Conference Highlights and Resources

2012 Conference

ARA Conference Attracts a Record Number of Attendees

The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) completed a very successful 2012 conference with well over 650 attendees. The conference was held Nov. 27-29, in San Diego, California. The event attracted the nation's top agricultural retailers, suppliers and other industry leaders. Conference attendees had the chance to hear from a dynamic line-up of speakers and visit the ARA trade show which included a record 101 exhibit spaces. 

ARA would like to thank all of our conference sponsors and exhibitors for their generous support and participation. A complete list of conference sponsors is available here. For a complete list of exhibitors at the conference, click here.

The theme for the 2012 Conference was Ag Retail Top Guns: Preparing Your Business for the Future. For the first time, the conference also included four breakout sessions that allowed agricultural retailers to receive more in-depth information on key challenges facing their business including human resources and recruiting challenges, technology, fertilizer inventory risk management and performance benchmarking.

ARA appreciates the efforts of the following individuals who made presentations at the conference.

  • Carl Casale, President & CEO of CHS
  • Charlie Stenholm, Former Texas Congressman and Senior Policy Advisor with OFW Law
  • John Foley, Former Blue Angel and Professional Speaker
  • John May, President of Agricultural Solutions and Chief Information Officer with John Deere
  • Karen Grabow, Senior Vice President of Business Development Services with Land O' Lakes
  • Bill Keogh, President of AgKnowlogy, Inc.
  • David Asbridge, President and Senior Economist with NPK Fertilizer Advisory Service
  • Kelly Farrell and Susan Summers, both CPA's and Partners with Farrell Growth Group.

ARA Conference Presentations, Photos, Attendee Lists and Other Items are Available to Download Now

Please Note: Items marked with an asterisk are only accessible through the 2012 ARA Conference & Expo Community on the ARA website. Anyone who has an email address on file with ARA and attended the ARA Conference has access to this community, but a login to the site is required.

ARA encourages all conference attendees to access the 2012 ARA Conference & Expo Community on the ARA website.

To view: Log-in>My Profile>My Communities>2012 ARA Conference & Expo 

Here are few reasons to check out this online community. 

  1. Download presentations from conference speakers and a complete list of conference attendees.
  2. Click on the "Members" tab inside the community to see a list of attendees. Click on an indivduals name or photo to view their ARA website profile and connect or send that person a message.
  3. Share your own comments or opinions about the conference in the discussion area associated with this online community.

If you have questions regarding how to log in to the ARA website, contact Michelle Hummel or David McKnight in the ARA office at (202) 457-0825.

Industry Leaders Honored at the ARA Conference

ARA presented two awards to recognize specific individuals who have made significant contributions to the industry.

Jim Thrift Receives the Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award

ARA was pleased to present this year's Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award to ARA's former Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Relations Jim Thrift. This award is presented annually to an individual whose talents and accomplishments have fundamentally advanced the agricultural retail industry and have been acknowledged by their industry colleagues over the course of their career. The award is named after a former President and CEO of ARA who passed away in 2009.

2012-Thrift Accepts Award

Jim Thrift accepts the ARA Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award as Board Chairman Billy Pirkle listens to his remarks in the General Session. 

Thrift officially retired from ARA in the summer of 2012 after serving the organization for nine years. During this time, he utilized his more than 40 years of agriculture industry experience to assist ARA members with specific business and regulatory challenges. He also led many of ARA's recruitment efforts which led to significant growth for the association during his tenure.

Prior to joining ARA, Thrift held various executive management, marketing, and sales positions within the agriculture industry, primarily at American Cyanamid and BASF.  He also served as a trustee on The National Cotton Council Foundation, the ARA Board of Directors, The National Corn Growers Industry Relations Group, U.S. Grains Council Executive Committee and the Stewardship Committee of the National Aerial Applicators Association. Thrift also received numerous awards that include the Industry Meritorious Service Award from the American Soybean Association and the Distinguished Service Award from ARA. In 1997, he was named to the Alpha Zeta Centennial Honor Roll of 100 individuals who have a career of outstanding support of U.S. Agriculture. 

Ken Manning Receives ARA's Distinguished Service Award
The ARA Distinguished Service Award honors an individual member of the association who has gone above and beyond the traditional responsibility to support the ag retail industry and the association, making the industry better for all. At the ARA Conference, ARA presented this year's Distinguished Service Award to Ken Manning, Senior Vice President of Northwest Operations for the Agribusiness Division of Wilbur-Ellis Company.

2012 Dist. Service Award-Manning

ARA Chairman Billy Pirkle presents the Distinguished Service Award to Ken Manning with Wilbur-Ellis.

Ken was an active ARA board member from 2002 - 2011. He also served as the organization's chairman in 2009. During his years on the ARA board of directors, Manning's leadership and industry expertise helped the organization reach many public policy achievements and development of other services for ARA members.  Manning served on several committees, a few of these included Conference Planning, Membership & Member Services, Public Policy and Communications. 

At the ARA Conference, special recognition was paid to Manning for his leadership as Board Chairman during a difficult time for the association when the previous ARA President & CEO Jack Eberspacher passed away.  Manning led the organization through those challenging months and helped the association find new leadership.  ARA appreciates Manning's leadership and years of service to the agricultural retail industry.

ARA 2013 Chairman Installation
The ARA Conference also included the installation of  new ARA Board Chairman Johnny Council of the Lyman/Tremont Group, based in Woodland, California.  Current ARA Chairman Billy Pirkle, from Crop Production Services, passed the gavel to Council during a special segment of the ARA Conference General Session on Thursday, Nov. 29. 

2013 Chairman installation

Johnny Council (left) is installed as the 2013 ARA Board Chairman.

"ARA appreciates the leadership provided by Chairman Pirkle during the past year, which included a valuable testimony he provided to the Government Oversight and Reform Committee this past summer regarding EPA's regulatory overreach.  With his guidance, ARA had a productive year marked by achievements in the policy arena, membership growth and increased participation from current ARA members," said Daren Coppock, ARA president and chief executive officer. "We welcome our new Chairman Johnny Council to this position and look forward to the wisdom and extensive industry experience he will bring to this position."

Johnny Council serves as President of The Lyman/Tremont Group.  He joined the ARA Board of Directors in 2006. Over the past several years, he has served on numerous ARA committees, which included a year as Chairman of ARA's Public Policy Committee.  Council has also been very involved in ARA recruitment efforts and especially instrumental in helping the association with membership growth in California. ARA looks forward to Council's continued guidance as Chairman of the Association. 

ARAPAC Special Events
Two events were held in conjunction with the conference to raise money for ARA's Political Action Committee (ARAPAC). Contributions made to ARAPAC are used to support political candidates who understand the needs of the agricultural industry.

2012 Winning golf team

ARAPAC Golf Tournament First Place Team (left to right) - Jay Stidham with CHS and Dave Thomas and Randy Parman with Helena.

Over 140 golfers participated in the ARAPAC Golf Tournament held on the beautiful Torrey Pines Golf Course, in La Jolla, California. This event provides a great networking opportunity for many conference attendees and remains one of the most popular events associated with the conference.  Awards from the tournament were presented during the conference general session and each golfer received a framed photo of their foursome after the event. 

The ARA Annual Dinner & Auction was also a successful event this year and sold out with more than 300 people purchasing tickets to the event. The dinner and auction was held on the legendary USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. Guests had the opportunity to explore more than 60 displays and a collection of 25 restored aircraft sitting on the carrier. Many event participants even had the chance to experience what it is like to fly one of the planes by trying out one of the flight simulators.

ARA worked with Purple Wave online auction company to enable people to participate in the ARAPAC auction even if they were not able to attend the conference. Bubba Morris with Crop Production Services served as the auctioneer at the event.  ARA appreciates the time and effort contributed by Purple Wave and Bubba Morris to help the association raise funds for the PAC. 

Midway Group

Midway Deck

Guests enjoy dinner and the live auction inside the USS Midway.

Event attendees explore the flight deck of the USS Midway.

The Wheat Growers Named ARA Retailer of the Year
During a special ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 28, ARA named the Wheat Growers, headquartered in Aberdeen, S.D., the 2012 ARA Retailer of the Year.   The Retailer of the Year Award is sponsored by


Dale Locken, Chief Executive Officer of the Wheat Growers, gives an acceptance speech for the ARA Retailer of the Year Award.

Monsanto, ARA and AgProfessional magazine and honors those retailers who represent the very best in the industry.  Retail outlets nominated for the award are evaluated based on innovative business practices, community and industry leadership, environmental stewardship, reliability, technology utilization, customer service and effective employee development programs.

A separate announcement regarding this award was issued by ARA last week. ARA congratulates the Wheat Growers on receiving this prestigious industry award. Click here for more information.