Food & Ag Summit to feature expert panels

LOVELAND — Experts and thought leaders from Colorado’s agriculture and natural-foods organizations and companies will discuss issues and trends affecting their industries on March 30 at BizWest’s inaugural Food and Ag Summit, to be held March 30 in Loveland.

The all-day event will feature more than two dozen speakers who will discuss financing, finding talent, global trade, regenerative agriculture, technology issues, immigration challenges and the pros and cons of using and labeling genetically modified organisms.

Devin Koontz, lead health communications specialist for the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Regulatory Affairs in Denver, will focus on the Food Safety Modernization Act, offering an overview of the legislation and its implementation periods, a discussion of how it’s affecting food and agribusiness companies, and guidance about what to focus on.

One panel at the summit will discuss the challenges and strategies ag and natural-organic companies have for finding the right people at the right price. Panelists will include Aileen Rickert Ehn, agriculture department chair at Aims Community College’s Fort Lupton campus; Peggy Shell, founder and chief executive of Creative Alignments; Courtney Walter, on the organizational-development team at JBS USA in Greeley; and Dr. Wayne Dorband, founder and CEO of the Center for Ecolonomic Excellence and Development.

Immigration traditionally is a top-of-mind issue for agriculture interests in Northern Colorado. The current debate and issues, as well as how the industry could be affected by state, congressional and presidential action, will be discussed in a panel including Noa Roman-Muniz, associate professor of dairy-management systems at Colorado State University; Michael Hirakata, co-owner of Hirakata Farms in Rocky Ford; Susan Moore, co-owner of La Luna Dairy in Wellington; and Joe Petrocco, who owns Petrocco Farms in Brighton.

How do local companies find the money they need to grow their businesses? The issues of raising money and identifying the key players will be probed by a panel including David Haynes, managing director of Greenmont Capital; Robert Heilbronner, managing director of Integris; Peter Martin, finance and growth consultant for event sponsor KCoe Isom; Anne Misak, Healthy Foods program manager for the Colorado Enterprise Fund; and Kathay Rennels, associate vice president for engagement at CSU.

Large agribusinesses are important players in global trade, and a panel will offer predictions about what regional businesses can expect from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other global-trade initiatives. On that panel will be Amanda (Leister) Countryman, an assistant professor of agriculture and resource economics at CSU; Mark Gustafson, an international consultant who recently retired from JBS USA: and Tom Lipetzky, director of marketing programs and strategic initiates at the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

The issue of soil conservation is important to both farmers and the natural- and organic-foods sectors. A panel on regenerative agriculture will include Rich Conant, a professor in CSU’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability; Steven Hoffman, owner of Compass Natural Marketing; Emily Johannes, sustainability and ResourceMax manager for KCoe Isom; Hunter Lovins, founder and president of Natural Capitalism Solutions; and Matt Wallenstein o f CSU’s natural-resources ecology lab.

Users of the region’s emerging agricultural technology products will discuss how new technology products are being applied. That panel will include Haley Harms, president of ProTill; Carlotta Mast, executive director of New Hope Natural Media and president-elect of  Naturally Boulder; Weston McCary, an agricultural-technology instructor at Aims Community College; and Tom McKinnon, founder and chief technology officer at Agribotix.

Debating the hot-button issue of GMOs will be CSU professor Patrick Byrne, Colorado Corn Growers Association board president Dave Eckhart, Compass Natural Marketing owner Steve Hoffman and Rebekah Lyle, director of marketing for White Wave’s Silk plant-based foods and beverages.

The summit, to be held at The Ranch’s First National Bank building, 5280 Arena Circle, also will offer networking with producers and providers.

Registration for $49 can be made online.  Admission will cost $59 at the door.

Contact Sandy Powell at 970-232-3144 or for information about sponsorship, vendor booths and corporate tables.