Conference Speakers

Debra AtwoodDeborah Atwood joined Meridian Institute in January 2011 and serves as Executive Director of Meridian’s AGree: Transforming Food and Ag Policy. Atwood has more than 30 years of experience in policy and legislative matters regarding food, agriculture, the environment, research, and risk management, including extensive experience working with executives in the private sector, federal government, and nonprofit organizations.

Prior to joining Meridian, Atwood was an Associate for Corporate Affairs and Public Policy at Mars, Incorporated and previously was a Senior Policy Advisor with Crowell & Moring. She served from 2001 to 2003 as a Special Assistant to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jim Moseley. She has also worked as Assistant Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for the National Pork Producers Council and Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Affairs at the American Meat Institute. Atwood has also served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the EPA and head of the Congressional Affairs Office at NOAA. Atwood also has U.S. Capitol experience: From 1981 to 1984, she was Professional Staff for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee and from 1984 to 1987 was Professional Staff for U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (Wash.). Atwood also serves on the board of ACDI-VOCA.

Mary BohmanMary Bohman is Administrator of the Economic Research Service. She had recently served as Acting Administrator and had been Director of the Agency's Resource and Rural Economics Division. Mary joined ERS in 1997 and has served as Deputy Director for Research in ERS's Market and Trade Economics Division (MTED) and as Chief of MTED's Europe, Africa, and Middle East Branch. Other public-sector positions held include details to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and to USDA's Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. From 1990 to 1997 she was on the Agricultural Sciences faculty at the University of British Columbia.

Mary received her Ph.D. from the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of California, Davis and her B.S. from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Mary is a member of the Agriculture & Applied Economics Association, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, Wye Group on Statistics on Rural Development and Agricultural Household Income, and the International Association of Agricultural Economists.

Mike BolandMichael Boland (Mike)  holds the Koller endowed Professorship in agribusiness management at the University of Minnesota where he has teaching, research, and outreach responsibilities in agribusiness management, and in particular, agricultural cooperatives. He teaches classes in cooperatives, business strategy, and institutional economics. The Koller Professorship was funded by agricultural cooperatives (CHS, Land O’Lakes, CoBank, and Country Financial) and Koller friends, family, and colleagues.

Mike’s current research is on issues in cooperative finance and governance and occupational health and safety issues. Mike teaches educational modules on finance, governance, and strategic thinking in boards of director leadership programs for cooperatives. These programs are taught in 14 states to more than 1000 cooperative senior employees and directors annually. In addition, he has worked with cooperatives in Latin America, China, South Africa, Australia, and Europe. He is a frequent speaker and facilitator on cooperative board retreats, board evaluations, and similar activities. He is a member of National Association for Business Economists and serves on board of directors of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and C-FARE. Council on Food, Agriculture, and Resource Economics.

He previously worked for a local farm supply cooperative, a regional cooperative, and state cooperative council. He is the oldest of 12 children and was reared in Minnesota.

Andrea Bonime-BlancAndrea Bonime-Blanc is CEO and founder of GEC Risk Advisory LLC, a global strategic governance, risk, ethics, compliance and corporate responsibility advisory firm serving executives, boards, investors and advisors, and focused on transforming risk into value. GEC Risk provides clients with strategic governance, risk and reputation services, risk-driven crisis management services, evaluation and restructuring of ethic and compliance programs, board, c-suite and cross-functional team workshops and education, and more tactical program and program element advice.

Dr. Bonime-Blanc has two decades of executive experience leading governance, legal, ethics, compliance, risk, internal audit and corporate responsibility in private, public, established and start-up companies in technology, media, infrastructure, utility, defense, manufacturing and professional services including leading US utility PSEG, Bertelsmann, the global media company and Verint Systems, an international technology firm. She started her career at Cleary Gottlieb as an international project finance lawyer and received a joint JD/PhD from Columbia University. She was born and raised in Europe, is fluent in Spanish, and has worked and travel extensively throughout the world.

Dr. Bonime-Blanc is the author of The Reputation Risk Handbook: Surviving and Thriving in the Age of Hyper-Transparency (Oxford, UK: DO Sustainability 2014) and was named a 2014 Top 100 Thought Leader in Trustworthy Business. She is Program Director at The Conference Board and a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is chairman of the board of directors of Epic Theatre Ensemble, audit committee chair of the board of directors of Counterpart International, chair emeritus of the Ethics & Compliance Officer Association and an individual member of the National Association of Corporate Directors. She writes The GlobalEthicist Column for Ethical Corporation Magazine, coauthored/edited The Ethics and Compliance Handbook and has published extensively including for Foreign Affairs and the New York Times. She is adjunct faculty at NYU and a frequent guest lecturer and keynote speaker at many universities, organizations and venues worldwide.

Bill Buckner Bill Buckner became President/CEO of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc., in January 2012. The Noble Foundation is an independent, nonprofit institute headquartered in Ardmore, OK. Founded in 1945, the Noble Foundation conducts direct operations, including assisting farmers and ranchers, and conducting plant science research and agricultural programs, to enhance agricultural productivity regionally, nationally and internationally.

After obtaining his BS degree in Agricultural Economics from the Univ. of Missouri-Columbia in 1980, Buckner joined USS Agricultural Chemicals, a subsidiary of the U.S. Steel Corp. in Centralia, MO, as a Retail Sales Rep. In 1982, he joined Commerce BankShares for 3 years as an Agriculture Loan Officer. From 1985-1993, he held various positions with the animal health subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, Pitman-Moore, Inc., in Chicago.

In 1993, Buckner joined Bayer AG as a Marketing Exec. in the Companion Animal Health business in Shawnee Mission, KS. He moved to Monheim, Germany, in 1996 where he worked for the Animal Health Business Group as a Business Development Mgr. He became VP/General Mgr. of Bayer's Canadian Agricultural business in Toronto in 1998. Buckner was appointed President/CEO of Bayer CropScience, Inc., in Calgary, Alberta in 2002. He relocated to Research Triangle Park, NC, as Sr. VP of Commercial Operations for Bayer CropScience LP in 2004 and was appointed Country Head for the U.S. Crop Protection business in 2005. He was elected President/CEO of Bayer CropScience in April 2006 and retired in December 2011.

Buckner currently serves on the boards of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Wilbur-Ellis Company, Mercy Hospital, Liberty Foundation and the Farm Foundation. He is currently involved in launching a new movement to advance soil health: the Soil Renaissance.

Chuck ConnerCharles 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 .

Art DuerksenArt Duerksen has been the President and CEO of Farmway Coop Inc. headquartered in Beloit Kansas since 2008. Prior to that Art managed cooperatives in Kansas, South Dakota and Minnesota. A native of Minnesota and a product of a small dairy farm and the University of Minnesota, Art has managed cooperatives since 1974. Farmway Coop Inc. is a grain and farm supply cooperative with its consolidated sales reaching $570 million. Farmway’s owner’s equity has grown from $19 million in 2007 to $54 million at the end of the last fiscal year.

Art and his wife Patricia reside in Glen Elder Kansas. They have two children and four grandchildren ranging in age from 19 to 4. Art’s hobbies include gardening, wood working and traveling to see the grandchildren.

Terry Fleck Terry Fleck, executive director of the Center for Food Integrity since 2007, brings a wealth of experience from local, state, national and international levels in public relations, sales, international development/diplomacy, association leadership and policy. Located in Indianapolis, Indiana Terry enjoys association work because it's about people, principle and improving the common good. He enjoys serving other while building trust - making a difference that lasts over time.

After college, Terry held a public relations position for production agriculture with the Indianapolis Livestock Market. This led to sales and sales management positions with a division of Beatrice Foods before he transitioned into the non-profit world through the US Grains Council. He worked international market development positions in Washington, D.C. and Vienna, Austria, before spending nearly 16 years working with the Indiana pork industry.

Terry, a Certified Association Executive (CAE), is a graduate of Purdue University, which recognized him in 2005 with their Distinguished Animal Science Alumni Award. He was also awarded Sagamore of the Wabash, the State of Indiana's highest award for service to Indiana Citizens and a Meritorious Service Award from the Indiana pork industry.

Ake HantoftÅke Hantoft is Board Chairman of Arla Foods, one of the largest dairy companies in the world and owned by more than 12,500 dairy farmers in Sweden, Denmark, UK, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. He is a dairy farmer from Sweden and has served on the board since 2000. He was former chairman of Svensk Mjolk (the Swedish Dairy Association).

Patrick Hessini Patrick Hessini is vice president of Transportation & Distribution for CHS. In this role he leads an organization of over 600 CHS employees. Patrick’s background includes business leadership positions at HB Fuller, Avant Energy, and Conoco. He led HB Fuller’s North American supply chain organization and served as president and general manager of Adalis Corporation, an HB Fuller subsidiary and global provider of packaging and supply chain solutions. At Avant Energy, he was responsible for the firm’s renewable energy and consulting businesses.

Patrick has an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor of science in industrial engineering from Kansas State University. He holds certifications in supply chain management and Lean and Six Sigma methodologies, and serves on the Advisory Council for Industrial Engineering at Kansas State University.

Patrick and his wife, Diane, have three children and reside in North Oaks, Minnesota.

Phil KenkelPhil Kenkel is a Regents Professor in the Agricultural Economics Department at Oklahoma State University and holds the Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair. He is the editor of the Journal of Cooperatives. In 2011 he managed a national project identifying critical issues facing agricultural cooperatives which resulted in seminars for the House and Senate staff in Washington D.C. Dr. Kenkel is the current chair of the Cooperative Community of Practice on eXtension which has conducted national webinars on non-qualified stock and other issues. He is also active in the NCERA-210 research committee on cooperatives and has prepared white papers for the CHS Center for Cooperative Growth and the Farm Credit Council. Dr. Kenkel has authored more than 200 research and extension publications, presented over 100 papers at professional meetings and conducted training sessions on producer owned businesses in 6 countries.

Todd LudwigTodd Ludwig is President & CEO of WFS Cooperative. Todd began his 25 year career in agriculture with ConAgra Foods before joining the cooperative system as a Business Service Manager for CHS. Todd later served as the Director of Eastern Operations for CHS Country Operations, and then Director of Country Finance. Todd moved on to take a position with CoFina Financial as the Director of Business Development, and later as Director of Producer Lending. Todd was named President /CEO of WFS in July 2008. He currently serves on five Boards.

WFS is a farmer-owned cooperative headquartered in Truman, Minnesota that operates facilities throughout south central Minnesota and north central Iowa for more than 2300 voting members and 6000 customers. The cooperative is highly diversified with products and services in grain marketing and merchandising, crop production and seed, feed manufacturing, bulk energy products, and producer financing. In 2013, WFS generated sales of $701 million with total earnings before taxes of $8.5 million. WFS currently has 230 full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees.

Dan Mack Dan Mack is Vice President Rail Transportation & Terminal Operations for CHS Inc. Dan is responsible for various rail transportation activities across a number of CHS areas of business. In addition, he also oversees facility operations for the North American facilities utilized by CHS’s grain marketing and crop nutrients business units.

Before joining CHS in 1998, Dan was with the Canadian Pacific Railway in marketing and account management for its U.S. grain division. He started his career as a grain merchandiser with Continental Grain, and then served as general manager for two diversified grain and ag input companies in the Upper Midwest.

Dan represents CHS with a number of industry trade associations including; National Grain and Feed Association, serving on its executive committee, board of directors, and rail shipper/receiver committee. North American Freight Car Association as a member of its operating committee and past president. A member of The Fertilizer Institute’s Transportation Council, and as a member of the sponsor board for the National Future Farmers of America

A North Dakota native, Dan earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from North Dakota State University.

David MuthDavid Muth is the Senior Vice President for Analytics at AgSolver Inc. located in Ames, IA. He and his partners at AgSolver are developing software analytics services for agronomic and engineering applications. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State University. Prior to joining AgSolver, Dr. Muth led a research team at Idaho National Laboratory working on bioenergy feedstock production and logistics analytics. He led the development of an open source software library called the Landscape Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF). His research team used LEAF to evaluate sustainable agricultural residue removal for bioenergy and animal feed applications. LEAF is currently being by industry and research partners to make sustainable residue removal decisions. At AgSolver Dr. Muth is using LEAF technology to develop a suite of precision agriculture analytics services.

Doug OhlsonDoug Ohlson assumed the general manager duties of Frenchman Valley Coop (FVC) in December 2012. Ten years earlier, Doug began his career with FVC as the Human Resources & Member Services Division Manager. In that capacity, he was involved in a wide range of cooperative functions including personnel, credit and safety policy, along with administration of members’ equities.

In addition to his FVC duties, Doug is a Trustee for the Nebraska Cooperative Council Managers Association and a member of the Nebraska Cooperative Council Political Action Committee. He is also candidate for the Nebraska Cooperative Council Board of Directors.

Prior to his employment with FVC, Doug worked twenty five years in local community banks. During that time, he was involved in commercial, agricultural, real estate and consumer lending.

Doug is a southwest Nebraska native who loves rural America living. He and his wife, Keri, enjoy outdoor summer activities, live music and theatre (performing on stage and enjoying from the audience). They have five children and four grandchildren.

Rod SnyderRod Snyder has served as President of Field to Market, The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture since March 2014. Field to Market is a diverse alliance working to create opportunities across the agricultural supply chain for continuous improvements in productivity, environmental quality, and human well-being. Prior to this role, Snyder held positions as Public Policy Director for the National Corn Growers Association and Government Affairs Leader for CropLife America.

He is particularly recognized for his work at the intersection of agricultural and environmental issues. He has previously served on the board of directors of the Conservation Technology and Information Center, on the steering committee of the Agricultural Nutrient Policy Council, on the executive committee of Field to Market, and as chair of the Pesticide Policy Coalition. In 2008, Snyder sat on the Agriculture and Rural Policy Advisory Committee for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Snyder is well known for his tenure as president of the Young Democrats of America from 2010 - 2013, the largest youth political organization in the country and the official youth arm of the national Democratic Party. He is the only YDA president in history to be elected and reelected unanimously. His position afforded him a seat on the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee, and he has made appearances on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CBS News, C-SPAN and Al Jazeera to discuss the youth vote.

Snyder graduated magna cum laude in May of 2002 with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Leadership from Eastern University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he served as president of the student body. He resides on his family’s farm in Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia.

Mike Vande Logt Mike Vande Logt assumed he role of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in Winfield Solutions effective January 1, 2013. Prior to this position, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Winfield Solutions, LLC since 2008. Vande Logt has 33 years of experience in the seed industry, the last 23 with Land O’Lakes. He was most recently vice president, Marketing, Winfield Solutions, Seed Division. Upon joining Land O'Lakes, Vande Logt was a Corn Product Manager, Director of Marketing and Director of Sales and Marketing before assuming his leadership roles within the Seed Division.

Mike was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, just blocks away from Lambeau Field. He attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and received a BA in Agronomy and a Masters in Plant Breeding. Mike serves on the boards of CropLife America and Agriculture Future of America. Mike and his wife, Paulette, have two grown sons and they reside in Eagan, Minnesota.

Greg Wickham Greg Wickham is Senior Vice President of Business Development with Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., a $12 billion milk marketing cooperative with 33 processing plants across the United States, and a variety of dairy brands. The cooperative also offers a variety of farm services to farmers, including buying, lending, risk management and insurance. He also holds the title of President and CEO of Dairy Marketing Services, LLC, a milk marketing joint venture with Dairy Farmers of America and others in the Northeastern United States.

Greg is a graduate of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, where he received a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics, and the University of Hartford, where he received his M.B.A. He is based in Syracuse, New York, the headquarters for the Northeast operations of both DFA and DMS.

Greg joined Dairylea in 1997 which was the predecessor organization to DFA which merger into DFA in early 2014. He resides in Manlius, New York with his wife, Lisa. They have three grown children.