Performance. Precision. Passion.

Discover how performance, precision and passion shapes success through presentations, networking and exhibits at the only essential event for ag retailers and suppliers: the ARA Conference & Expo.

Presentations and discussions at the ARA Conference & Expo will feature topics such as sustainability within the food-chain, water issues, fertilizer trends, financial movements in the ag sector and personal health and wellness.

Steve Peterson

The New Paradigm: Farm + Food Partnerships to Meet New Consumer Demand

Steve Peterson

The new millennial consumer wants to know the origin of their food, and how the food was cared for from seed through consumption. This requires the integration of the food supply chain. Sustainability is linking commercial packaged good food companies directly with producers.

Steve Peterson, Director of Sourcing and Sustainability for General Mills, will review how General Mills is linking with farmers across North America based on the Field to Market framework.

As an executive with a major food and consumer packaged goods company and current President of Field to Market, Peterson is in a unique position to understand consumer trends and where major brands and retail grocers are headed with sustainability-related requirements. And, more importantly, how those dictates that will be passed back up the food chain.

Peterson will examine how General Mills evaluates consumer requests, analyzes potential reactions and consequences to standing against unscientific and harmful activist campaigns and potential new requirements desired by the food industry in the next decade. He will also look at how those stipulations will translate into practical decisions for farmers.

Peterson was named Director of Sourcing Sustainability in August 2010 after leading external manufacturing for five years. Following the merger of General Mills and Pillsbury, Peterson served on the integration team that created a combined supply chain for the merged companies.

Before joining General Mills, Peterson had held roles of increasing responsibility within Supply Chain Operations and Sourcing at Pillsbury for 15 years. He started as a Commodity Analyst and lastly holding the position of Senior Director Ingredient Sourcing.

Peterson has been involved for many years in collaborative manufacturing and sourcing. He holds a Master's in Agriculture and Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota and earned his bachelors degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

He resides in Golden Valley, Minn., with his wife and three children. He also owns and manages Peterson Farms, a grain and livestock operation in Paynesville, Minn.


Paul Wenger

Population Growth, Consumer Demand and Climate Change: Challenges to Agriculture's Sustainability

Paul Wenger

In his presentation to the general session on December 2, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger will look into his crystal ball to identify current and potential California regulations that could spread to other states and into federal rulemaking. He will also address California's water crisis and its impact on agriculture and the state of California.

Wenger, who farms in Modesto, became a CFBF statewide officer in 1997 when he was elected second vice president. He was elected first vice president in 2005. He also served as a member of the CFBF board and chaired the CFBF Water Advisory Committee and the Board Water Development Task Force. He is a former president of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau. In January 2011, he was elected to the American Farm Bureau Federation board of directors, and was re-elected in 2013 and 2015.

A third-generation farmer, Wenger grows almonds and walnuts on the family farm, which includes property purchased by his grandfather in 1910. His farming operations also include sharecropping, custom farm work and walnut hulling. He has expanded his operation to include processing and marketing of almonds and walnuts through his Wood Colony Nut Co., to provide an opportunity for the fourth generation of the family to vertically integrate into the family farming operation.

Wenger attended Modesto Junior College before transferring to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he earned a degree in animal science.

Jim Prokopanko

Sustaining Agriculture’s Future - A Producer's Perspective

Jim Prokopanko

Prokopanko, former President and Chief Executive Officer for Mosaic, will keynote the closing general session of the ARA Conference & Expo December 3. He will discuss macro trends and key issues shaping the fertilizer industry, as well as look at how current supply and pricing are likely to impact retailers.

Prokopanko joined Mosaic in July 2006 as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. He assumed his current duties in January 2007. A 35-year veteran of the agriculture industry, Prokopanko was previously Corporate Vice President of Cargill, Inc., where he held a leadership role in the company’s agricultural and farm market-based businesses in North America, Brazil, Argentina and the United Kingdom.

Prokopanko serves on the Board of Directors for Mosaic, Canpotex Limited and Vulcan Materials Company. An active fertilizer industry proponent, he serves on The Fertilizer Institute’s Audit Committee, the International Fertilizer Association Board of Directors, and the International Plant Nutrition Institute.

In his community, Prokopanko as a member of Minnesota Public Radio’s Board of Trustees, the Minnesota Business Partnership and Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. He is a director on the Board of Overseers at The University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management.

He holds Bachelor of Science and Commerce degrees from the University of Manitoba and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.

Prokopanko stepped down as Mosaic's CEO earlier this year following successful treatment for cancer and announced plans to retire in January 2016.

Ed Skelton

Lend Me Your Ears: Let's Talk Banking and Finance

Ed Skelton

In this session, Ed Skelton, a business economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, will give a broad overview of the financial and banking system, including a discussion current financial market conditions and trends, with particular focus on possible threats and the impact of Fed policy.

The importance of financial system stability and policy discipline will also be established. From there, a link will be made between financial conditions, the availability of funding, and the economy as a whole.

Skelton’s primary analysis concerns the economies of Latin America, with a focus on the banking industry and the financial system. He also manages the Bank’s macro surveillance unit, where he performs regional and national financial system analysis, researches issues related to international systemic risk, and is very active in the Bank’s Economic Education program.

He has appeared on National Public Radio, and his work has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, specialized industry publications, academic studies, as well as prominent daily newspapers in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and many other Latin American countries.

In addition to his responsibilities at the Dallas Fed, he is an adjunct professor of economics at Southern Methodist University, where he has received numerous awards for teaching excellence.

Skelton received a master of arts in economics degree from Southern Methodist University and a bachelor of business administration in economics degree from Baylor University. He is also a graduate of the American Bankers Association Stonier School of Banking at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been serving as a capstone project advisor.

Greg Bright

Using Data to Find New Customers

Greg Bright

Greg Bright, Chief Data Officer and Principle Architect at Leap Media Solutions, will lead attendees on a laypersons journey through the world of data, big data and analytical techniques that will help find additional customer targets, and garner a larger share of purchases through an optimized targeting approach.

"Big Data" is the buzz in marketing and customer acquisition circles. But, is a big data technology investment necessary? The session shows how using existing information collected and a few outside sources can have profound impacts on customer acquisition and share of purchase with all customers.

Bright, who joined Leap Media Solutions in March, is responsible for optimizing the data strategy and architecture of the marketing and analytical databases of Leap Media. He works closely with the clients, strategy and production departments to ensure that client marketing campaigns are optimized to execute efficiently, produce results, and key performance indicators are monitored and optimized.

Before joining LMS, Bright was the Director of the Gannett news media companies Customer Insight Database Center. In his four years as Customer Insights Database Center Director, he designed and implemented a consolidated, national campaign and analytical database to support Gannett’s 80+ newspapers.

Prior to his role as CIDC Director, Greg managed several software development teams and the analytical/data warehouse strategy for The Arizona Republic. Bright attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and studied Economics. He currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, son and Welch Corgi.

Dr. Robert Orford

Your Organization's Most Important Asset: Executive Health

Dr. Robert Orford

Dr. Robert Orford, Assistant Professor of Medicine with the Mayo Clinic, will discuss health and wellness with attendees at the conference.

Orford specializes in clinical preventive medicine, particularly health promotion and executive health and focuses his research on airline pilot disability and passenger health, health care worker health and administration of medical center occupational health programs.

He received a Master’s in Public Health from and completed his medical residency at University of Washington. He also holds a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota Mayo School of Medicine and received his doctorate in Medicine and Bachelor of Science from McGill University in Montreal.

Orford is an active member of the Aerospace Medical Association and American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Michael Turley

Branding Your Business

Michael Turley

Michael Turley, chief executive officer of OsbornBarr, wants his company to be rural America’s biggest advocate. In an industry that totals 12,000 advertising and PR firms in the U.S., OsbornBarr is uniquely focused solely on the agriculture industry and the rural landscape in which ag’s stakeholders live and work.

Working with some of U.S. agriculture’s major companies and organizations, Turley guides a team of 175 communications professionals located in St. Louis and Kansas City. OsbornBarr serves clients such as AGCO, Anheuser-Busch, Merck Animal Health, Michelin, Monsanto, United Soybean Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As CEO Turley oversees organizational development, brand and strategic planning, product development, marketing and sales. 

He earned a B.S. in animal science with a minor in journalism from Iowa State University in 1986. Born and raised in southern Illinois near Greenville, Turley is a fourth-generation farmer who now owns and manages his family’s row-crop and dairy operation. He, his wife Jennifer and their three children reside in St. Louis.

Victor Davis Hanson

Water Issues in California and Beyond

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin.

Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture.

Hanson received his Bachelors of Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz and earned his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

Jamie Notter

When Millennials Take Over

Jamie NotterJamie Notter has been consulting and speaking for organizations since 2001, applying his expertise and unique ability to work through the most challenging conversations to deliver powerful results for clients of all sizes and from a variety of industries. 

An early adopter of social media, he has been actively blogging since 2005 on his own site (www.jamienotter.com) and now also regularly on industry-leading blogs like SocialFish.org and Switch and Shift. Notter was a pioneer in articulating the potential of social business, connecting the principles of social media with innovative practices in leadership and management. His book, Humanize, co-authored with social media expert, Maddie Grant, garnered industry attention for its foresight and comprehensive approach to building organizations that are more compatible with today’s digital age.

In 2015 Grant and Notter published their second book—When Millennials Take Over—which ties together several different threads of their combined 35 years of experience careers into a short but powerful guide to creating organizations that will thrive in these revolutionary times.

Notter holds a master’s degree is in conflict resolution from George Mason University, and a Certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty. Jamie lives in the Washington, D.C. area, where his three Millennial daughters have certainly “taken over” the household for the time being.

Pre-Conference Workshop

PSM and Hazard Communication Requirements

Amber RoseAmber Rose, Industrial Hygienist with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has been invited to present on the new Process Safety Management (PSM) requirements for ammonia retailers, which recently took effect, as well as the agency's new hazard communication requirements, which impact Safety Data Sheets for custom blends.

Both of these regulatory decisions have raised questions and concerns from the agricultural retail community because of the cost, impracticality and, in the case of PSM regulations, impossible implementation timelines. OSHA has been invited to update attendees on these two recent developments. This is your opportunity to get questions answered directly by OSHA. An energetic discussion is anticipated.

Rose, an eight-year veteran of OSHA, holds a bachelor's in microbiology from the University of Rhode Island. Her role with the agency is to inspect privately owned workplaces to ensure employee safety and health, predominately issues concerning chemicals, hazardous materials, electrical and fire hazards; as well as conduct personal and area monitoring, as needed. 

Speaker Highlights

Keynote presentations by:

Steve Peterson, General Mills
Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau
Jim Prokopanko, The Mosaic Company

Additional workshops from:

Greg Bright, Leap Media Solutions
Jamie Notter, Culture That Works
Ed Skelton, Federal Reserve Bank
Victor Davis Hason, Stanford University
Dr. Robert Orford, The Mayo Clinic
Michael Turley, OsbornBarr
Jeff Wanko, OSHA

Speaker Videos

Below are clips and highlights from tributes, presentations, lectures and interviews with several speakers scheduled to appear at the ARA Conference & Expo.