America's largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention & trade show.

Learning Center Sessions

In-depth discussions of current issues and topics that have a direct impact on your farm. Sessions are led by industry experts and fellow farmers. Topics include production, soil health, new uses, policy, the future of farming, marketing, weather and more. Offered on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.





8:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

The Ag Economy Barometer: Lessons from 2017 and Strategies for 2018
Sponsored by Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture



Jason Henderson, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Director, Purdue Extension;
James Mintert, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, and Director, Center for
     Commercial Agriculture, Purdue University;
Fred Seamon, Managing Director, CME Group;
David Widmar, Senior Research Associate, Center for Commercial Agriculture, Purdue University


Crop budgets and commodity prices in early 2017 were a near repeat of the tough financial conditions producers faced at the beginning of 2016. However, producers were more optimistic in early 2017. From attendance at land auctions to activity at equipment dealerships, anecdotal evidence early in 2017 hinted that producers were hopeful about what 2017, and beyond, had in store.


In this session, a panel of experts from Purdue University and CME Group will share the key lessons from 2017 and help producers plan for the financial realities of 2018. It will feature the latest data from the Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer, providing an update on producers’ management plans and expectations for 2018.





9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Locking in Your Legacy: What to Anticipate in Ag 2028

Sponsored by Syngenta



Aaron Deardorff, Head of Digital Agriculture Solutions North America, Syngenta;
David Hollinrake, President, Syngenta Seeds, LLC;
Jerry Welch, Publisher of Commodity Insight;
Vern Hawkins, President of Syngenta Crop Protection Inc.


Growers have experienced significant changes in their farming operations over the years. From changing pest pressures and unpredictable weather conditions, to precision planting and new technologies, farming today isn’t the same today as it was 10 years ago. Experts who study farming trends and technologies predict even more dramatic changes in agriculture in the next decade. What will the scope of farming look like in the future? This session will explore the factors — like weed resistance, ecological changes and high-tech solutions — and identify the key strategies and transformative technologies in the pipeline that growers can use to ensure their farms are set for a more long-term, successful future. 





2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

MAIN STAGE: Learning Center Session: Power to the Plant–Set Record Yields For Your Farm

Sponsored by StollerUSA


Panelists: Kris Ehler, Crop Specialist, Ehler Brothers Company in Thomasboro, Ill.;
JR Bollinger, farmer from Sikeston, Mo.;
Casey Hook, farmer from Lake City, Ark.


Focus on how growers can proactively direct crop development to reach record yields for their farms. Among the diverse group of panelists will be Kris Ehler, of Ehler Brothers Company in Thomasboro, Ill., a pioneer in early planted soybeans who has helped one of his growers achieve 100+ bushel soybeans the past two years; and JR Bollinger, of Sikeston, Mo., who has won six state corn and sorghum yield titles over the past three years. The session will feature audience participation and be moderated by Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Ken Root.






11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

MAIN STAGE: Learning Center Session: Harnessing the Power of Digital to Solve Agriculture’s Most Complex Challenges

Sponsored by DuPont


Speakers: Sid Gorham, CEO, Granular, Inc. and Digital Agriculture Leader, DuPont;
Lane Arthur, Director, Digital Solutions, John Deere;
Trey Hill, Owner/Manager, Harborview Farms, Maryland;
Ryan Bergman, Agricultural Sourcing Senior Manager, The Dannon Company, Inc.


Discussion of the benefits of data-driven agriculture—connecting growers, input, technology, equipment and service providers, public and private data, and other stakeholders to improve the sustainability, productivity and livelihoods of those who produce food and agricultural products, as well as consumers and users of these products. Attendees will gain a better understanding of the digital landscape and opportunities for engagement.



12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Grain Markets and The Hotel California

Sponsored by DTN/The Progressive Farmer


 Speaker: Darin Newsom, Senior Analyst, DTN/The Progressive Farmer


Grain markets seem to have checked into someplace they like. A place they can never leave. Increasing global stocks and tentative world trade agreements continue to hold grain prices near multi-year lows, looking for a passage back to the place they were before. Attendees to this session will gain a better understanding of market structure, market types, and how all of this intertwines with standard supply and demand information.





Ag Technology: Shaping the Now and the Future of Farming

Sponsored by WinField United


Jim Hedges, Senior Director of Strategy and Insights, WinField United;
Joel Wipperfurth, Ag Technology Applications Lead, WinField United


Ag technology is an investment, but the risk of not adopting it could be more costly. Farmers have access to advancing technology such as in-season satellite imagery, tissue sampling data analysis, forecasting and modeling tools and spray drift monitoring, among other precision agriculture tools. Ag technology gives farmers complete access to a year-round look at their fields to help them develop precise, individualized crop management strategies and make in-season decisions to produce and protect maximum yield potential. This session will provide a state of the ag tech industry update and lend insight into how future innovations will shape the tools available to farmers and their operations.





Leaving a Legacy on Your Farm through the Soil

Sponsored by Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) Program; NACHURS; The Fertilizer Institute


Tom Connors, 2016 4R Advocate and Grower from Shipman, Illinois;
Dale Cowan, 2016 International Certified Crop Adviser of the Year, 4R Nutrient Management Specialist, Senior Agronomist for AGRIS and Wanstead Cooperatives from Ontario, Canada


The intersection of soil health, 4R (Right fertilizer source, at the Right rate, at the Right time and in the Right place) nutrient management, and conservation practices: learn how these stewardship programs work together as a system. “Just one” is not the answer!


You are not alone in this long-term process of ensuring your farm’s future for generations to come. A Certified Crop Adviser can help you plan and implement the agronomic practices that keep nutrients in your field, improve crop yields, and increase on-farm profit. Learn more about the nutrient management specialty along with some nutrient management strategies. The 2018 recipient of the International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) of the Year Award will be recognized during this session. The award celebrates outstanding individual proficiency and industry leadership.





1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Hot Topics from Our Nation’s Capital 2018

Sponsored by John Deere


Speakers: Mary Kay Thatcher, Former Senior Director of Congressional Affairs for American Farm Bureau Federation;
Rob Larew, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications, National Farmers Union

Moderator: Sara Wyant, President, Agri-Pulse Communications


This panel of DC insiders will discuss what is certain to be a game-changing year in Washington. Will Congress finish the Farm Bill reauthorization before it expires in September? How will low commodity prices affect decision-making? What new issues will emerge and surprise us all? This highly ranked “hot topics” panel will cover all of the issues farmers are talking about and what decision makers are doing about them. Join us to hear about Washington policies that will affect your farming operation in 2018 and beyond!





Practical Approaches for Cover Crops and Soil Health

Sponsored by North Dakota Corn Council; North Dakota Soybean Council; North Dakota Wheat Commission



Panelists: Lee Briese, Independent Crop Consultant with Centrol Ag in North Dakota and 2017 International Certified Crop Advisor of the Year;
Dr. Caley Gasch, Assistant Professor of Soil Health, North Dakota State University (NDSU);
Mitch Hoenhause, Farmer from North Dakota;
Terry Wehlander, Farmer and North Dakota Corn Council Treasurer

Moderator: Dr. Abbey Wick, Assistant Professor of Soil Health-Extension, NDSU


Practical approaches for incorporating soil health building practices need to consider climate, soil type, rotation, herbicide program, fertility, yield, timing and equipment – there is nothing simple about this system! This is why it can be overwhelming to get started with using some of these practices. North Dakota consultants and farmers along with NDSU research and extension will use a panel format to share how we are using these practices along with the thought process behind why we choose specific cover crop mixes or tillage practices. We’ll also talk about ideas for equipment modifications.





Consider Corn Challenge

Sponsored by National Corn Growers Association (NCGA)


Amie Gianino, Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President of Market Development, NCGA;
Jim Bauman, Director of Market Development, NCGA;
Nathan Danielson, Principal, BioCognito


Discussion of NCGA’s “Consider Corn Challenge”,  an open innovation contest designed to identify new ways to convert corn and/or existing products made from corn into economically viable bio-sustainable chemicals. The contest was open to U.S. and internationally based submissions to identify ideas with the most potential to add future incremental corn grind. NCGA will publicly announce winning submissions for the first time during this session, along with background information on each project. Learn about new and potential growth opportunities for corn within the bio-sustainable chemical industry.





3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

What’s a Guy Gotta Do to Get a Drought Around Here?

Sponsored by DTN/The Progressive Farmer


Speaker: Bryce Anderson, Senior Agriculture Meteorologist, DTN/The Progressive Farmer


While some areas had rough weather events in 2017, crop conditions were generally favorable. Will we see a seventh season of generally good weather, and high crop production, in 2018? Come hear the latest expectations for spring planting and the growing season, plus an update on weather conditions for grain production regions around the globe.


Anderson and the DTN weather team build crop forecasts based on public weather and commercially available data and the company’s network of some 5,000 on-farm weather stations. They continue to lead the nation on discerning what early weather pattern signs spell for crop conditions, and market prices, in the U.S. and around the globe.





Around the World With U.S. Soy

Sponsored by U.S. Soybean Export Council


Jim Sutter, CEO, USSEC;
Rosalind Leeck, Director, Market Access, USSEC


Learn about the importance of U.S. soy exports. What are the tactics and strategies that the U.S. soy industry uses to create a preference for U.S. soy? Sixty percent of the soybean crop goes overseas. This year, more than 68 million metric tons of U.S. soy from our 569,998 soybean farmers will reach international markets. Serving over 80 countries around the world, our customers choose U.S. soy for our exceptional composition, consistent supply, sustainable farming practices, and innovation. Join us on the journey of U.S. soy.





From Farm Field to Capitol Hill: Implementing and Advocating for the Right Practices

Sponsored by The Fertilizer Institute



Grant Strom, 4R Advocate and Producer from Dahinda, Ill.;
Adam Dexter, Certified Crop Adviser and 4R Advocate;
Clark Mica, Vice President Legislative Affairs, The Fertilizer Institute;
Ashley Maybanks, Government Relations Coordinator, Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy


Whether it is the Farm Bill, state legislation or local watershed plans, as constituents, farmers are the best advocates to ensure the right policies are in place for agriculture. But, to be a good advocate you need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Good advocates take action, both in the field by implementing the right practices and on Capitol Hill by working to educate policymakers. Join us to hear from a panel of experts on how pairing conservation and advocacy through 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right fertilizer source, at the Right rate, at the Right time and in the Right place) can benefit your entire bottom line.






Thursday, March 1


8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

The Rise of Rural America: What’s on the Horizon

Sponsored by Farm Credit



Speakers: Brian Cavey, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, CoBank;
Gary Matteson, Vice President of Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach, Farm Credit Council


The 2016 election shined a light on Rural America and the issues affecting it. What’s it going to take to rebuild Rural America? How do we address the economic divide? This session will address how policy and public/private funding efforts can affect rural America now, while securing the future for agriculture and the rural communities it calls home. Our speakers will bring a unique perspective not only on policy, but also how rural America is impacting the future for young and beginning farmers. The session will focus on solutions and ways to impact the future of agriculture and rural America.





The Ultimate Watch List for 2018 Grain Marketing

Sponsored by Stewart-Peterson



Speaker: Naomi Blohm, Senior Market Analyst, Stewart-Peterson


Join veteran Senior Market Analyst Naomi Blohm as she explains the nine grain marketing fundamentals you need to watch as you prepare to price your corn, soybeans, sorghum and wheat. She’ll incorporate various futures and options strategies you can use (and understand) to supplement your marketing plan, leaving you more confident than ever before regardless of which grain marketing scenarios unfold.





The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund:  How Growers Can Support Honeybee Health and Monarch Recovery

Sponsored by National Corn Growers Association (NCGA)



Speaker: Peter Berthelsen, President at Conservation Blueprint, LLC and Partnership Coordinator for the Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund


NCGA is working with The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund to recruit growers into conservation programs aimed at increasing habitat for pollinators and Monarchs—and helping mitigate criticism of production agriculture as an influence on colony collapse disorder and declines in Monarch populations. Early results of the Honey Bee Health Coalition’s “Bee Integrated” program will be shared. Growers will learn about eligibility for pollinator pilot programs to enhance their Conservation Reserve Program.





Six Secrets to Producing High Yielding Soybeans

Sponsored by Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program



Speaker: Fred Below, Ph.D., Professor of Plant Physiology & Principal Investigator, University of Illinois


Dr. Fred Below will present research results on “The Six Secrets of Soybean Success”, a concept focused on identifying strategies for producing high-yield soybeans. The results come from research he has conducted since 2012 with funding from the Illinois Soybean Association Checkoff Program and other industry partners. The Six Secrets approach demonstrates how growers can bring together technologies and management practices for increasing soybean yields based on which combinations deliver the greatest yield and return on investment. Additionally, Dr. Below will share key insights on variety selection and supplemental nitrogen application on soybeans.





10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

MAIN STAGE: Learning Center Session: The Future of Pest Control


Sponsored by United Soybean Board


Carl Bradley, Extension Professor, Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky;
Dawn Refsell, U.S. Herbicide Resistance Action Committee/Valent;
Christy Sprague, Professor and Weed Extension Specialist, Michigan State University;
Meagan Kaiser, United Soybean Board farmer-leader from Bowling Green, MO
Herbicide resistance. Fungicide resistance. Insecticide resistance. One after the other has shown up in headlines in recent years, making farming more challenging across the United States. How will management practices have to change to regain control of problem soybean pests? Hear what pest resistance experts expect to see change in soybean management over the next decade in this session sponsored by the soy checkoff and Take Action: Pesticide Resistance Management.





10:00 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

MAIN STAGE: Learning Center Session: Take Action on Pesticide Resistance – Management Strategies for 2018 and Beyond

Sponsored by United Soybean Board


Take Action is a farmer-focused education platform designed to help farmers manage herbicide, fungicide and insecticide resistance. Hear from the Take Action program on the latest strategies for technology stewardship and managing resistance development to herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.



1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Closing Learning Center Session

Learn From the Masters

Sponsored by AgriGold



Speakers: Randy Dowdy, Farmer from Ga., and NCGA Corn Yield Champion & current
     Soybean World Record Holder;

Dan Luepkes, Farmer from IIl., and NCGA Corn Yield Champion;

Perry Galloway, Farmer from Ark., and NCGA Corn and Soybean Yield Champion;

Terry Vissing, Farmer from Ind. and NCGA Corn and Sorghum Yield Champion


The most successful growers have more in common than just the high-yielding seed they use. That’s because they all know maximizing their acres is a team effort. That it takes a combination of the best genetics, know-how, and true partnership to be a Yield Master.  If you are interested and committed to trying something new and willing to be a student of the crop, you are invited to attend this Yield Master panel and learn from some of the nation’s top growers and their approach to growing high-yielding crops. Join us for this Closing Learning Center Session that will leave you inspired, informed and ready to Grow Beyond!