2014 Conference Overview

Navigating the Path Forward

Farmers relentlessly pursue the best course of action. And, like a trusted guide, ag retailers provide advice, analysis, products and services to help them discover the most successful strategies.

The Agricultural Retailers Association Annual Conference and Expo, which took place December 2-4 at the Sheraton New Orleans, was held to help you navigate the changing ag retail landscape through panel discussions, presentations, networking and trade show exhibitors.

Find your path forward. Almost 800 attendees joined industry experts, peers and colleagues at the only essential event for ag retailers and suppliers: the ARA Annual Conference & Expo.

Speakers and Workshops

Mike Vande Logt WinField Solutions Chief Operations Officer Mike Vande Logt (left) and Kenny Cordell (right), President & CEO, Pinnacle Ag Holdings, keynoted the conference. With more than 33 years in the agricultural sector – 23 with Land ’O Lakes – Mr. Vande Logt offered his seasoned and experienced perspective on "Trends in Ag Retail," specifically how ag retailers can better advise farmers on meeting consumer demands. Mr. Cordell discuss Pinnacle’s business strategy, flaws within the ag retail distribution system and the future of consolidation within the retail sector. Listen to Cordell's presentation...

Precision growers Brad Murray, Byron Seward and Jeff Wilson anchored a moderated panel discussion on precision agriculture. The group examined how ag retailers can best support the agronomic, technological and mechanical needs of ultra-precision farmers. Audio from the panel discussion...

Following the logistical challenges that plagued the Upper Midwest and Great Plains last winter and spring, Dan Mack with CHS and Scott Mickey with CGB sought to answer the question: “Dude, Where’s My Rail Car?” during their breakout session.

Morral Companies’ John Oster, Yargus Manufacturing’s Anne Sheehy and Judy Stulken with South Dakota Wheat Growers explored “Talent in Your Backyard.” The trio presented examples on how to build successful relationships with area high schools and local community colleges to attract talented, high-potential employees.

Randy Krotz, CEO of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, discussed how to spread the positive message of today’s agriculture within your community using language that resonates with consumers. Dr. Howard Brown, Agronomy Services Manager with GROWMARK addressed nutrient loading and Mississippi River water quality issues during his presentation: "MOM and the Mississippi."

Rob Myers, North Central Region Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Regional Director for Extension Programs, discussed how adding cover crops to your ag retail business can help add to your bottom line during his presentation "Cover Your Assets: The Business Case for Cover Crops"

Tim Cansler, Executive Director of ResponsibleAg, presented an update on the status of its fertilizer safety stewarship initiative, which launched facility registration during the conference. "Nuts and Bolts of ResponsibleAg" introduced attendees to the processes and procedures for registering as a ResponsibleAg retailer and supplier. Participating facilities will have three years to complete an assessment by a ResponsibleAg-certified auditor.

Golf Tournament

ARAPAC Golf TournamentThe ARAPAC Golf Tournament was held at the TPC Louisiana on December 1, in conjunction with the conference. The tournament sold out again this year, drawing more than 140 participants.

The Pete Dye-designed golf course featured a challenging landscape of lush wetlands and native cypress trees. TPC Louisiana, part of the Audubon Golf Trail, plays host to the state’s only PGA Tour event, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, and is located in Avondale, La. The course is a repeat honoree in
GolfWeek magazine’s list of “Best Courses You Can Play.” 

Final Results
1st Place (60): Dean Miller, Bob Higby, Chris Simoni and Mark Auchmpach.
2nd Place (61): Loren Willmes, Rodger Harrison, John Miller, and Jamie Gipple
3rd Place: (61): Mark Sharitz, Dooie Leach, Josh Hunter and Gordon Bruss

Special Contests
Closest to the Pin: Dan Weber, 4 feet, 5 inches
Longest Drive: Matthew Eversman

ARA Dinner & Auction

ARA Dinner & AuctionOn Wednesday evening, December 3, reveler joined the ARA krewe for a Mardi Gras-themed dinner and auction in the Armstrong Ballroom at the Sheraton. Dinner featured a buffet of traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine; cocktails, wine and beer; and beniet station for a sweet, after-dinner indulgence.

The silent and live auctions were packed with enticing items such as vacation and travel packages, concert and sporting event tickets, electronics, fine wines and products donated by industry suppliers. 

Proceeds from the dinner and auction benefited ARAPAC, ARA's political action committee. Personal contributions raised through the auction may be used to support U.S. Senators, Representatives and candidates whose values align with ARA’s policy objectives.

Live music continued throughout the event and attendees recorded the memories posing with silly props in an onsite photo booth.

Forever New Orleans Tour

And if golf wasn't your game, there was still plenty to do in New Orleans. Attendees participated in a tour of historic New Orleans, generously sponsored by FMC.

The tour begin in the area where the French founded New Orleans almost 300 years ago: the historic and charming French Quarter. Originally an Indian trading post located on the banks of the Mississippi, the French sought to establish a port on high grounds near this trading post. Thus was the foundation of this quaint and lovely European enclave.

At Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, site of St. Louis Cathedral, participants visited famous landmarks and learned the fascinating history behind this unique city. Next, the tour proceeded to City Park and Bayou St. John; and visited historic St. Louis No. 3 Cemetery, where the tour guide explained the traditional above-ground burial system.

As the tour continued through City Park toward Lake Pontchartrain, the guide discussed remnants of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This powerful storm breached the protective levee system in New Orleans that caused much of the city to flood.

Heading uptown, attendees traveled along picturesque St. Charles Avenue, lined with rows of magnificent mansions and historical oak trees. Many of the lavish Garden District homes were built by wealthy Americans following the Louisiana Purchase. The tour also passed the Old Warehouse District, a revitalized area that is home to the New Orleans Convention Center.

The guided tour included luxury coach transportation and coffee and beignets at Morning Call in City Park.

Cajun and Creole Cuisine Demo

Cuisine often serves as the star attraction in New Orleans, and this was no exception during the ARA Annual Conference & Expo. Registered spouses had an opportunity to learn about, taste and cook colorful and flavorful recipes.

New Orleans chefs can be colorful characters and this demo featured one of the best local chefs, who taught participants the techniques and secrets at the very heart of Cajun and Creole cooking. Rule #1 -- first you make a roux!

Participants learned the differences in the various styles of Louisiana cooking and received copies of all the recipes to take home. During the demonstrations, traditional New Orleans-style coffee was served. The meal consisted of delicious Cajun and Creole dishes prepared during the demonstration, including: Cajun gumbo, Creole jambalaya, bread pudding with whiskey sauce and pecan pralines.

Sponsored by FMC.

Associated Terminals Tour

Following the close of the conference, attendees participated in a tour of Associated Terminals' Chalmette, Louisiana, port facility. Participants saw a unique perspective during this tour. In addition to touring the dock, attendees boarded boats to see the loading and unloading operation from the river. 

Associated Terminals is the largest and most diverse cargo handling and logistical solutions company operating terminal facilities on the Lower Mississippi River. The company offers dry bulk and break bulk cargo shippers an extensive range of services, including the total coordination of movements to provide customers with a comprehensive transportation and stevedoring package. Founded in 1990, operational bases include Myrtle Grove, Chalmette, Reserve and Port Allen, Louisiana. 

Associated Terminals offers logistical and transportation solutions for agricultural commodities including a wide range of grains and grain byproducts. The main facility for these specialized services is the Myrtle Grove Midstream Terminal – a floating grain elevator specializing in the transfer of cargoes between barges and ocean vessels. 

However, the company provides a full range of options including the loading of grain and byproducts from truck to barge and trans-loading to and from vessels and barges – as well as the loading of containers and bagging. In addition, they have the capabilities to handle the import/export of grain cargoes utilizing our fleet of floating cranes.


ARA Retailer of the Year

NEW Cooperative Named Retailer of the Year  NEW Cooperative
Ft. Dodge, Iowa
Video |

Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award

Jon Nienas

Jon Nienas


Distinguished Service Award

Derig Accepts Distinguished Service Award
Paul Derig

Precision Impact Award

Presented by AgProfessional and ARA, this award recognizes local retailers' efforts and achievements working with precision technology. VideoRead more...

Plains-West Region
Brent Wiesenburger
Wheat Growers

Northern Region
Kevin Kruize
Central Valley Cooperative

Southern Region
Steve Harrelson
Southern States Cooperative Latta Service


AGCO Operator of the Year

Brent Klein

Brent Klein
Simplot Grower Solutions
Ashton, Idaho


Environmental Respect Award

Eric Johnson
Centennial Ag Supply
Yuma, Colo.


Rising Stars Class of 2014

  • Bryan Bayer, Barnards Soil Service LLC
  • Chris Beasley, Yargus Manufacturing, Inc.
  • Kevin Daniel, MFA, Inc.
  • Chris Gallo, J.R. Simplot Company
  • Kyle C. Johnson, International Raw Materials Ltd.
  • Djamel Khali, South Dakota Wheat Growers
  • Scott Morehead, Agrian Inc.
  • Rodney Steel, J.R. Simplot Company
  • Brandon Vining, J.R. Simplot Company
  • Jason Willard, J.R. Simplot Company

Speaker Presentations

Take Action: Shaping the Future of Herbicide Resistance
Dr. Daniel Stephenson, Louisiana State University
Sponsored by United Soybean Board

Trends and Developments in Ag Retail
Mike Vande Logt, WinField Solutions

Precision Grower Panel
Brad Murray, Meadow Brook Farm
Byron Seward, Seward & Son Planting / Seward & Harris Planting 
Jeff Wilson, Lone Oak Hog Farm

Conversations with EASE
Randy Krotz, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance 

MOM and the Mississippi
Dr. Howard Brown, Growmark 

Nuts and Bolts of ResponsibleAg
Tim Cansler, ResponsibleAg

Dude, Where's My Rail Car?
Dan Mack, CHS
Scott Mickey, CGB 

Talent in Your Backyard
John Oster, Morral Companies
Anne Sheehy, Yargus Manufacturing
Judy Stulken, South Dakota Wheat Growers

Cover Your Assets: The Business Case for Cover Crops
Dr. Rob Myers, USDA-SARE

Consolidation in Ag Retail
Kenny Cordell, Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings

Platinum Sponsors
AGCO BASF Bayer CropScience Case IH
CF Industries



 Mosaic Syngenta
 Wilbur-Ellis WinField
 John Deere
Gold Sponsors
Silver Sponsors
Bronze Sponsors