March summit focuses on organic, traditional ag

Colorado’s natural and organic sector has sprung out of the Boulder Valley, with national brands such as Celestial Seasonings, White Wave and many others cementing the region as a center of healthy foods, with brands that have stood the test of time and consumer tastes.

At the same time, Weld County in Northern Colorado ranks in the top five or six among counties nationally as a center for traditional agriculture. Think JBS, Agrium and many other producers and processors.

Overlap occurs with companies such as Boulder-based Aurora Organic Dairy, which operates a large dairy in Platteville in Weld County. Many other cross-county-line examples exist as well, with an increasing number of natural and organic companies in Larimer and Weld counties such as Meyer Natural Angus LLC in Loveland and Noosa Yoghurt in Bellvue.

Agricultural and natural-food companies share many concerns or dilemmas, including implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, attraction of skilled executives and workers, raising money, trade issues, use of new technologies and the bridging practice of regenerative agriculture. An area of continued disagreement is in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Exploring areas of agreement and disagreement among agricultural and natural/organic companies is the purpose of the inaugural Food & Ag Summit, taking place March 30 at the Ranch events complex in Loveland. The event will include dozens of speakers on a variety of panels and is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

This event is intended to:

• Provide education and cutting-edge information on new technologies and trends industrywide.

• Enable producers and product companies to network.

• Encourage discussion and collaboration on opportunities and challenges for ag and natural-foods executives.

• Provide a forum for respectful debate of areas of disagreement, such as GMOs.

Leading the discussion on the Food Safety Modernization Act will be keynote speaker Devin Koontz, lead communications specialist for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Regulatory Affairs and Communications. This will be a must-hear presentation for anyone in the food business, including an overview of the act, implementation periods, what to focus on now and how it is affecting food and agribusiness companies.

Panel discussions will also be held on The Search for Talent, Immigration Challenges, Financing, Global Trade, Regenerative Ag and Technology Trends.

Rounding out the day will be the GMO Debate, a panel discussion featuring Dr. Patrick Byrne, a soil and crop-sciences professor at Colorado State University; Dave Eckhart, board president with the Colorado Corn Growers Association; Steve Hoffman, owner of Compass Natural Marketing; and Rebekah Lyle, director of marketing, Silk plant-based foods and beverages, White Wave.

The Food & Ag Summit is sponsored by KCoe Isom. Registration is available at www.bizwest.com.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwestmedia.com.

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