Event Speakers

Confirmed 2018 speakers, include the following:

Keynote Speaker Biography: Roger Watchorn

WatchornRoger Watchorn is the Group Leader Cargill Agriculture Supply Chain North America (CASCNA). Watchorn and the Senior Leadership team are responsible for setting the culture and strategic direction for the domestic & export grain, oilseed processing, crop inputs, biodiesel, and Cargill Marine & Terminals businesses in Canada, USA and Mexico. Prior to this role, he worked as President and Business Unit leader for the Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain business in North America.  

Watchorn joined Cargill's Commodity Marketing Division as a merchant trainee in 1994. He held various merchandising and management positions with GOSCNA in western Canada, Fargo, North Dakota, and Wichita, Kansas, before moving to his family to join the Animal Nutrition platform (CAN) in Warsaw Poland in 2008.  Within CAN, he held the roles of assistant general manager and general manager in Poland and returned to the USA to become a part of the Provimi acquisition and integration from June 2011 through August 2013. In September 2013, he was named as the global risk management & sourcing director until being BU president in November 2014.

Watchorn enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 children doing various activities such as boating, golf, and being a major fan of his kids’ sporting events. Their family also loves to travel whenever possible.

Watchorn received a bachelor's degree in business administration at Brandon University in Brandon, MB, Canada. Watchorn is originally from Brandon, MB. 

Dr. Robert Johansson

Dr. Robert Johansson serves as the Chief Economist at the Department of Agriculture (USDA).  He has served in this role since July 2015.  As Chief Economist, he is responsible for the Department's agricultural forecasts and projections and for advising the Secretary of Agriculture on economic implications of alternative programs, regulations, and legislative proposals.  He is responsible for the Office of the Chief Economist, the World Agricultural Outlook Board, the Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit analysis, the Climate Change Program Office, the Office of Environmental Markets, the Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, and the Office of Pesticide Management Policy.

Dr. Johansson received B.A. in economics from Northwestern University and then served with the U.S. Peace Corps as an extension agent in several African countries from 1990 to 1995.  After returning to his home State of Minnesota, he entered the graduate program in Agricultural Economics at the University of Minnesota at received his M.S. in 1997 and Ph.D. in 2000.  His research has spanned a wide range of issues, including biofuels policy, water quality and quantity policies, regulatory economics, food security, and regional modeling of agricultural systems.


Dr. Philip Smith

Phillip Smith is a poultry nutritionist for Tyson Foods, Inc. located in Springdale, Arkansas. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  He started his career with Tastybird Foods as a poultry nutritionist in Russellville, AR in 1980. Tastybird Foods was later acquired by Tyson Foods, Inc. Currently, Dr. Smith formulates broiler feeds for twelve complexes in seven states.  Also, Dr. Smith has worked with Tyson’s poultry research and as a swine nutritionist in the Tyson swine group.

Phillip is a member of Poultry Science Association, the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, Gamma Sigma Delta, and Alpha Zeta.

 Phillip lives near Fayetteville, Arkansas, with his wife Terry and has two grown sons, Nathaniel and Joshua.  He enjoys working in the yard and bird hunting in his free time. 





Kelly Davis

Kelly Davis has more than 35 years of experience in the grain processing industry with emphasis in ethanol production for fuel, industrial and beverage purposes. She provides a value add to clients with her experience, providing updated information and support relative to domestic and export marketplace specifications, regulations and directives. She is a recognized authority on ethanol. Past experiences include a similar position with Hawkeye Gold, LLC, also former vice president of marketing & business eevelopment for Glacial Grain Spirits, LLC and quality manager for Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company. Davis holds a bachelors of science in Cchemistry from Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.





Floretino Lopez

Florentino Lopez serves as executive director of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. He began his career with USCP as marketing director where he was intricately involved in strengthening opportunities for sorghum in the export market. Before he joined the Sorghum Checkoff, Lopez served as production manager for Texas Farm, L.L.C., in Perryton, Texas. During his time with Texas Farm, Lopez implemented and reviewed production processes to satisfy the U.S. Department of Agriculture and European Union Certification Program, which allowed the export of Texas Farm pork into the European Union and Japanese marketplaces. Prior to his working with Texas Farm, Lopez served as an international sales and service representative for DEKALB Swine Breeders, Inc. and as a field service manager for Seaboard Farms, Inc. Lopez holds a bachelor of science from Texas A&M University at Kingsville and currently resides in Lubbock, Texas, with his wife, Kimberley.






Ken Eriksen 

Ken Eriksen is the head of the Informa Economics’ Client Advisory and Development group. In this capacity, he directs the group's efforts in client advisory and development, risk management, consulting and events. Since joining Informa in 2001, Eriksen led Informa's Transportation, Industrials and Energy Services team and co-led Informa's project consulting practice. Eriksen regularly speaks on commodity, transportation and infrastructure issues and developments and is an expert witness in the area of transportation, logistics and supply-chain matters. Prior to joining the company, Eriksen worked for U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) National Agricultural Statistics Service as an agricultural statistician. In that capacity, he conducted national surveys and set national estimates in agriculture. Also while at USDA, he worked for the Agricultural Marketing Service on its transportation and marketing program, conducting research and analysis on domestic and international transportation issues. He also worked as an international longshoreman for the Pacific Maritime Association in Tacoma, Washington. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in agribusiness and agricultural economics from Washington State University. While working on his master's degree there, Eriksen was a transportation economist for the Department of Agricultural Economics, performing economic transportation data analysis and modeling.




Bill Holbrook

Bill Holbrook provides research and analysis services to The ProExporter Network® managing the PRX databases and monthly reports as well as providing strategic analysis to the grain industry.  

Prior to joining PRX, Bill was with Farmland Industries for 13 years where he was Regional Marketing Manager and Director of Professional Business Services.  

Bill grew up in northcentral Kansas on a diversified crop and livestock farm.  He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Kansas State University.





Mark Slupek

Mark Slupek, as deputy administrator of the Office of Trade Programs (OTP) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is responsible for leading the administration of programs that support private sector development of foreign markets for agricultural products, including the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program, the Emerging Markets Program, the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program and the Quality Samples Program.  Further, OTP manages the Export Credit Guarantee Program, the Facility Guarantee Program, the Dairy Export Incentive Program, two trade assistance programs for the textile industry and import programs for sugar and dairy.  OTP also conducts agribusiness trade missions, provides exporter assistance and supports selected international food shows.  OTP consists of five divisions and employs about 100 staff.  

Mark has worked with USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) market development programs since 1997.  Prior to being named Deputy Administrator, he served as OTP’s Assistant Deputy Administrator, the Director of the Program Operations Division, the Deputy Director of the Processed Products Division, and the Deputy Director of the Marketing Operations Staff.  Long ago, Mark spent four years in the Fruit and Vegetable Program Area of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.  

He attended Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University and earned a master's degree in economics.  He currently lives in Stafford, Virginia, with his wife and three children.




Kurt Rosentrater

Dr. Kurt Rosentrater is the executive director of the Distillers Grains Technology Council. He is also an associate professor in the Departments of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, and Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. 

Prior to his work at Iowa State, he was a lead scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service. Before this, he worked for a design-build engineering contractor and was responsible for process and equipment design as well as plant and site layout for agri-industrial manufacturing facilities, including grain elevators, feed mills, flour mills and pet food processing plants.





Daniel B. Whitley

Dr. Daniel Whitley is the associate administrator of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). In this capacity, he is responsible for advising the presidential administration on trade policy issues to support U.S. agriculture.

Whitley has more 20 years of experience working on agricultural trade issues, including serving on trade negotiating teams in the World Trade Organization (WTO), directing trade analysis to support opening export markets and representing U.S. agriculture in international organizations. He played a lead role in advising the presidential administration on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Whitley began his USDA career at the Economic Research Service (ERS), where he worked on market access issues for U.S. agricultural products.

Whitley is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Southern University in Baton Rouge and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Louisiana State University.





Kelle Horn

Originally from California, Kelle earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Washington. She joined Pacific Rim Shipbrokers in 2001 as a post fixture manager and later took a position as a commercial vessel operator of dry cargo bulkcarriers at San Juan Navigation from 2006 until 2011. She later worked for a travel company specializing in private vessel charters before returning to Pacific Rim Shipbrokers in 2014 as vice-president, becoming a co-owner in 2016. 

Horn’s experience as both an operator and a charter gives her perspective to identify potential risks and rewards for the clients to whom she provides guidance, market research and competitive freight rates on a wide range of commodities including, but not limited to, agricultural products, ores, concentrates, steels, scrap, fertilizer, chemicals, minerals and project cargo. She currently lives in Poulsbo, Washington, with her husband and two sons.





Daniel R. Pearson

Daniel R. Pearson is principal of Pearson International Trade Services, LLC, a trade policy consultancy. His focus includes promoting trade liberalization, working for respondents in antidumping/countervailing duty cases and Section 337 intellectual property investigations.  

From 2013 to 2017, Pearson served as a senior fellow in the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, focused on pursuit of free trade. Prior to that position, he served as a Republican on the U.S. International Trade Commission from 2003 to 2103, including a two-year term as chairman. 

Pearson also worked as assistant vice president of public affairs for Cargill, Inc., in Minneapolis, MN, from 1998 to 2003, and a policy analyst from 1987 to 1998. From 1981 to 1987, he was the agricultural legislative assistant to Senator Rudy Boschwitz, including staffing the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Foreign Agricultural Policy.

Pearson earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in applied economics from the University of Minnesota.





Stephen A. Nothdurft 

Stephen A. Nothdurft is the assistant vice president and Midwest regional manager for Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM). Based in Seoul, South Korea, HMM is the Peninsula’s largest container carrier and one of the more significant ocean liner companies operating in the global transportation market. 

Nothdurft is responsible for all of HMM’s commercial and operational activities in a 14-state region, stretching from Western Pennsylvania through the Dakotas. Involved in ocean transportation and international logistics for more than 30 years, he has held various sales/marketing/operations positions with ocean carriers in the Midwest and Southern California. He is a past president of the Midwest Foreign Commerce Club, former Chairman of the Board for the Ocean Freight Agents of Chicago and continues to be active in various trade and logistics organizations across the Midwest.

Nothdurft earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from DePaul University. 




Please check back for more confirmed 2018 speakers.