data driven agriculture. The ADC will be a secure and flexible data repository for farmers’ agronomic data so that producers are in complete control of their data, can easily try new products and services, increase buying and selling power, focus on data driven decisions and realize more value.

Mr. Bechdol is also President of GeoSilos, a consulting firm focused on leveraging mapping analysis for agribusiness, policy, and economics, across the food and agriculture sector. For twenty years, Mr. Bechdol has specialized in applications of spatial analysis and remote sensing for agriculture and natural resources. He began his career as a consultant at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center investigating imaging, wireless, and GIS technologies for precision agriculture. He then spent a decade at ESRI, the world leading geographic information system software firm. There he managed a team supporting the US Department of Agriculture’s and Department of the Interior’s geospatial technology and business integrations to solve agricultural applications from precision farming to global crop forecasting.

Mr. Bechdol received his bachelor’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University, a master’s degree in geographic and cartographic science from George Mason University, a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University, and a master’s in business administration from Indiana University. In 2005, he and his family returned home to Auburn, Indiana after ten years in the Washington, D.C. area and now lives on the farm’s 1864 Indiana homestead where his daughter represents the seventh generation on the farm.

BijmanJos Bijman is associate professor of cooperative organisations, at the Management Studies Group, Wageningen University, The Netherlands. His research focuses on analyzing and strengthening the role of producer organisations in food chains. Specific projects have dealt with internationalization strategies, support policies, internal governance, member commitment, and board-management relationships. Jos Bijman has been the project leader for the Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives project on the development and current position of agricultural cooperatives in all Member States of the European Union. In addition, he is project manager of two large international multidisciplinary research programs on quality improvements in food chains. CoQA deals with vegetable supply chains in three African countries; LIQUID deals with dairy value chains in SE Asia and East Africa.

Piet BoerPiet Boer is Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Royal FrieslandCampina N.V. He and his wife and three children are Dutch dairy farmers with 140 cows, 79 hectares of land and 1.25 million kg of milk quota. He has been active in a number of young dairy producer leadership programs over his career. Piet has been on the board of various cooperatives who ultimately unified into FrieslandCampina where he has served as Chairman on the Board and Supervisory Board since 2012.

Shirley BloomfieldShirley Bloomfield is chief executive officer of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, the premier association representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America. During the course of her career, she has led efforts to raise the visibility of the value and innovation of independent, rural telecom companies. Since the unification of the rural telecom industry in 2013, Bloomfield has led a strengthened association that speaks with one voice on national issues related to rural telecom, provides education and training to thousands of telco employees and delivers competitive employee benefits programs. In addition to her more than 20 years of service to NTCA, Bloomfield also served for a brief time as senior vice president of federal relations for Qwest and vice president of federal relations for Verizon. Bloomfield serves as a board member of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative and GlobalWin, an organization of women leaders in the high-tech industry.

Mike BolandMichael Boland (Mike) holds the Koller endowed Professorship in agribusiness management and information technology at the University of Minnesota. In addition, he is director of the University of Minnesota Food Industry Center which is funded by General Mills, Kellogg’s, Land O’Lakes, SuperValu, and other food companies. He teaches classes in cooperatives (in law school and agricultural school) and farm management. Mike was elected to the board of directors for the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and sits on the board of the Council on Food, Agriculture, and Resource Economics (C-FARE) in Washington DC. In addition, he has worked with agribusinesses and cooperatives in Latin America, China, South Africa, Australia, and Europe. Mike frequently works with cooperatives in various education and research programs. He is a member of Harvard’s Private and Public, Scientific, Academic, and Consumer Food Policy Group.

Doug Brunt graduated from Purdue University in 1987. He began his career as a management trainee with Madison County Co-op and was promoted to General Manager in 1990. In 1991, Doug became manager of Ag One Co-op, also in Anderson, Indiana, until 1997, at which time he then accepted a position with Countrymark Co-op as Indiana Regional Manager for the Northwest Region. From 1998-2007 Doug served as Director for Land O’Lakes and its affiliates managing the agronomy sales forces in the Eastern Corn Belt, Eastern US and Ontario. Doug was promoted to Director, Business to Business Sales for Winfield Solutions in 2007 and held this position until 2012. He currently services as Senior Vice President of Land O’Lakes Ag Customers.

Doug is a past board member for the National Grain & Feed Association. He currently serves on the boards of GreenPoint, LLC and AGRI-AFC LLC.

Dr. Dennis Buckmaster is a Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University and is also an Assistant Dean in the Office of Academic Programs. His research focus had been forage systems and biomass until several years ago when he began research and development in farm information systems and data utilization. He has taught several courses dealing with fluid power, agricultural machinery, and agricultural systems management. With collaborators in Electrical and Computer Engineering, he has led the development of apps for data generation and decision making with focus on data quality and automation. He is involved with the Open Ag Data Alliance work to improve interoperability of farm and ag business data. His work includes some recent autogenic approaches which use the capability of mobile devices (smart phones) to collect, geo-reference, and log important data while the user just goes about their usual work.

John CampbellJohn Campbell is a Managing Director of Ocean Park Advisors and has spent his entire career dedicated to agribusiness. Mr. Campbell served as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for President George H.W. Bush and was responsible for formation of the President’s 1990 Farm Bill proposal. Prior to that, he held various positions in Washington D.C. within the USDA. After his time in Washington D.C., he joined AGP, a $5 billion regional cooperative, and was responsible for building and operating the first commercial scale biodiesel plant in North America in his role as a Senior Vice President with the company. Mr. Campbell added to the AGP portfolio with two additional biodiesel plants, one corn ethanol plant and a joint venture refined glycerin plant. Mr. Campbell received his BA in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska and his post graduate Diploma from the University of Sydney, Australia in Agricultural Economics.

Charles ConnerCharles F. (Chuck) Conner became president & CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) on January 22, 2009. As president of NCFC, Conner will oversee the organization’s work to promote and protect the business and public policy interests of America’s farmer-owned cooperatives. He will also provide the strategic vision for the trade association as it continues to seek new ways in which to add value for its membership.

Prior to joining NCFC, Conner had served as the Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture since mid-2005. In this capacity, he was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) overseeing day-to-day operations of the department. Conner interacted directly with President George W. Bush and his senior staff to formulate domestic and international food, trade, security and energy policy. He led development of the Bush Administration’s $300 billion Farm Bill proposal and the strategy to educate and inform industry, constituents and Congress.

From August 2007 to January 2008, Conner served as both USDA Secretary and Deputy Secretary. He played a key role in developing the Administration’s immigration policy including important changes to the H2A program.

Conner’s experience also includes the assignment of Special Assistant to the President, Executive Office of the President, from October 2001 to May 2005, working on the 2001/2 Farm Bill to develop the strategy behind the transfer of several USDA agency functions to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

From May 1997 to October 2001 Conner served as President of the Corn Refiners Association. He also served for 17 years as an advisor to U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.

Conner is a graduate of Purdue University, with a Bachelor’s of Science degree and is the recipient of Purdue’s Distinguished Alumni Award. He and his wife Dru have four children.

Neil FleishmanNeil Fleishman is the Senior Industry Analyst for Green Markets. Previously, he worked at the Susquehanna Int. Group as a trading desk Sector Specialist, covering both the industrial and energy markets for the firm. He also has experience as a portfolio analyst for Evergreen Investments.

Most recently, Neil developed three Green Markets Global Supply & Demand Models for Nitrogen, DAP/MAP, and Potash, exclusive new research that gives users unprecedented visibility into global commodity markets. Along with the Global Supply & Demand Models, Neil has written Cost Curve & Analysis research on Urea and Potash detailing how supply and demand will effect pricing dynamics.

Along with these models, Neil regularly provides custom consultations on fertilizer supply and demand, and is a featured speaker at numerous industry events.

Neil holds a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in finance from Drexel University, and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Mark Hanson’s practice at Stoel Rives LLP consists of merger and acquisition transactions as well as development, structuring and forming of agribusiness, food and renewable energy businesses. Mark has counseled developing businesses through joint ventures and sales to private and publicly traded companies and co-ops through strategic transactions and restructuring.

Adam HoltonAdam Holton is senior vice president, CHS Human Resources. Holton directs CHS global comprehensive human resources strategy, including talent acquisition and talent management strategies; compensation and benefits; training and leadership development, and overall human-resources related strategies to help ensure the company has the human capital to help its customers succeed. Holton joined CHS in 2014 from GE Healthcare, Waukesha, Wis., where most recently he served as a senior human resources executive, leading human resource functions for GE Global Services. Holton held a wide range of human resource leadership roles within that organization, including leading global human resource teams in seven different regions, designing and delivering strategies to support service productivity, consistent performance and growth. He was also responsible for talent and organizational development and design. Holton also spent time at Bank One/JP Morgan Chase, where he managed executive education and was a human resources business partner for the real estate business in the commercial bank.

Holton earned a bachelor's of science degree in political science from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. After graduation, he served for six years in the United States Marine Corps as an Infantry Officer, spending three years at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and three years at Quantico, Va. In 2004-2005, he led a reserve unit that deployed to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Todd Janzen is an attorney and leader in agricultural law, having served as the chair of ABA SEER’s Agricultural Management Committee and Indiana’s Agricultural Law Section. Todd authors a nationally recognized blog on agriculture, law and technology, the Janzen Ag Law Blog. Todd is a 2014 graduate of the Indiana Agricultural Leadership Program. In 2008, the Indiana Lt. Governor selected Todd as the legal representative to serve on the Agricultural Regulatory Structure Task Force, a group that analyzed Indiana state agencies regulating agriculture. Todd recently worked with American Farm Bureau Federation to develop the Privacy and Security Principles for Farm Data, an agreement signed by over 30 prominent agriculture technology providers. Todd serves as the General Counsel to the Indiana Professional Dairy Producers, an organization representing more than 200 dairy farmers in Indiana. Todd has been the lead attorney in two of Indiana’s foremost Right to Farm Act cases, Lindsey v. DeGroot Dairy, LLC (2009) and Parker v. Obert’s Legacy Dairy, LLC (2013). Todd works at the law firm of Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Jay Mattison, a native of southern Wisconsin and from a multi-species livestock farm, attended Iowa State University and earned a B.S. in Dairy Science and advanced degrees in Animal Production-Breeding and Agricultural Economics. His research led the way for on-farm personal computers for dairy management and data collection while focusing on dystocia (calving ease) genetic evaluations in dairy cattle. Since 2003 he has served as the CEO of the National Dairy Herd Information Association and its wholly owned subsidiaries Quality Certification Services and DHIA Services. Currently he is the Chair of the USA Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding, the Vice-President of the International Committee on Animal Recording, on the board of directors of the US Animal Health Association and the administrator of the US committee of the International Dairy Federation (US-IDF).

Mary McBride serves as CoBank’s president and is responsible for the management of the Finance, Credit, Banking Services, Regulatory and Legislative, Electric Distribution, Water and Community Facilities, and Public Private Partnership groups in the bank. Ms. McBride is a member of the bank’s Management Executive Committee and serves as chairwoman of Farm Credit Leasing.

Ms. McBride joined CoBank in 1993. Prior to her current position, she was the bank’s chief banking officer. Ms. McBride also has served as chief operating officer and as executive vice president for the bank’s Communications and Energy Banking Group, serving rural communications, energy and water customers across the United States. In total, she has more than 30 years of financial experience. Before joining CoBank, Ms. McBride worked as senior vice president of Wells Fargo/First Interstate Bank of Denver, N.A. Prior to that, she was assistant vice president at Bank of Boston.

Ms. McBride earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and a Master of Science degree from Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Steve Peterson was previously the director of sourcing sustainability at General Mills, starting in August, 2010. He led External Manufacturing at General Mills from 2005-2010. Previously, Peterson was a member of the Integration team creating the combined Supply Chain resulting from the General Mills and Pillsbury merger. Steve owns and operates Peterson Farms a crop & beef operation located near Paynesville, MN. Peterson’s educational background includes a M.S. degree in Agriculture & Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota and a Business Administration degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. He serves on several non-profit boards including Field to Market, Park Nicollet Foundation, MN AgriGrowth Council, and the Paynesville Area Community Foundation.

Jasper Schneider is Vice President of National Information Solutions Cooperative’s (NISC) Member Engagement division. Schneider brings expertise in technology, law and rural issues to NISC. Before attending law school, he worked as a business analyst for Cisco Systems. He served in the North Dakota Legislature and was in private law practice before becoming USDA’s North Dakota Rural Development State Director in 2009. Schneider was appointed acting Administrator of the USDA Rural Utility Service in the fall of 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice with an Information Technology minor from the University of Jamestown, Jamestown, N.D. and a Juris Doctor degree from Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, MN.

Rich SobalvarroRich Sobalvarro - CFO since 2006 and attorney for Rajkowski Hansmeier since 1990, Rich is a very active and well-recognized part of the firm. He has provided his knowledge and experience to cases in both the state and federal courts for the Dakotas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota since 1989.

He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. After his undergrad work, Rich joined the Hamline University College of Law where he again graduated with honors, Cum Laude in 1989.

The State Courts of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota as well as the U.S. District Courts of Minnesota, North Dakota, and the Western District of Wisconsin admitted him to practice.

He has worked with both small and large companies as well as individuals on a number of cases throughout his career. Rich has also earned a number of recognitions acknowledging his level of work and commitment to the law field.