Summit Speaker Bios

Charles Baron, vice president and co-founder, Farmers Business Network
Charles is vice president and co-founder at Farmers Business Network, a groundbreaking independent farmer-to-farmer network, built by and for Farmers, that now spans 19 million acres and 5,400 US & Canadian farms. FBN members receive comprehensive farm benchmarking, real-world seed performance, input optimization and pricing analytics based on over 123 million acre events of real-world precision agronomic data and over 50,000 input price records. The FBN Direct e-commerce platform provides national, transparent pricing on ag chemicals, fertilizers, seeds, technology and services.

Chris B. Barron, President of Carson and Barron Farms, Inc. Rowley, Iowa
Chris graduated from the University of Dubuque in 1992 with a degree in Communications. That year Chris, along with his brother-in-law, took over their Pioneer Sales agency, which had been run by his father for 22 years. More recently, Chris developed a new business model to assist producers with Multi-Generational Growth through his business “Ag View Solutions LLC.” Chris and his wife Alissa work as a team who consult across the country helping Ag businesses and farmers with multiple business decisions that include networking, merging, value assessment and margin management.

Matt Bennett
Matt is owner of Bennett Consulting and is a Windsor, Illinois, farmer and former grain elevator owner. He is Channel Seed’s grain marketing consultant and holds a Series 3 brokerage license. He brokers for and manages the Windsor branch of Bates Commodities, Inc., a CFTC registered, and NFA Member introducing broker. Matt’s firm specializes in formulating risk-management strategies for corn and soybean farmers and livestock producers. A graduate of University of Illinois, Matt and his wife Tiffany live on the family’s centennial farm where they are raising their five children. He owns and operates a 3,000-acre corn and soybean farm with his father while raising 60 head of registered Angus cows.

Roger Bernard, Policy Analyst, Informa Economics
Roger Bernard provides insight and analysis on farm, trade, tax, economic, energy and transportation policy for Informa Economics IEG. Prior to joining Informa in 2011, Mr. Bernard spent more than 24 years with Pro Farmer, including 11 years in Washington, D.C. He also served as Washington and Policy Editor for Farm Journal magazine. In his current role at Informa, he provides policy analysis for various products and works closely with IEG’s European-based publications and web-based platforms. Mr. Bernard began his career in broadcast journalism after attending the University of Minnesota and Brown Institute in Minneapolis. He currently resides and works from his home in north central Iowa on acreage west of Cedar Falls.

Curt Covington, Senior Vice President of Agricultural Finance, Farmer Mac
Curt is responsible for managing the $18.3 billion ag loan portfolio for Farmer Mac, the nation’s premier secondary market for agricultural credit that was created to increase access to and reduce the cost of capital for the benefit of American agriculture and rural communities. Curt’s extensive experience in ag lending spans nearly four decades, and his passion for rural America developed at a young age on his family’s grape and tree nut farm in the farming community of Selma, CA. He earned his undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Southern California and his Masters in Agribusiness from Santa Clara University.

Maria Cox, Illinois farmer
Maria earned an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University and a B.S. in Agribusiness from the University of Illinois. After college, she spent five years in the grain marketing and crop insurance industries. She is a sixth-generation grain, livestock and hay farmer who has been working with her family’s operation since 2012.  She also writes the Millennial Manager column in Farm Futures and at

Robert Craven, Agricultural Economist & Director, Center for Farm Financial Management, University of Minnesota
Bob has a B.S. in Animal Science and an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Minnesota. His areas of specialty include business management for farmers and credit analysis for agricultural lenders, with an emphasis on financial planning and analysis. His work for the Center has focused on development of the FINPACK ag financial software. He also played a key role in the development of the National Risk Management Education Library. Bob is also actively involved in his family’s 1,200-acre farming operation in southwestern Minnesota.

Nathan Kauffman, Assistant Vice President and Omaha Branch Executive, Kansas City Federal Reserve
Nathan is assistant vice president and Omaha Branch Executive. In this role, he is the Kansas City Fed’s regional economist and lead officer in the state of Nebraska. He is responsible for briefing the Kansas City Fed’s president on business activity in the state. Nathan is also the Kansas City Fed’s lead expert in economics. He oversees several Bank and Federal Reserve System initiatives to track agricultural and rural economies. Nathan joined the Federal Reserve in 2012. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University.

Bryce Knorr, Senior market analyst, Farm Futures
Bryce Knorr is the Senior Market Analyst for Farm Futures magazine and He first joined Farm Futures in 1987 and has been registered as a futures broker or commodity trading advisor for more than 20 years. Bryce writes daily, weekly and monthly market analysis for online and print. He also conducts Farm Futures grower surveys on production and a variety of management topics.

Joseph Koss, President & CEO, Culvers
Joseph is president and chief executive officer of Culver Franchising System, LLC, the franchisor for more than 600 Culver’s restaurants in 24 states with more than 20,000 team members. In this capacity, Mr. Koss oversees the direction and strategy for all of Culver’s operations and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with franchisees, suppliers, team members, guests and other stakeholders. He joined CFS in 1997 as controller. Since 2000, he has held the role of chief financial officer and was named president and CEO in December 2016. During Mr. Koss’s tenure, the Culver’s system has grown from 53 restaurants with system-wide sales increasing from $58 million to over $1.2 billion. A native of Two Rivers, WI, Joe earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a major in Accounting from Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Bob Krogmeier, CPA, MAcc, LattaHarris, LLP
Bob has more than seven years of experience in both the public and private sectors. Before joining LattaHarris, he worked as an external auditor, internal auditor, accountant, and tax preparer. Bob works in income tax planning, business analytics, managerial accounting, and budgeting for agricultural producers. He received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Iowa State University and Masters of Accountancy from the University of Iowa.

Mike Pearson, farmer, banker, TV host, Market to Market
Mike Pearson was raised in south central Iowa and attended Simpson College, where he majored in History and continued to run the family farm south of Winterset, Iowa.  After graduation, he moved to Grinnell, Iowa, where he lives with his wife, Heidi. He hosts the Iowa Public TV show Market to Market. He is a part-time farmer and also has experience as a banker with emphasis on Agriculture and Residential lending.

Mark Penningroth, CPA, founding partner, LattaHarris, LLP
Mark F. Penningroth is a CPA, managing principal and a founding partner of LattaHarris, LLP. He has extensive experience with income tax, estate tax, financial planning and business performance services. He currently works with a good number of larger closely-held row crop and swine producers in the Midwest. Mark received his BBA in accounting from University of Iowa. He has spoken at numerous agricultural producer symposiums and also to fellow CPAs on the subject of tax planning opportunities for Ag Producers.

Tim Schaefer, founder, Encore Consultants
Tim Schaefer’s roots run deep in rural America with his first business venture selling sweet corn door-to-door with an Oliver 70. Raised on a successful multi-generational family farm in West Central Minnesota, Tim founded Encore Consultants to provide specialized advising to families and businesses at the crossroads of change. He is a Certified Financial Planner, Certified Family Business Advisor and Certified Business Coach. He also provides expertise in succession planning and  facilitates farmer peer advisory groups through the Encore Executive Farmer Network.

Paul Stoddard Lecturer, College of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois
Paul teaches courses in Agricultural Marketing, Food and Agribusiness Management, Personal Financial Planning and Farm Management. He joined the University of Illinois fulltime in 2012 following a 30-year career in agricultural real estate, commodity trading, farm management and agricultural lending.
In addition to his academic duties, Paul provides Hedging & Options Training and Leadership Coaching within the Farm Credit System. He also operates a fee appraisal and brokerage business specializing in agricultural real estate.

Willie Vogt, Executive Director, Content and User Engagement, Farm Progress Co.
Willie Vogt has been covering agriculture for more than three decades from his early days at a weekly farm paper to his current position at Farm Progress, where he oversees an editorial business that includes 24 magazines and more than 29 websites. As a longtime ag tech enthusiast and editor of Farm Industry News, he has covered the hardware and software of agriculture from hard iron to biotech seed. Willie graduated from Iowa State University in 1980 and eventually ended up in Minnesota. He joined Farm Progress fulltime in 1996 as technology editor and became Editorial Director in 2004.

Dick Wittman, Idaho rancher and ag consultant
Wittman is former manager and board chair of a 20,000-acre Idaho family farm partnership involving crops, cattle and timber and provides consulting services in family farm business and financial management. A former Farm Credit System lender, he’s also served on numerous commodity and financial institution boards. Additionally, Wittman is a director and past president of the Farm Financial Standards Council and past president/founding member of the PNW Direct Seed Association. He is an adjunct faculty member of Texas A&M University and teaches at the TEPAP Executive program and the King Ranch Institute.

Wendong Zhang, Assistant Professor of Economics and Extension Economist, Iowa State University
Dr. Zhang is an applied economist and extension farm management specialist. He joined the Department of Economics at Iowa State University in 2015 and is the leading researcher of the annual ISU Land Value Survey, the Iowa Farmland Ownership and Tenure Survey and the organizer of ISU’s longest-running Soil Management and Land Valuation Conference. He led the development of the new, interactive Iowa Land Value Portal. His articles on China’s new corn policy and ethanol mandate can be found through Ag Decision Maker. Dr. Zhang received his Ph.D. in Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics from the Ohio State University in July 2015, where he taught the Chinese Economy course. A Chinese native, he also holds a BSc in Environmental Science from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and was an undergraduate exchange student at University of Hong Kong.