Thomas J. Vilsack was confirmed as the 32nd United States Secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 23, 2021 by the U.S. Senate. He was nominated by President Joe Biden to return to a role where he served for eight years under President Barack Obama.
Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is Investing in America by restoring the American economy, strengthening rural and historically underserved communities, responding to threats of climate change, creating good-paying jobs for American workers and the next generation of agricultural leaders, and investing in our kids and our families.
Secretary Vilsack is spearheading a transformation of the food system by creating more, better, and fairer markets and ensuring that the food system of today and the future is more resilient and more competitive globally. It will also offer consumers affordable, nutritious food grown closer to home.
From excessive drought to more extreme fires, our producers, farmers and ranchers are on the frontlines confronting the challenges associated with climate change. USDA is engaging the agriculture and forestry sectors in voluntary, incentive-based climate solutions to improve the resiliency of producers and to build wealth that stays in rural communities. Additionally, USDA is advancing investments in science and research to offer producers a toolbox to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Secretary Vilsack continues to take bold, historic action to reduce barriers to access for historically underserved communities. By working to ensure all aspects of civil rights and equity are integrated, USDA is rooting out generations of systemic racism and building systems and programs inclusive of all USDA employees and customers.
Secretary Vilsack is also focused on ensuring Americans have consistent access to safe, healthy, and affordable food. USDA is investing in bold solutions that enhance food safety, improve the various far-reaching and powerful nutrition programs in the Department, and reduce food and nutrition insecurity in America.
Additional Background on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Vilsack was the longest-serving member of President Obama’s original Cabinet. Prior to his appointment, he served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, served in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. He received his bachelor's degree from Hamilton College and his law degree from Albany Law School in New York.
Prior to returning to USDA, he served as president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) from 2017 until February 2021. There, he provided strategic leadership and oversight of USDEC's global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. In addition to his post at USDEC, he also served as a Strategic Advisor to Colorado State University’s food and water initiatives.
A native of Pittsburgh, Penn., Vilsack was born into an orphanage and adopted in 1951. After graduating from law school, Vilsack moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, his wife Christie’s hometown, where he practiced law. The Vilsacks have two adult sons and two daughters-in-law—Doug, married to Janet; and Jess, married to Kate. They have six grandchildren.
Vilsack has been honored for his public service and work to advance American agriculture by several organizations, including the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.
Kristi Block is the Strategy Director at the Meat Institute. In this capacity, she is responsible for assisting members in their sustainability journeys as evidenced by their participation in Protein PACT, which is the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement and transparency for healthy people, healthy communities, healthy animals and a healthy planet. She joined the NAMI in March 2022.
Block brings experience in the ag tech, grain elevator, ethanol, and animal feed manufacturing industry. She is part of a third- and fourth-generation family farm in Nebraska that grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle. Block received a Masters of Business Administration from Midland University and a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Block is a Nebraska LEAD Alumni graduate.
Greg Bohrer serves as Director, Natural Capital at Walmart and Walmart.org where he helps shape Walmart’s regenerative agriculture strategy and manages grantmaking at Walmart.org with the goal of helping farmers and ranchers build soil health, address critical natural capital risks, and create a more resilient and naturally productive agricultural system. Prior to Walmart, Greg worked at Environmental Initiative, a Minnesota non-profit where he led their agriculture programming and the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative. He started his career on Capitol Hill, working on natural resource and agricultural issues for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. Greg holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science from St. Olaf College and is a graduate of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership program at the University of Minnesota. A 2023 Aspen Institute Food Leaders Fellow, Greg serves on FMC Corporation’s Environmental Advisory Committee and North Central College’s ENVI Community Advisory Board.
Philip Brasher has reported on food and agriculture policy full-time in Washington since 1999, leading coverage for The Associated Press, the Des Moines Register and Congressional Quarterly before in 2014 joining Agri-Pulse, where he is executive editor.
Brasher has reported on food security challenges in Africa and Central America through grants provided by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. He’s also reported in Europe and the Middle East.
He is a member of the board of the North American Agricultural Journalists and a member of the White House Correspondents Association. He is a native of Lubbock, Texas, and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Matthew Cleveland, a geneticist by training, is passionate about using technology and innovation to create a more sustainable food supply. He leads Beef Sustainability and Product Development at ABS Global, a Genus plc company, a world leader in animal genetic improvement. Matthew is responsible for ABS’ overall beef sustainability strategy and, sitting at the interface between science-driven R&D and a customer-focused sales organization, he and his team develop novel products and deliver more profitable and sustainable beef genetics to customers around the world. Matthew has a Ph.D. from Colorado State University, an MBA from the University of Wisconsin, and 17 years in the Genus business working in both PIC and ABS. He currently resides in Wisconsin with his wife Susan and three children.
Skya Ducheneaux is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and spent her first 18 years of life on a cattle ranch on the CRST Reservation in South Dakota. She has a MBA in Business Administration. She previously spent her summers interning for the Intertribal Agriculture Council, where she was introduced to the Native CDFI world (Community Development Financial Institution). Skya worked diligently to create the first national Native CDFI dedicated to Indian agriculture, which launched in 2019. Skya remains connected to agriculture, just from the other side of the table.
Glenda currently serves as Vice President of Diversified Crops, Forage Genetics International and R&D Operations for WinField United, the crop inputs and insights business of Land O’Lakes, Inc. In this role, she is responsible for creating a unified and comprehensive approach to WinField United’s forage businesses and driving the innovation funnel to support more productive, profitable, and sustainable acres for farmers, and accelerated sales opportunities for ag retailers.
Previously, Glenda has led Land O’Lakes’ Member Relations-Dairy team and worked through the ag retail channel to deliver seed and crop inputs to customers.
Prior to her career on the agricultural industry, Glenda and her husband were first generation dairy producers for eight years in Northeast Wisconsin.
Glenda earned an undergraduate degree in Business Management from Urbana University and an MBA from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management Executive MBA program.
Ryan Heiniger is the Executive Director of the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), a 41 year old member-based non-profit focused on accelerating conservation agriculture practice and technology adoption and communicating key trends for the broader agriculture and conservation sectors. Ryan also serves as a board member on Field To Market representing the civil sector. Ryan is a 4th generation farmer in southeast Iowa on a corn and soybean farm near the Mississippi River and has implemented cover crops, pollinator and riparian buffer habitat, prescribed fire, wetland restoration and hardwood forest regeneration.
Prior to joining CTIC, he served as director of America’s Conservation Ag Movement for Farm Journal where he led its state and local projects utilizing a growing portfolio of farmer-led learning communities and multi-stakeholder coalitions. Previously in his career, Ryan served as the director of agriculture and director of field operations for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, non-profit upland conservation organizations. In these roles, Ryan created and led the organization’s Precision Ag and Conservation Solutions Program which focused on private-sector ag tech partnerships to improve farmer profitability, sustainability and creation wildlife habitat and led a team of 85 staff delivering PF’s mission in the five-state region of IA, MN, WI, ND, SD. Ryan also worked for Ducks Unlimited for 15 years in several field and leadership capacities.
Ryan has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from Iowa State University. Ryan and his wife Nikki are raising their son and daughter as 5th generation family farmers along the banks of the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa. Ryan works from a home office on their farm north of Burlington, Iowa.
Margaret was born on a dairy farm in Kentucky. She has spent her life and career working to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes for rural communities around the world. She has a BA and BS from Brown University, training from Massachusetts Institute for Technology in System Dynamics and a Master’s Degree from Princeton University in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy. Her career focused on improving sustainable food systems in government, NGOs and the private sector in places as varied as Mozambique, Brazil, the U.S. and India. She is the VP of Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture at PepsiCo where her team works on their strategy for partnerships, to expand climate resilience, prevent deforestation, source products sustainably, support innovative technology expansion, and partner with farmers to expand the uptake of regenerative farming practices around the world. She believes that the most enduring change comes about when aligning diverse partners with different expertise and driving outcomes through finding shared value from the farmer to the environment to the consumer.
Scott Herndon serves as the President of Field to Market. Prior to joining Field to Market in 2022, he served as the Vice President and General Counsel of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, focusing on the regulatory issues that impact the industry including pesticides, biotechnology, sustainability and crop insurance.
Scott has also served as Director of Global Government and Public Policy for S& P Global in Washington, D.C. and in various roles for Members of the U.S .House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the Florida Senate. He also worked in the orange juice production business started by his great grandfather, for Louis Dreyfus Commodities in Brazil, and for a citrus and cattle business in Florida.
Scott holds a JD from the University of Miami, an MBA from the University of Florida, and a BA from Tulane University. He has studied in Costa Rica, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. Scott currently lives in Washington, DC with his wife, daughter and Labrador Retriever. He is admitted to practice law by the Supreme Court of the United States, the District of Columbia and the State of Florida.
Jackie Lohr grew up in a subdivision, but happened into an Ag Leadership Class her senior year in high school. Through a FFA trip she met Steve, who had a passion for farming. The two married and started Endless View Farm in 1996. Today, Endless View Farm includes their 3 boys- William who works off the farm and helps as needed, Jackson, finishing his final year at Virginia Tech and Thomas a high school senior. Both Jackson and Thomas plan to return to the farm after completing college. Endless View Farm raises 280,000 broiler chickens every 6-8 weeks on contract for Pilgrim's, as well as a few beef cattle and about 100 head of sheep.
Jackie currently serves as the Chairman of the Rockingham County School Board and is a champion for Agricultural Education. She spends much of her free time volunteering with the local FFA Chapters, including chaperoning many field trips and helping to coach CDE teams. Recently, she assisted with the Environmental and Natural Resources Team from Virginia, setting up training including a trip to the local landfill to learn about waste management. Jackie enjoys teaching students about the part they play in the environment and helping them to connect to the environment so that they want to protect it. Jackie also works with the local high school on their Chicken Project, where the students raise and process chickens then give the packaged meat to The Good Food Market, a food pantry operated at the school.
Jackie has a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Food Science and Technology from Virginia Tech.
Debbie Lyons-Blythe is a cattle rancher from the Kansas Flint Hills. She and her husband run a registered Angus cowherd, as well as a crossbred herd. In addition they raise 400 heifers that they sell as bred heifers across the nation. Blythe Family Farms is a founding member of the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and Debbie is the immediate past chairman of the board for the group.
profile imageJoe McMahan oversees strategy and initiatives to maintain and enhance Maple Leaf Food’s position as an environmental leader in the protein industry. His work includes leading and developing the team that maintains Maple Leaf Food’s carbon neutrality status, the development of strategy and action plans to meet or exceed the company’s environmental footprint reduction goals, and coordination across the business to manage sustainability-related engagement and communications.
Prior to joining Maple Leaf Foods, McMahan oversaw programs, projects, and partnerships to create and advance the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, a sustainability framework now adopted by over 75% of the U.S. milk supply. Prior to joining the Innovation Center, McMahan was a sustainable agriculture program manager for The Coca-Cola Company, worked in Indonesia on a sustainability-focused project with Mars, Incorporated, and spent four years in East Africa improving livelihoods for smallholder and subsistence farmers.
McMahan holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Auburn University and a master’s in business administration from Duke University focused on sustainability strategy and social enterprise.
Pamela Meyer, PhD
Pamela A. Meyer, Ph.D. is a business agility expert who works with leaders, teams, and organizations around the world that need to be more agile and innovative to compete in a rapidly changing world.
Meyer is the author of five books on agility, innovation, and learning, including her newest award-winning book, Staying in the Game: Leading and Learning with Agility for a Dynamic Future, and The Agility Shift: Creating Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams and Organizations.
A Certified ScrumMaster®, Meyer also helps leaders, teams, and organizations that are adopting agile frameworks, and initiating scaled agile transformations, to make the necessary mindset and practice shifts to energize engagement and realize results.
In addition to working with organizations, Pamela Meyer has two decades of experience teaching business agility, organizational change, and adult learning at DePaul University in Chicago, where she served as founding director of the Center to Advance Education for Adults.
Maggie works with agriculture financial institutions, food and agriculture companies, land grant universities, farmers and more to create an agricultural system that generates climate stability and secure farmer livelihoods. Monast works to quantify the farm financial impacts of climate-smart practice adoption, collaborates with major financial institutions and food companies to develop financial products and other solutions, and identifies policy solutions to facilitate investment and risk management that supports climate-smart agriculture. Maggie has testified to Congress on the agriculture finance sector’s role in reducing climate-related financial risk and serves as co-chair of Field to Market’s Innovative Finance Committee. Read EDF’s reports and blogs on agriculture finance here: https://business.edf.org/farm-finance/.
Maggie began working with EDF in 2011. She holds a master’s degree in Environmental Management with a focus on economics from Duke University and a Bachelors in Economics and Political Science from Tufts University.
Lara Moody is the Institute for Feed Education and Research’s executive director. She provides visionary leadership to the public charity’s activities including program development, strategic partnerships and collaborative resourcing. Working closely with IFEEDER’s Board of Trustees and committee members, she develops and supports resources and efforts to advance the public charity’s research and education mission. Collaborating with the American Feed Industry Association to pursue and communicate the institute’s work, she creates opportunities to engage donors and further the dialogue on important issues impacting the feed industry.
Prior to joining IFEEDER in April 2021, Moody served as the vice president of stewardship and sustainability at The Fertilizer Institute. She also worked in research and extension programs at Iowa State University and the University of Tennessee.
Moody holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering and master’s degree in biosystems engineering from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She can be reached at (703) 650-0148.
Founded in 2009 by the American Feed Industry Association, IFEEDER is a 501 (c)(3) public charity and is a critical link in the ever-evolving food supply chain. Serving as a champion for the animal food industry, IFEEDER supports critical education and research initiatives that ensure consumers have access to a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply. IFEEDER focuses its work in two primary areas: funding critical animal feed and pet food research to support AFIA’s legislative and regulatory positions, and developing appropriate messaging for policymakers, consumer influencers and stakeholders which highlights the industry’s positive contributions to the availability of safe, wholesome and affordable food, and preservation of our natural resources.
Barbara O’Brien has more than 20 years of experience working on behalf of America’s 31,000 dairy farmers and dairy importers, and delivering results globally, nationally and locally. O’Brien is the President & CEO of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), the domestic dairy checkoff program that drives trust and sales of dairy products. In this capacity, she oversees the work of the National Dairy Council, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and GENYOUth Foundation, which raises funds and resources to support youth wellness programming, most notably through its flagship in-school program, Fuel Up to Play 60.
She also serves as President & CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, a pre-competitive forum that advances collaboration among dairy companies, farmers and others in the dairy community to help ensure a socially responsible and economically viable industry in the future.
In her role as President & CEO of the Innovation Center, she has brought together the leadership of 27 dairy companies and organizations to advance pre-competitive efforts and action within key areas like animal welfare, environmental sustainability, hunger and community impact. Under her leadership, 34 companies representing 75% of the U.S. milk supply have signed the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment – dairy’s social responsibility pledge to customers and consumers. That Commitment also helped lay the groundwork for the announcement of U.S. Dairy’s 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals.
O’Brien leads with a results-driven mentality to deliver tangible impacts for farmers from field to fork and positively position U.S. dairy in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Through an evolution of the checkoff business plan, O’Brien created stronger integration and category strategies that have grown the market for America’s dairy farmers, as well as driven increases in positive consumer perceptions around dairy and dairy farming. She is also focused on building a bench of next generation leadership among staff and dairy farmers to ensure the checkoff’s long-term success on behalf of the dairy industry.
Prior to joining DMI, O’Brien directed Burson Marsteller’s Chicago-based healthcare consultancy. During her tenure, she provided executive-level counsel for Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical clients including Procter & Gamble, Dow Corning, Quaker Oats and Abbott Labs, establishing new business strategies for growing clients’ market share. She went on to co-found a healthcare consultancy that served the business and marketing planning needs of Chicago-area hospitals and health systems as well as companies in the medical device, pharmaceutical, food and nutrition segments.
O’Brien is a proud mother of two children and resides in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mark.
Dr. Sara Place is an expert in livestock systems sustainability with over a decade of experience in academia, industry associations, and private industry. Her research focuses on the measurement and mitigation of enteric methane from cattle systems. Prior to CSU, Sara has been the Chief Sustainability Officer at Elanco Animal Health, the senior director for sustainable beef production research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and an assistant professor in sustainable beef cattle systems at Oklahoma State University. She received her PhD in Animal Biology from the University of California, Davis, and a BS in Animal Science from Cornell University. Sara is a native of upstate NY where she grew up on a dairy farm.
Angela Records, Ph.D.
Dr. Angela Records joined the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) as the chief scientific officer in May 2023.
Records has spent more than 20 years pursuing transformational impact, from her work as a plant pathologist to her role at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where she co-founded and led the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security’s Research Community of Practice.
During her time at USAID, Records led a team that drafted the US Government’s Global Food Security Research Strategy (2022-2026), the federal roadmap for supporting food security research initiatives. She further played leading roles in collaborations across U.S. governmental agencies, including serving as the executive secretary of the National Science and Technology Council-led Microbiome Interagency Working Group.
Records has substantial experience planning, operationalizing and managing international research programs and building partnerships across academic and research institutes, the private sector, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, research-for-development donors and other actors toward a shared agenda. She managed 16 multi-year research programs active in more than 38 countries with more than 90 collaborating institutions.
Throughout her career, Records’ work has focused on leveraging science to solve the world’s greatest challenges. She has published dozens of manuscripts, including a book and publications in Science and Nature Microbiology. Her article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as highlighted in the Washington Post, outlines how plant protection must adapt to ensure sustainable crop cultivation in the face of climate change.
Records holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Baylor University, a Master of Science in biological sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and she earned her Doctorate in plant pathology from Texas A&M University, where she studied molecular plant-microbe interactions.
Andy Rodgers, a third-generation dairy farmer from Dearing, Georgia, along with his brother Mark and the Rodger’s family, operate the state’s first robotic dairy. Andy is a graduate of Georgia College holding a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting and has dedicated his time to numerous board positions including serving as President of the American Dairy Association of Georgia, Vice Chairman of The Dairy Alliance Board of Directors, as a director on his local Farm Service Agency board and on the Florida Dairy Farmers Board of Directors. In addition, Rodgers is a deacon at Mount Nebo Primitive Baptist Church.
Hillcrest Farms has produced Grade A milk since 1941, and milks around 330 cows with five Delaval Robotic VMS 300s. All milking cows wear Delaval activity collars that integrate with the robotic computers to supply the herd manager with a vast amount of data. Hillcrest Farms grows corn, sorghum, and ryegrass silage on 800 acres to feed their cows and heifers. They raise all their replacement heifers and have been a closed herd since 1976. The farm has had the state's highest rolling milk production herd average for nine different years. They received the Governor's award for pollution prevention, recently named McDuffie County's Business of the Year and were finalist for the International Dairy Federation Innovation Awards in the subcategory of "Innovation in Sustainable Farming Practices-Socio-Economic" announced at the 2023 World Dairy Summit. Hillcrest Farms is a dedicated supporter of local Agriculture Education and Agritourism and has hosted visitors from 43 states and 38 different countries.
The goal at Hillcrest Farms is to produce the highest quality milk with an emphasis on cow comfort while maintaining quality employees who work together to be sustainable in both our environment and business practices. Recently, they partnered with The Dairy Alliance, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, and Michigan State University on a comprehensive environmental impact study to define the carbon footprint of four small to medium dairy farms in the U.S. Using the COMET farm model which includes forested land managed by the farm, researchers determined Hillcrest Farms to be slightly carbon negative (better than carbon neutral) at the conclusion of the study.
Cristina Rohr is a Managing Director with S2G Ventures. Her work covers a broad spectrum of portfolio companies, with a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability. Cristina's expertise extends from agricultural investments, focusing on genetic advancements, crop protection measures, soil health enhancement, carbon markets, and the integration of digital/IoT technologies, to the management and development of consumer-facing brands.
Before joining S2G Ventures, Cristina was a private equity investor with the Edgewater Funds in Chicago and, prior to that, with First Reserve in London, where she focused on leveraged buyout investments in the natural resources industry. Cristina also previously worked for Citigroup Investment Banking Division in London.
Cristina graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences with a double major in Mathematical and Computational Sciences and Economics. She earned her MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Julia Silberman is the Director of Corporate Engagement, North America for CDP. She leads the Corporate Engagement team which works with the 3500 of the largest companies in North America who are requested to disclose by investors and customers. The team supports companies from their first CDP response and help them progress towards environmental excellence by adopting best practice in environmental management and disclosure. Previously, as a manager on CDP’s Supply Chain team, she worked closely with companies in the consumer goods, information technology and telecom sectors to engage suppliers, reduce the environmental impacts of their supply chain, and achieve their supply chain sustainability goals.
Amy Skoczlas Cole
Over the course of a 25+ year career spanning Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, and foundations, Amy has worked to reimagine the systems that deliver sustainable food, clean water, and low carbon energy to society. Along the way, Skoczlas Cole has pioneered novel solutions to scale market-based approaches through data-driven insights and behavioral science. She currently serves as President at the Farm Journal Company, US agriculture’s leading business intelligence and communications company. There, she leads Trust in Food™, a purpose-driven business division accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture across the US, and America’s Conservation Ag Movement, one of the largest and most diverse public-private partnerships in conservation agriculture’s history. Last year, she launched Trust In Beef, a collaborative value chain program designed to empower ranchers to enact meaningful climate-smart change while connecting with stakeholders on beef’s track record of continuous improvement. Under her leadership, Trust In Food was named as a recipient of a $40 million USDA Climate-Smart Commodities project in September 2022.
Skoczlas Cole joined the Farm Journal Company after serving as managing director of The Water Main, a social impact enterprise of American Public Media Group, which connected with over 8 million Americans to build and measure public will for clean, accessible, affordable water. While there, she launched the groundbreaking farmer to farmer sustainable ag podcast Field Work; the first ever nationally representative study of how Americans think, feel, and take action on water; and In Deep, a solutions journalism program exploring the labyrinth of how our water is cleaned, managed, and delivered from toilet to tap.
Before joining APMG, she was the founder of a strategic advisory firm focused redefining the relationship between people, planet, and the global economy. As part of this work, she served as the founding chair of the Sustainable Growth Coalition, a group of over 30 global businesses and organizations collaborating to drive a circular economy, regenerative and sustainable by design.
Earlier in her career, she served as Vice President, Sustainability for Pentair – a $7-billion global manufacturing company – and Executive Director of the Pentair Foundation. She also served as the first global head of sustainability for eBay, Inc., where she launched several award-winning data-driven consumer “nudge marketing” programs related to low-carbon purchasing.
Skoczlas Cole started her career at Conservation International, where she forged some of the earliest collaborations between environmentalists and consumer goods companies – and learned that humans are rarely completely rational decision-makers. Over the course of 13 years, Amy was a leader in CI’s efforts to design and build best environmental and social practices across key industrial sectors, including global agriculture, forestry, energy, mining, and the built environment. This work took her to threatened ecosystems around the world, from the cloud forests of Mexico to the savannahs of Africa and included a 2 year posting in Brazil.
Skoczlas Cole a frequent speaker and presenter, and is the author of numerous articles and blog posts on regenerative ag, carbon markets, the science of behavioral change, and sustainable development, including co-editor of Footprints in the Jungle, published by Oxford University Press. Cole holds an MBA from George Washington University and a BA in environmental policy from Vanderbilt University. After living and working on both coasts and in Brazil, she now calls Minneapolis, Minn., home, where she lives with her husband, two children and two mischievous dogs.
Emily Andreini Stackhouse
Emily Stackhouse is a research manager in livestock and environment at Alltech. Growing up on a beef and sheep ranch in Northern California developed her interest in livestock industry research, and she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in animal science from Oklahoma State University. Emily earned a Ph.D. from UC Davis, specializing in beef systems management and ruminant nutrition. Her interests focus on measures of sustainability that can broaden the discussion for animal proteins in the diet, such as feed efficiency, water use, human-edible feed conversions, protein quality and GHG emissions.
Samantha Werth, PhD is the Executive Director of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB), a multi-stakeholder initiative developed to advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability of the U.S. beef value chain. In this role, Dr. Werth helps to lead sustainability efforts across the beef industry, working with experts across the beef supply chain to support the vision and mission of USRSB.
Dr. Werth is a native of California, and completed her undergraduate, masters and doctoral studies at the University of California, Davis. Her doctoral studies centered around sustainable beef production and her dissertation was focused on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from beef production as well as understanding the environmental and economic impacts of the beef supply chain.
Shannon and her husband, Rusty, are 1st generation ranchers in Southwest Kansas. Their operation consists of a large commercial angus cow herd and a 1,000 head grow yard spread across 30,000 + acres. The focus has always been on quality in genetics, cattle care and land management. Wharton 3C Cattle was the 2023 Certified Angus Beef LLC Sustainability Award winner.
Shannon earned a BS in animal science from Penn State University, MS in Animal Breeding, University of Kentucky and an MBA, Friends University. Prior to purchasing their current operation, Shannon gained extensive experience in commercial and seedstock production, heifer development and feeding and finishing of value-added beef cattle. She has been involved in the USRSB since 2017.
Russell Williams is a 5th generation West Texas farmer and passionate sustainability professional. On the farm, Russell works to implement practical and sustainable solutions for his large row-crop operation in the Texas panhandle. This gives him keen insight into the realities of sustainability on-the-ground, informing his professional work in the industry. In addition to farming, Russell has twenty years of experience in agriculture policy and business strategy. He has previously worked for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, a long-term New Mexico Senator and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Currently, he works for Bayer Crop Science as the Sustainability Strategy Lead for their US Row Crop organization. Additionally, he shares his practical and professional insight with several agriculture groups and serves on the Innovative Finance Committee at Field to Market.
Russell has a bachelors in International Business from Texas Tech University and an MBA and MA in Government from Johns Hopkins University.
Steve Wittbecker is CoBank’s Chief Sustainability Officer. In this role, Mr. Wittbecker is responsible for leading CoBank’s long-term strategy, development and execution of its Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) policies and practices. He accepted this position in March 2022 after serving as CoBank’s Chief Audit Officer for 10 years, overseeing the bank’s internal audit and asset review functions and working collaboratively with functional leaders across the enterprise. He joined CoBank in 2011, after serving as a Director in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Risk Assurance practice for over eight years. Mr. Wittbecker has a BA in chemistry and a BBA in management information systems from the University of Iowa. He has over 23 years of public accounting, consulting and internal audit experience.