University of Wisconsin–Madison

Speakers

Michael Boland
Koller Professor and Director
University of Minnesota

Michael 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.


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Mark Cade
Board Chair
Compeer Financial

Mark Cade is a self-employed soybean, alfalfa and beef farmer in Westby, Wis. He is the chair of Compeer Financial’s Board of Directors and is a member of the organization’s Audit and Finance Committee and Young, Beginning and Small Farmer Committee. Mark graduated from Western Technical College with degrees in farm business management and finance.

Mark is an active member with local FFA alumni and enjoys spending time with his family and farming. He and his wife Cheryl have one daughter and two sons who are involved on their family farm.


Hal Clemensen
Board Chair
South Dakota Wheat Growers 

Hal Clemensen is a farmer, born and raised in the Conde, SD area where he plants 3,200 acres of primarily corn, soybeans and wheat. He and his wife Terri have raised 2 daughters on the family farm. Hal is active in his church and local community. He has served on the Wheat Growers board since 1997 and as Board President since 2005.

Hal earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Ag Economics and Ag Business from South Dakota State University, Brookings, in 1982. He worked as a loan officer in southern Minnesota with Production Credit Association (Farm Credit Services) prior to returning full-time to the family farm in 1984. Hal became a member of South Dakota Wheat Growers in 1978.

Hal currently purchases nearly all his agronomy inputs and markets more than 300,000 bushels of grain through Wheat Growers annually. His farm operation is enrolled in MZB, Wheat Growers’ Precision Ag program, which allows Hal to variable rate apply his fertilizer and seed for optimum yields. Hal also grows seed beans for Croplan Seed. Hal employs one full-time and one part-time employee who assist him and Terri with their farm operation.

In addition to his board services at South Dakota Wheat Growers Association, Hal has also served on various boards including Northwestern Community Foundation, Avera Rural Cancer, SD Value Added Agriculture and Tri-Parish Church. In 2016, Hal was awarded Director of the Year from the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.


Charles F. (Chuck) Conner
President and CEO
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Charles 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.


John T. Engelen
Vice President, Government Affairs
CHS Inc.

John Engelen is vice president of Government Affairs for CHS Inc the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company.

He leads the company’s government affairs team and focuses on a wide range of energy, grain, agriculture, cooperative and other issues with Congress and state legislatures as well as federal and state agencies. He also manages the CHS Washington, D.C., government affairs office. John is based at CHS headquarters in Inver Grove Heights, MN.

Engelen brings more than 25 years of experience leading a wide range of public policy initiatives at the federal, state and local level. Most recently, he served as vice president, Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., where he focused on policy issues, including health care, higher education, research, energy, food safety, public and global health, animal welfare and transportation. Prior to joining Emory University, John directed federal relations for the University of Minnesota where he implemented a comprehensive program to advance advocacy for the land-grant research university. He has also held government relations positions at two Fortune 500 companies, and served on U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger’s (R-MN) legislative policy staff in Washington, DC

John serves on the Board of Directors for the National Cooperative Business Association, the Public Affairs Council, the Waterways Council and the Agricultural Council of California. John earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.


Brenda Forman
Executive Director
South Dakota Association of Cooperatives

Brenda Forman was raised on a grain and livestock farm northwest of Gettysburg.  She graduated from Gettysburg High School.  After high school she attended South Dakota State University majoring in Animal Science-Production and Agronomy.

In 1987 she became executive director for South Dakota Wheat, Inc. and found a great interest in the political process.  In April of 1997, she took over the reins as Executive Director of the South Dakota Association of Cooperatives.  In addition to her paying job, she serves on other boards including SD Ag Unity, National Council for Agriculture Research, Extension and Teaching board, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, SD Value Added Ag Development Center, National Conference of State Cooperative Councils, The Cooperative Foundation, and SD Certified Crop Advisory Board.

Away from work she enjoys spending time with family, hunting, fishing, and reading.


Sarah Gallo
Washington Representative
CHS Government Affairs

Sarah Gallo is a Washington representative for CHS Government Affairs. She is responsible for representing the company’s interests on issues related to agriculture and trade at the federal level by connecting with members of Congress, congressional staff and federal agencies. She builds and maintains CHS involvement in coalitions beneficial to cooperatives while also providing support to CHS business units and the CHS Board of Directors. She is based out of the CHS Government Affairs office in Washington D.C.

Prior to joining CHS in 2013, Gallo was director of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in Washington D.C., where she represented the policy interests of corn growers with members of Congress, congressional staff and federal agencies. Before that, she served as agriculture counsel with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business and as a government relations representative for the National Farmers Union.

Gallo graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Arts in marine biology.


Keri Jacobs
Assistant Professor, Iowa Institute for Cooperatives Endowed Economics Professor
Iowa State University

Dr. Jacobs is an assistant professor and cooperatives extension economist in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University, and holds the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives Economics Professorship.  Dr. Jacobs received a B.A. in economics and business administration from Coe College in 1996 and a Ph.D. in economics in 2010 from North Carolina State University.  She joined the department in 2010 and, since August 2012, has held a teaching, research, and extension position related to cooperatives.  In her extension role, Dr. Jacobs provides education and resources to cooperative boards and management and develops content based on applied research.  Her current research focuses on financial and equity conditions of agricultural cooperatives, consolidation of cooperatives, farm level production decisions under uncertainty, and bioenergy.


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Niels Dengsø Jensen
Chairman
DLG

Niels Dengsø Jensen serves as board chairman of Dansk Landbrugs Grovvarselskab (DLG), Europe’s largest farm supply cooperative. Serving on the DLG’s board in various roles since 2001, Jensen has helped oversee the co-op’s growth into an international conglomerate. Jensen is the 6th generation on his family’s farm “Skralborg”, which he took over from his parents in 1999. The farm has 280 dairy cows, 778 acres of arable land and nearly 100 acres of forest. Jensen served as the chairman of the Danish Cooperatives Societies from 2005-2009. He served as the Vice-chairman of the joint board of the Danish Agriculture Food Council (2009-2013) and on the board of the Agricultural Council of Denmark (2005-2008). He currently serves as chairman for Jyden, a company that specializes in animal housing solutions and AP Pension, a pension company for cooperative employees.


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Jim McWherter
Chief Operating Officer
Tennessee Farmers Cooperative

Jim McWherter is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative (TFC). A native of Obion County, Tenn., he began working at a local county Co-op in 1973 and progressed his way up to manager. From there, Jim moved on to TFC to become a Regional Manager before spending seven years as Customer Relations Officer. He has served as COO for the past three years.

Jim and his wife, Sheila, have been married for 43 years. The couple have two grown children, Amy and Brandon, and five grandchildren.


Jeff Nielsen
President & CEO
United Farmers Cooperative

Jeff Nielsen is currently the President/CEO of United Farmers Cooperative (UFC), a position he has held since 1999.  UFC is a farmer owned, diversified co-op serving Central Minnesota since 1915.  Jeff was born and raised on a large diversified dairy farm in Wisconsin where he learned the value of hard work and diversity at an early age.  Prior to joining UFC in 1995 as their VP of Feed, he spent several years in sales and sales management positions with Growmark and Land O Lakes.

Throughout his career Jeff has taken an aggressive and creative approach to business that has resulted in new ventures such as self-insurance for all of UFC’s insurance needs, creative marketing programs and alternative funding options.  UFC has also taken a partnership approach to build strength in their core businesses with strategic business partners.   And over the past 15 years has been on a mission to find health care solutions for Ag Producers.

When Jeff took the reins as CEO at UFC, the cooperative was generating 38 million in sales and employed 40 people.  Today sales exceed 300 million, with total assets more than 160 million.  UFC employs over 300 full time employees and ramps up to over 500 during peak seasons.  Jeff is an energetic leader who believes that success in the future will lie in the ability to have vision and be willing to take calculated risks.  He is a steadfast believer in the principles of cooperatives and has been instrumental in several start up cooperative businesses.


Kenneth Nixon headshot

Kenneth Nixon
Board Chair
Tennessee Farmers Cooperative

Kenneth Nixon is the Chairman of the Board of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. The Carthage, Tenn., native operates a 350-acre burley tobacco and row crop farm in his hometown, where he lives with his wife of 55 years, Linda. The oldest of the Nixons’ three children, Mike, farms with his father. Kenneth began his farming career in 1964 by purchasing land with money he earned playing professional baseball in the Atlanta Braves organization.

Kenneth’s service on the TFC board dates back to 1986, and since that time he has served as Chairman on four occasions. He has also held other leadership roles on the TFC board, including Vice Chairman. On the local level, Kenneth twice served as Chairman during his 16 years on the board of Smith Farmers Cooperative and has been actively involved with several other ag-related, civic, and government organizations. These include the Smith County Farm Bureau, Carthage Civitan Club (he’s a 50-year member), Smith County Utility District, Smith County Commission, South Carthage Planning Commission, and the Smith County Housing Board.

In addition to Mike, the Nixons have two other children — daughter Stacy and son Joey — and five grandchildren. They are members of South Carthage Missionary Baptist Church.


headshot of Joe Outlaw

Joe Outlaw
Professor and Extension Economist
Co-Director Agricultural and Food Policy Center
Texas A&M University

Dr. Joe Outlaw is a Regents Fellow, Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University. He also serves as the co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M University. In this role, Dr. Outlaw frequently interacts with members of Congress and key agricultural committee staff to provide feedback on the likely consequences of agricultural policy changes. His extension education and applied research activities are focused on assessing the impacts of farm programs, risk management tools, renewable energy and climate change legislation on U.S. agricultural operations. Dr. Outlaw has received numerous awards in excellence for his policy education. In 2015, he received the National Excellence in Extension award from the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA for excellence in leadership, scholarship and innovative programming. Originally from Devine, Texas, Dr. Outlaw received his Bachelor of Science (1987), Master of Science (1988), and Ph.D. (1992) from Texas A&M University, all in Agricultural Economics.


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Autumn Veazey Price
Vice President, Government Relations
Land O’Lakes

In May of 2013, Autumn Veazey accepted the role as Director of Government Relations for Land O’Lakes, Inc. She was promoted to Vice President of Government Relations in September of 2014. She handles federal government affairs issues and lobbies Congress and the federal agencies on behalf of the cooperative.

Prior to joining Land O’Lakes, Autumn was senior professional staff and general counsel for the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, working for former Ranking Member Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and current Ranking Member Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS). Prior to joining the U.S. Senate, Autumn was a lobbyist for Troutman Sanders Strategies and United Fresh Produce Association. Her areas of expertise include specialty crops, food safety, agriculture labor, rural development, conservation, and general farm commodities. Prior to working in Washington, DC, Autumn practiced law for three years in Marietta, Georgia.

Autumn grew up in Tifton, Georgia, and is from a farm family. Her father still owns and operates Veazey Plant Company, a diversified farm that ships fruit and vegetable transplants, and produces peanuts and cotton. Her mother, Teresa Lasseter, was the Farm Service Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture during President George W. Bush’s tenure.

She attended Furman University, in Greenville, SC and Walter F. George School of Law in Macon, Georgia.  She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Juris Doctor.  Autumn is married to Kevin Price, a Minnesota native and Vice President of Government Relations for American Crystal Sugar Company. She and Kevin have two sons and reside in McLean, VA.


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Richard Sexton
Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics
University of California-Davis

Richard J. Sexton is distinguished professor in the Agricultural & Resource Economics (ARE) Department at UC Davis. He has twice served as chair of the ARE Department at Davis. He is also a Past President of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) and a Fellow of the AAEA and a Distinguished Scholar of the Western Agricultural Economics Association. His research program emphasizes competition issues and the roles of producer organizations in agricultural markets. Sexton’s recent work focuses on the rapidly changing landscape of agricultural markets, with their increased emphasis on multifaceted dimensions of product quality, attempts by sellers at all market stages to differentiate their products, and close vertical coordination within the supply chain. He has broad experience working in livestock, fruit, vegetable, and nut markets.


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Chuck Spencer
Executive Director, Government Relations
GROWMARK

Charles (Chuck) Spencer is GROWMARK, Executive Director, Government Relations. In this position, he is responsible for developing, leading and administering the government relations team that involves corporate legislative and regulatory activities and programs for the GROWMARK System.

Spencer serves on the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) Governmental Affairs Committee on its Conservation and Environment subcommittee as chairman.  He also serves on federal affairs committees for the Ag Retailers Association, American Seed Trade Association, The Fertilizer Institute, and CropLife America.

Chuck joined GROWMARK on April 20, 2009.  He has more than 25 years of professional experience in state and federal legislative and regulatory affairs. He served as director of national legislation and policy development for the Illinois Farm Bureau, responsible for directing the organization’s policy program, promoting the organization’s position on federal legislative and regulatory issues, and directing grassroots advocacy programs. He also held positions of associate director of state legislation and assistant director of natural and environmental resources, both at Illinois Farm Bureau. Spencer served as a county Farm Bureau manager in Mason and Henry (Ill.) counties.

Spencer holds a B.S. degree in agriculture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Spencer, his wife, Debbie, and their daughter live in Bloomington.


Tony Taylor
Sr. Director of Infrastructure Technology and Security
Land O’Lakes

Tony Taylor is the senior director of infrastructure technology and security for Land O’Lakes Inc. Under Taylor’s direction the IT infrastructure has transformed from a business unit environment to an enterprise shared service, highly virtualized, serving all divisions. The infrastructure and security organization includes network, PC, mobile, compute, middleware, storage, database and security engineering teams focused on design, architecture and project execution.

Taylor joined Land O’Lakes in 1999, through the Terra Industries acquisition and has extensive experience serving enterprise organizations infrastructure and platform solutions while building strong partnerships with key business executives. Taylor has held multiple IT leadership positions since joining Land O’Lakes, assuming responsibility for enterprise infrastructure in 2003. Taylor participates on the IT leadership team, reporting directly to the CIO, establishing organizational and IT strategies and policy.

Prior to his career at Land O’Lakes, Taylor held IT management positions at Terra Industries and MidAmerican Energy. Taylor has worked in the IT industry for more than 25 years, with the last 17 in various management roles establishing technology directions.


Allan Wagner
Board Chair
MKC

Allan Wegner operates a dryland corn and soybean operation along with a commercial cow-calf operation near Onaga, Kansas. Allan has served on the MKC Board of Directors since 2014 and was elected chairman in 2017. Prior to merging with MKC, Wegner served on the board of directors for Farmers Cooperative Association for 12 years. He also serves on the board of directors for Team Marketing Alliance, LLC.

Allan believes the cooperative system must continue to grow and adapt to best serve our producers as their needs continue to evolve.  He believes to do so, the cooperative system most have progressive leadership.

Allan earned a B.S. in architectural engineering from Kansas State University. He and his wife, Melissa, have a 13-year-old daughter, Grace, and a nine-year-old son, Isaac. In their spare time, they enjoy landscaping, gardening, and being involved in their kids’ activities.


 

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Alan Woodard
CEO
Comark Equity Alliance

As the CEO of Comark Equity Alliance, LLC, (CEA) Alan Woodard is responsible for implementing the entities strategic vision and business principles.  In this role, he has the responsibility of serving the 28 member owned cooperatives located in the states of Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.  Previously, he served as a CEO of Farm Credit of Southern Colorado serving the agricultural needs of producers and agribusiness firms in Colorado.

Prior to joining CEA, Alan had 27 plus years of agricultural and commercial banking experience, primarily with Farm Credit and CoBank.  In addition to his financially related services experience, he operated a small family farm in the Maize, Kansas area.  Through this experience he has served as a director for his local grain and farm supply cooperative for multiple terms, which has allowed him to gain experience from a board member’s perspective on the challenges facing cooperatives.  He has also served in other leadership roles with the Wichita Agri-Business Council and Kansas Livestock Association.

Alan earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas.  He is a past member of the board of directors for the Kansas Coop Council, Oklahoma Ag Coop Council and also has served on the advisory council of the Arthur Capper Cooperative Center.  He and his wife Stacy are the parents of four children and reside in Wichita, KS.