Reading Time: 4 minutes

What’s Next for Ag?
Economics, Politics, and the Conservation Movement

Ray Starling

Ray Starling is back by popular demand. He joined us for our virtual annual meeting in October to discuss agriculture policy and politics, and a few things have happened since that call for a follow-up.

Starling sees the future of ag influenced by economics, the political environment, and trends around sustainability. He will speak to Summit attendees Thursday morning about what to expect as these forces converge.

Starling has been the General Counsel for a state department of agriculture, a staffer on the U.S. Senate Ag Committee, Chief of Staff to a U.S. Senator, and joined the White House in 2017 as special assistant to the president for agricultural policy.

Starling grew up on his family farm in North Carolina, an experience he characterized as having the greatest influence on his life.

Starling will speak at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Farmers Buying Behaviors and Beliefs

Michael Bird, Spindustry, and Susan Baier, Audience Audit

Michael Bird and Susan Baier will discuss results of an extensive survey examining how farmers make their buying decisions, including whether they have changed their approach since the start of the pandemic, what resources they tap when considering buying equipment, and their likes and dislikes around product searches online, in person and through print media.

Bird is CEO of Spindustry, a premier digital agency focused on e-commerce, SharePoint portals and enterprise websites. He is also is the author of two books and a frequent speaker at regional and national events. He’s been named CIO of the Year in Iowa and oversees a company that the Des Moines Register rated a top spot to work in Iowa.

Spindustry has provided services to hundreds of clients including Westendorf Manufacturing, General Mills, Whirlpool, and Tyson.

He will be joined on stage Thursday morning by Susan Baier, who is an audience and marketing strategist and researcher with Audience Audit. Baier is one of the most sought-after attitudinal segmentation researchers in the U.S.

She offers a unique and insightful approach to quantitative research and helps organizations better understand their customers and prospects based not on their demographics or company profiles but on their attitudes about buying.

Baird speaks at national marketing conferences and has been featured on Duct Tape Marketing, Jason Swenk’s Smart Agency Master Class, Convince & Convert, and HubSpot. Audience Audit has provided original custom attitudinal audience segmentation studies for hundreds of clients.

Bird and Baier will speak at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday.

Never the Same: Work Norms Post-COVID

Michael Bird, Mike Gonnerman, and Shaunna Jones

Join experts on human resources, sales and marketing, and manufacturing operations to hear how they envision the future when the dust settles from the pandemic. After this 60-minute panel discussion, each speaker will lead 60-minute conversations in breakout groups.

Spindustry’s Michael Bird, part of the duo leading the buying behaviors session on Thursday, will return on Friday morning to discuss sales and marketing post-COVID.

Joining Bird will be Mike Gonnerman, who is on a mission to help manufacturers compete and grow.  As vice president of Mastering Excellence and an alliance partner of Kansas Manufacturing Solutions, Mike works shoulder to shoulder with manufacturers to improve their operational and production processes. 

He has the unique perspective of an engineer’s training with the experience of working in manufacturing companies for over 25 years, including as COO for an aggressively growing manufacturer who expanded from one location to ten locations and increased employee size tenfold. His six sigma and lean sigma black belt achievements provide him the opportunity to lead continuous improvement teams and activities in companies ranging from 40 employees to 5,000.

Rounding out the panel will be Shaunna Jones from K·Coe Isom. As the leader of K·Coe Isom’s HR consulting team, Jones and her team support the crucial culture efforts of HR and business leadership effectiveness.

Jones brings more than twenty years of experience in human resources, coaching and operations leadership in the healthcare, technology, hospitality and not-for-profit industries. She understands and seeks to bring into balance the qualitative and quantitative sides of people at work. She will discuss changes in our workplaces as we move forward.

This panel will be Friday at 9:00 a.m.

Tillage Council: Smart Implements & Data; Creating Value in 2021 and Beyond

Michael Gomes, Topcon Agriculture

Gomes is vice president of business development IoT for Topcon Agriculture. He is a co-inventor on patents for aspects of auto steering, sensors and user interface and a founding board member of the Ag Data Coalition. Gomes will offer an overview of the digitization of agriculture and how sensors, specifically in the tillage process, can create value for manufacturers, dealers and farmers.

The Tillage Council meets at 8:00 a.m. Friday.