Tuesday, December 5, 2023

5:00 – 6:30 p.m.  Farmer Cooperatives Conference Welcome Reception

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

7:00 – 8:30 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30 – 9:30 a.m. Farmer Cooperatives: Policy Update

This session will highlight the trends, challenges, and opportunities for farmer-owned cooperatives with a focus on policy.

Chuck Conner, President & CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Pathways to Addressing Member Equity Challenges

Over the past several decades, farmer cooperatives have been challenged with maintaining adequate equity to finance growth while balancing the need to retire member equity. Some cooperatives have delayed or slowed equity redemption to address immediate financial concerns. Equity redemption is a complex balancing act—it is difficult to design an equity program that meets the cooperative’s capital needs and is attractive to members. Additionally, it is important to manage the expectations of the members and have clear communication regarding any changes to equity management programs. In this session, cooperative leaders will share the strategies their cooperatives have used to address member equity challenges.

Scott Buchli, Member Relations, Land O’Lakes Inc.
David Johnsrud, Director, CHS Inc.
Matt Severson, CEO, Premier Co-op
Moderator: Dr. Keri Jacobs, Associate Professor of Ag & Applied Economics, MFA Chair and GICL Distinguished Fellow, University of Missouri

10:30- 11:00 a.m. Networking Break

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Alternative Approaches to the Labor Shortage

Attracting and retaining talent is a huge challenge. What worked in the past isn’t as effective today. Talent is available in unconventional areas and requires a different approach. In this session, agribusiness leaders will share their co-ops’ strategies to address the labor shortage through flex labor programs meeting the workforce at their availability and partnering with local service organizations to hire apprentices.

Tony Bedard, Chief Executive Officer, Frontier Co-op
Brandon Calvert, Senior Manufacturing Director, Supply Chain, Land O’ Lakes Inc.

Moderator: Angie Coleman, Organizational Development Consultant, FCCS

12:00 – 1:15 p.m. Lunch and Networking

1:15 – 2:15 p.m. Cooperative Risk Management: Operating in a Global Environment

In this session, Dr. Wilson will explore U.S. and global agricultural trade developments including impacts from the war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, and increased competition. 

Dr. William Wilson, CHS Chair in Risk Management and Trading, University Distinguished Professor, North Dakota State University

2:15 – 3:15 p.m. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in the Agriculture Industry

Farmers routinely use sophisticated technologies, such as GPS-driven precision farming equipment, to optimize resources and minimize yield losses. With the internet abuzz with the rapid breakthrough of generative artificial intelligence (AI) programs such as ChatGPT and questions about their impacts on many industries, this session will take a high-level look at AI applications in the farming space. For all of the innovative solutions like drone technology, driverless trucks, and harnessing algorithms and data-driven models, there are practical challenges like data privacy, cost, and interpretability. This session will explore the opportunities and challenges facing farmer cooperatives in delivering value to members through AI applications.

Nathan Joraanstad, Director of Engineering, Bushel
Moderator: Doug O’Brien, President and CEO, National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International

3:15 – 3:45 p.m. Networking Break

3:45 – 5:00 p.m. Cooperative Governance in Action

Many U.S. agricultural cooperatives have roots dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with governance practices that have evolved to reflect their growth and change. The increasing complexity of farm and cooperative operations coupled with dynamic business, economic, and social environments are creating new challenges for governance. In this interactive session, cooperative leaders will reflect on governance practices and trends surfaced by the UW Center for Cooperatives’ recent report Cooperative Governance Research Initiative Ag Sector Findings. The panel will discuss topics such as board service limits, compensation, trust, and healthy dissent in the board room.

Heather Beaner, Director, Agtegra
Jason Brancel, President and CEO, Riceland Foods, Inc.
Jake Taylor, Vice Chairman, MFA Oil
Moderator: Courtney Berner, Executive Director, UW Center for Cooperatives


5:00 – 6:30 p.m. Reception