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MANKATO, Minn.  MN AG EXPO returns to the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center in Mankato on Jan. 18 and 19.  With a variety of presentations and large exhibit hall, the Expo seeks to generate meaningul conversations among the agriculture community. 

“We’ve been working hard over the past year to find new ways to engage with our industry and think differently about how to hold a dynamic trade show in 2023,” said Joe Smentek, executive director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. “Our team has collaborated with our industry partners and sponsors to create a show that the farming community can learn from and have fun with.” 

More than 80 exhibitors and vendors will be on the trade show floor, covering topics and business that matter to agriculture — from research to regulations to financial experts.

Panelists and breakout sessions will address issues related to carbon credits; the upcoming Farm Bill; agriculture education; farm safety; and nitrogen and water quality.

Legislative and agency leaders, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen, are once again expected to attend MN AG EXPO and visit with farmer-leaders and exhibitors.  

“Minnesota Corn Growers Association is thrilled to participate once again in the annual MN AG EXPO in January,” said Minnesota Corn Executive Director Adam Birr. “Our board, council and staff are looking forward to connecting with current and potential members to share the exciting projects we have in store for 2023 — our 45th anniversary year.” 

 The Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which co-sponsors MN AG EXPO, and Minnesota Soybean Growers Association are holding their annual meetings and finalizing 2023 policy resolutions on Jan. 18 and Jan. 19, respectively. 

“The grassroots resolution process is very important to what we do at MSGA,” President Bob Worth said. “Those policies are our guidebook for the year and help us when we meet with the American Soybean Association during their meeting at Commodity Classic.” 

Minnesota Soybean’s booth in the exhibit hall will house the latest soybean checkoff innovations and MSGA’s 2023 policy initiatives. On EXPO eve on Jan. 17, MSGA welcomes directors and industry supporters to its hospitality suite at Mankato’s Hilton Garden Inn. The suite is sponsored by Chevron Renewable Energy Group, MEG Corp and Profinium. MSGA will also hold its annual fundraiser Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Loose Moose Salon in Mankato. This year’s event is “EXPO After Hours: Sports Carnival.” For $25, attendees can support MSGA’s political action committee – a program that directs funds toward candidates who have supported farm-friendly policies – by playing games, visiting with farmer-directors, industry leaders and bidding on live silent auction items.  

“What’s really fun about EXPO is we’re all gathering together as a community and preparing for the year ahead,” Worth said. 

Expo attendees can learn what researchers are discovering about new uses for corn, meet Minnesota Corn board and council members at the trade show and network with growers from all over the state. MCGA’s resolution session begins Jan. 18 at 9 a.m., followed immediately by its annual meeting. MCGA is also holdings its annual silent auction and reception Jan. 18 at 4 p.m., followed by dinner and guest speaker, National Corn Growers Association lobbyist Tom Sell, who will deliver a legislative lay of the land in Washington, D.C.  

Attendance is free at MN AG EXPO, but registration is required to ensure free meals. Registration runs through Jan. 6. Learn more by visiting mnagexpo.com.    

MN Ag Expo speakers scheduled to appear:

Jeff Allerson — Jeff grew up on a dairy farm in rural Nicollet County, where he now lives with his wife and two children, who are now sixth generation living on the family farm.  Jeff has worked in the community health industry for the past 10 years and has presented across Minnesota focusing on community health improvement.  This work includes educating communities about the importance of CPR and early interventions — specifically in a rural setting.

Matt Berger Recognizing the importance farmers, agricultural businesses, community banks and other small businesses play in supporting and sustaining rural communities, Matt has focused his practice on serving and protecting the interests of these businesses. Matt, a partner at Gislason & Hunter, regularly represents these clients in administrative and regulatory proceedings, civil litigation and appeals, involving a variety of disputes, including environmental and permitting issues, land use and zoning issues, contractual disputes, corporate governance and shareholder rights and collection and bankruptcy.Outside of the courtroom, Matt assists clients with issues involving business formation and governance, acquisitions and sales, financing, regulatory compliance, food safety and animal welfare, marketing, trademarks and other transactions and business issues.

Brad Carlson — Brad Carlson is an educator with University of Minnesota Extension.  His work focuses on nutrient management, water quality and precision agriculture.  He grew up on a small farm north of Janesville in Waseca County.  He has a bachelor’s degree in Soil Science from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and a master’s degree in Soil Science with a minor in agronomy from the University of Minnesota. 

Shelley DePestel — DePestel’s family farm in rural Lewiston is now operated by a fourth generation. The operation milks 1,500 cows and farms 1,800 acres of corn and 800 acres of alfalfa. DePestels also utilize about 800 acres of pasture. 

DePestel is currently serving her second year as Minnesota Milk Producers Association president and has been on the board for 12 years.

Leif Fixen — Leif Fixen is the North America Agriculture Strategy Manager for The Nature Conservancy.  He leads TNC’s Farmer Advisor Strategy, working closely with agribusinesses on issues related to water quality, soil health, and natural climate solutions.  Prior to joining TNC, Leif was the Pacific Northwest Conservation Program Manager for American Farmland Trust where he focused on devising and implementing strategies and programs for increasing the voluntary adoption of conservation practices by farmers and ranchers.  Fixen grew up on a small farm near Brookings S.D. and holds a degree in Agronomy and Forestry from South Dakota State University.   

Drew Kessler — Drew Kessler is a principal and agribusiness sector lead at Houston Engineering. Prior to joining Houston Engineering, he completed a Ph.D. in Water Resources at the University of Minnesota. At Houston Engineering, Drew leads a group of scientists and engineers that deliver projects focused on water quality and climate resiliency.  

Sue Knott Sue Knott’s agriculture roots were established on her family’s farm in southwestern Minnesota.  Experiences in 4-H, FFA and helping raise crops and livestock, inspired her to earn a degree in agricultural education from the University of Minnesota. She taught high school Agricultural for nine years before joining the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom team in 2012 as an Education Specialist.  Sue trains K-12 educators and college/university students who are preparing to become K-12 educators. She works with educators to increase their comfort and confidence in utilizing agricultural content to enhance their curriculum.

Marrisa Nehlsen — Nehlsen is the founder and CEO of Freedom Financial Group. Over her 29 year career she serves her clients through her holistic planning firm based on the core principles to educate, empower and equip individuals, organizations and businesses to make wise choices.

Tom Olson — Tom Olson is the board chair of the Minnesota Beef Council. He is responsible for leading the 16-person board to provide oversight, input, and approval of checkoff-funded projects administered through the MBC. Tom along with his wife Erin and son Levi, work on their operation in Williams, Minn., near the Canadian border. Olson is a third-generation rancher and farmer on their century farm where cattle have long been a part of it. Tom is also the president of Northwestern Stockmen’s Association and is also a member of both the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 

Tom Sell — In his role as founder and manager of Combest, Sell & Associates, Sell provides guidance and management, fosters strong relationships with influential leaders in Congress and the Administration, and leads client development efforts.

A native of West Texas, Sell is a licensed member of the State Bar of Texas. He and his wife, Kyla, reside in Lubbock, Texas and have four children. He remains active in his family’s farm and ranch operation.

Christy Seyfert — As Executive Director of Government Affairs, Christy Seyfert leads the American Soybean Association’s Washington, D.C., office. In this role, she directs and implements policy strategy and manages policy staff. She joined ASA in October 2019. Seyfert served as congressional staff on Capitol Hill for nearly 13 years before joining the private sector. This included roles with the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, and members of the Georgia congressional delegation.

Seyfert has a degree in agriculture and food science from the University of Georgia.

Keri Sidle — Sidle discovered her passion for agricultural education while serving as an ambassador for the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida. She helped open two new agricultural education programs at public schools in suburban areas during her six years of teaching. Seyfert and her husband Dan relocated to Minnesota in 2014 and she joined MAITC in 2016. She has extensive experience with virtual program delivery and promotion. She enjoys supporting teachers throughout Minnesota as they look to incorporate agriculture into their academic content areas.

Pamela Stahlke — Raised on a small-town Wisconsin farm, Stahlke serves farmers in her home region of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa as the Director of the USDA Risk Management Agency’s St. Paul Regional Office.  She graduated from UW-River Falls with a degree in Agricultural Education, has worked in the ag industry for over 15 years and spent more than a decade at USDA.  Her experience includes serving as a County Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency in Minnesota, working in Washington, D.C. modernizing program delivery for FSA, and working for the RMA national office writing crop insurance policy and procedure.  She also worked in the field for a private crop insurance company and served as a high school agriculture teacher and FFA advisor in rural Wisconsin. 

Kent Thiese — Kent Thiesse is a farm management analyst and currently serves as senior vice president and chief ag loan officer for MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal, Minn. He has a Masters and Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from the University of Minnesota. Kent writes a weekly column distributed to several Midwest agriculture publications and web sites, as well as to a large weekly e-mail list. In addition, Thiesse serves as the coordinator for the feature forums at Farmfest each year.

Ann Marie Ward — Ward grew up in Michigan on a hobby farm. Her work in youth and community development began in 1989 and has continued to blend her passion for education and agriculture through career transitions from Midland Intermediate School District, PBS Ready to Learn Outreach Services, University of Minnesota Extension Youth Development 4-H and the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc. Foundation. Working with the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom team to create opportunities to empower educators to infuse agriculture into their classrooms is a driving mission. 

Gary Wertish — Gary Wertish was elected Minnesota Farmers Union President in a special election in January 2017. He and his wife Jeanne have four grown children and four grandchildren. He ran a diversified grain and livestock farm and now assists his son Tom operating their family farm near Renville. Wertish is a member of the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Grains, Feed, Oilseeds and Planting Seeds. From 2001 to 2007, Wertish also served as Sen. Mark Dayton’s Agricultural Director. He has served on MFU and NFU policy committees and as an MFU field representative and Renville County President.

Colleen Willard — Colleen Willard currently serves as Director of Public Policy at the National Corn Growers Association, where she is responsible for lobbying Congress and the Executive Branch on conservation, environmental and crop protection issues.

Willard earned a law degree from Charleston School of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing, with a minor in Legal Studies, from Clemson University. She is admitted to the bar in the State of Maryland.

Hailing from Poolesville, Maryland, her family farms corn, wheat, soybeans and sorghum and owns and operates Willard Agri-Service, a company providing crop nutrition, crop protectants and agronomic services to the Mid-Atlantic region.

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