Thank you to all speakers who made the PBPC 2023 Annual Conference: Circular Solutions a successful and informative event.

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Dominique Carter is the Assistant Director for Agricultural Sciences, Innovation and Workforce for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Dr. Dominique Carter

Assistant Director for Agricultural Sciences, Innovation and Workforce, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Dr. Dominique Carter is the Assistant Director for Agricultural Sciences, Innovation and Workforce for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she provides high-quality scientific and policy advice to decision makers.

Carter earned her Ph.D. in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. While pursuing her Ph.D. and later in her training, she realized that improving the lives of people in America and abroad through scientific innovation would require more than benchwork, and that her zeal for science extended beyond the laboratory.

Carter sought out opportunities to develop her science policy career by gaining exposure to science policy issues affecting translational and biomedical research. She participated in the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering’s Public Policy Institute for Rising Leaders and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s annual Capitol Hill Day.

Her official transition into the field occurred in 2017 when she participated in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science & Technology Policy Fellowship, which placed her in a yearlong full-time position at the National Science Foundation. Within the Office of International Science and Engineering within the Office of the Director, Carter assessed the science capabilities and available infrastructure for Europe and Africa to participate in international science collaborations.

After completing her AAAS fellowship, Carter served as an agricultural science adviser for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Chief Scientist, where she supported agricultural research and policy development.

Keynote Speaker

Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen

Jim Pillen

Governor of Nebraska

Governor Jim Pillen was sworn in as Nebraska’s 41st Governor on January 5, 2023.

He enters office with the goal of protecting, training, and keeping our kids in Nebraska, cutting taxes, growing agriculture, and defending our commonsense, conservative values.

Governor Pillen grew up on a farm in Platte County, Nebraska and raised pigs with his father, Dale. He graduated from Lakeview High School.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science from UNL, and married Suzanne Shreve. Governor Pillen then earned a doctor of veterinary medicine from Kansas State. In 1983, he returned to Nebraska and opened a small animal practice and swine consulting practice.

Governor Pillen and his father, Dale, partnered together, raising 60 sows and 1,200 market hogs on a dirt lot on their home farm. In 1993, Jim started Pillen Family Farms. In 2003, he added DNA Genetics. In 2010, his two oldest children, Sarah and Brock, joined the business.

Pillen Family Farms and DNA Genetics are now a multigenerational family-run business, composed of over 1,100 team members. The family business operates by some basic core beliefs—do what is right, do the best you can, and treat others the way you want to be treated. 

Jim and wife, Suzanne, have four children, Sarah, Brock, Polly and Izic, and seven grandchildren, William, Halle, Eloise, Henry, Harrison, Ava, and Thomas.

Keynote Speaker

Xochitl Torres Small, Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA

Xochitl Torres Small

Under Secretary for Rural Development, USDA

Xochitl Torres Small was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as the Under Secretary for Rural Development on October 7, 2021. In this role, she oversees loans and grants to provide infrastructure improvements; business development; affordable housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, Tribal, and high-poverty areas. During her leadership, USDA Rural Development secured $2 billion to support rural broadband through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Prior to coming to Rural Development, Xochitl was a United States Representative for the fifth largest district in the country. As a Representative, Xochitl served as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and as chairwoman of the Oversight, Management, and Accountability subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee. Xochitl was the first woman and first person of color to represent New Mexico’s second congressional district.

The granddaughter of farmworkers, Xochitl Torres Small grew up in the borderlands of New Mexico. She has worked as a field representative for Senator Tom Udall, a clerk for United States District Court Judge Robert C. Brack, and an attorney practicing water and natural resources law. Xochitl has a law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and an international baccalaureate from Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa. She’s happily married to her husband, New Mexico State Representative Nathan Small.

Senator John Boozman (R-AR)

John Boozman (R-AR)

Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture

John Boozman is Arkansas’s senior U.S. Senator and the dean of the state’s Congressional delegation.

A fifth-generation Arkansan, John was raised in Fort Smith and graduated from Northside High School. He went on to play football for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks while completing his pre-optometry requirements. He graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in 1977 and entered private practice that same year co-founding a family business with his brother that would ultimately become a major provider of eye care to Northwest Arkansas.

Decades of experience as a successful healthcare provider and a small business owner guide John’s approach to governing. He is committed to advocating for economic policies that help Arkansas’s small businesses continue to grow and add jobs to our state’s economy. And since agriculture accounts for nearly one-quarter of Arkansas’s economic activity, John has been a consistent champion for our state’s farmers, ranchers and loggers and was instrumental in the fight for an equitable farm bill.

As the son of an Air Force Master Sergeant, John learned at an early age about the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, as well as the unique challenges military families face. He brings these values with him to Washington where he is committed to enhancing the quality of life for both our veterans and their families. As a member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, John has authored provisions to bolster care and services for women veterans, modernize educational benefits under the GI Bill and better reach and provide mental health care and resources to former service members.

John serves as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry during the 117thCongress. This position enables him to play a key role in influencing policy that relates to the agriculture economy, nutrition programs and quality of life in rural America.

John will also continue to serve on the Committee on Appropriations, which is responsible for allocating federal funds, and the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, where much of the nation’s infrastructure policy is developed.

Along with these committees, John serves on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, commonly referred to as the Helsinki Commission. He serves on the Congressional Study Group on Europe (CSGE), a bipartisan organization dedicated to frank and candid dialogue between American lawmakers and their peers in European capitals and Brussels, and has been appointed the Vice Chairman of the Senate Delegation to the British-American Interparliamentary Group during the 117th Congress.

In addition, John also serves as one of six Congressional Regents on the Smithsonian Institute's Board of Regents which governs and administers the organization.

First elected to the Senate in 2010, John was sworn in for a third term on January 3, 2023. Prior to serving in the Senate, he represented the people of the Third District of Arkansas in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Active in his community, John has served on the Rogers School Board, the Benton County Fair Board, established the low vision program at the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock and worked as a volunteer optometrist at an area clinic that provides medical services to low-income families. He successfully raised Polled Hereford cattle that were competitive in the show ring, as well as in bull testing at Oklahoma State University.

John, is married to the former Cathy Marley and they currently reside in Rogers. The couple has three daughters and four grandchildren.

Glen "GT" Thompson will keynote PBPC2023: Circular Solutions

Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA-15)

Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture

Chairman Thompson is the descendant of a long line of dairy farmers and lifelong resident of Howard Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, Thompson represents Pennsylvania’s Fifteenth District.As a proud and active Member of the House Committee on Agriculture for more than a decade, Thompson currently serves as the committee's Chairman. He’s also served as Chairman of the Subcommittees on Conservation and Forestry and Nutrition, and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.Thompson is also a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee. Prior to being elected to Pennsylvania’s Fifteenth District, Thompson spent 28 years as a therapist, rehabilitation services manager, and a licensed nursing home administrator.Thompson is a proud graduate of Penn State and Temple University, where he earned a B.S. and a Master of Education, respectively. He and his wife, Penny Ammerman-Thompson, have three adult sons; Parker, Logan, and Kale, and two grandchildren; Noem and Gabriel.

Aimee Bissell, Iowa Farmer

Aimee Bissell 

Bedford, Iowa

Aimee Bissell is a female farmer who believes in the lifestyle created by agriculture. She began her career journey in the medical field, working as a Registered Respiratory Therapist for 21 years. In 2014, she hung up her full-time stethoscope to join her husband and two boys on the farm.

Her biggest farm accomplishment to date has been being named one of America’s Best Young Farmers and Ranchers by DTN/The Progressive Farmer in 2020.

Aimee lives in Bedford, Iowa, and participates in the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, and Common Ground Iowa.

Kristie Blumer 

Senior Director of Composting, Compost Crew

Kristie Blumer’s passion is identifying sustainable solutions to connect people to the environment. Kristie has 12+ years of waste management experience from hazardous waste remediation to food waste recycling. As the Senior Director of Composting, she leads the Composting Division at Compost Crew, a mission-driven food scrap recycling and composting business that services more than 8,000 homes, businesses, and municipalities in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region.

Robert A. “Bob” Bowman, Farmer, Iowa

Robert A. Bowman 

DeWitt, Iowa

Robert A. “Bob” Bowman is a farmer in DeWitt, Iowa, close to the Mississippi River. Bob and his son, Chris, are partners in a multi-generational row crop business focused on sustainability in the areas of profitability, soil health, and the environment.

The Bowman family are leaders in technology and farming practice, and Bob considers his most important work to be local and regional involvement in sustainable technology and farming practices activities including talking to groups and farmers on the Bowman farm.

Bob has a bachelor’s degree in Ag Business, with additional studies in Animal Science and Ag Engineering, from Iowa State University. In addition to farming, which he’s done full time since 1974, Bob’s experience includes:

  • Environmental assessment and trade missions to 14 countries
  • Work with the National Soil Health Partnership, including farm-based cover crop research on the Bowman farm
  • Terms as President of the Farm Bureau County Board, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, and the Iowa Corn Growers Association Board
  • Serving as Chairman of the National Agricultural Genotyping Center and the Clinton-Jackson County Corn Growers Association     
  • Serving on committees or the board of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, and the USDA Plant Variety Protection Advisory Board
  • Membership in the Iowa Soybean Growers Association and the U.S. Grains Council
  • Engineering work for Clinton Corn Processing (ADM)

Bob and his wife, Jean, have four grown children living in Iowa and Illinois. They are active in the Methodist church and other local volunteer work.

Jessica Bowman, PBPC Executive Director

Jessica Bowman 

Executive Director, Plant Based Products Council

Jessica Bowman serves as the Plant Based Products Council’s (PBPC) Executive Director, where she leads the organization’s efforts in advocating for the expanded use of renewable, plant-based materials to help guide the global economy toward a circular model.

Jessica joined PBPC in 2019 to provide the growing bioeconomy with an industry voice for both policy advocacy and education on Capitol Hill and beyond. She collaborates with PBPC members, which include early-phase startups and Fortune 500 companies, on their sustainability efforts, legislative priorities, and awareness initiatives. As an engineer and lawyer, Jessica plays a unique role in bridging the gap between today’s biobased innovations and policies that encourage their broader adoption, including legislation that supports more robust end-of-life infrastructure such as composting and recycling.

Jessica joins PBPC from the American Chemistry Council, where she served as Executive Director of the FluoroCouncil, representing the world’s leading manufacturers of fluorinated chemicals (PFAS). She also previously served as Senior Director of Environmental Affairs for the Airports Council International – North America. Jessica holds a J.D. with a concentration in environmental law from University of Maryland School of Law and a B.S. in GeoEnvironmental Engineering from Penn State University.

Follow Jessica on Twitter at @jsbowman4 and connect with Jessica on LinkedIn.

Robin J. Bowen, Senior Vice President of External Affairs

Robin Bowen 

Senior Vice President of External Affairs, Plant Based Products Council

Robin J. Bowen is the Senior Vice President of External Affairs for the Plant Based Products Council (PBPC), a group of organizations working to guide the global economy toward more sustainable and responsible consumer products and packaging through greater use of plant-based materials. Robin manages PBPC’s engagement with federal and state policymakers on legislative and regulatory issues as well as other agriculture, industry, and public policy organizations.

Robin has over 20 years of experience in public policy advocacy and education. Previously, she served as director of federal outreach for a university-based research center, government affairs counsel to an association of alcohol beverage producers, legislative director for an insurance trade association, and senior legislative assistant in the US Senate. In private practice, Robin counseled alcohol beverage producers, importers and retailers. She has developed and managed numerous public policy education programs.

Alex Buck PBPC 2023 speaker

Alex Buck, Ph.D.

 Director of Industrial Innovation, Iowa Corn Promotion Board

Dr. Alex Buck is the Director of Industrial Innovation for the Iowa Corn Promotion Board’s biobased chemicals and plastics technologies. Alex directs R&D through process development, patent strategy development and implementation, and commercialization through licensing of all plant-based products. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board represents the interests of corn farmers through the corn checkoff, and the Iowa Corn Growers Association represents over 7000 dues paying farmers and agribusiness people through the development of pro farm and ag policies.

Steve Dubin is a Principal at SDA Ventures LLC

Steve Dubin

Principal, SDA Ventures LLC

Steve Dubin is a Principal at SDA Ventures LLC, a firm focused on assisting emerging growth, middle-market, and multi-national companies, primarily in the health & wellness and nutritional products markets.

In addition, Mr. Dubin is a member of the boards of Alcresta, Inc., Triton Algae Innovations, Adicet Bio, Inc., and Phytolon Ltd. Mr. Dubin also acts a Senior Advisor to Paine Schwartz Partners, a global private equity investment firm, helping them to identify and execute investment opportunities in the global human and animal food and nutritional products industries.

Previously, Mr. Dubin was the Chairman of Enzymotec Ltd, a leading global supplier of specialty lipid-based products and solutions technologies. Enzymotec developed, manufactured, and marketed innovative bio-active lipid ingredients, as well as final products.

Prior to joining Enzymotec, Mr. Dubin served as the CEO of Martek Biosciences Corporation, a leader in the innovation, development, production, and sale of high-value products from microbial sources that promote health and wellness through nutrition. Mr. Dubin played a key role in developing Martek’s business from an R&D company to a fully integrated, profitable, commercial organization with over $470 million in annual sales. He served in a variety of positions with Martek over the 14 years before his election as CEO, including President, CFO, Treasurer, Secretary, General Counsel, and Senior VP of Business Development.

 Mr. Dubin's other experience includes working with and financing a variety of early-stage technology companies and spending 12 years in various positions at Suburban Bank, now part of Bank of America, including Vice President and Treasurer of its venture capital subsidiary, Suburban Capital Corporation. Mr. Dubin also co-founded, in 2001, the Chesapeake Emerging Opportunities Club, LLC, an angel investing fund based in Columbia, MD. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1974, where he studied business and accounting. He received his Juris Doctor Degree in 1980 from the National Law Center at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Mr. Dubin is a licensed CPA and a member of the Maryland Bar.
Matt Gardner Board President, California Biomanufacturing Center

Matt Gardner

Board President, California Biomanufacturing Center

Matt Gardner is the Board President of the California Biomanufacturing Center and leads CBRE’s Advisory Life Sciences practice in the U.S. A veteran with more than 30 years in the technology and life sciences sectors, Gardner works with CBRE professionals across U.S. life sciences hubs and emerging markets to advise clients on their real estate needs. He is based in Northern California.
Before joining CBRE in March 2022, Gardner served as CEO and co-founder of the California Biomanufacturing Center. Gardner previously served as CEO of the life sciences cluster organizations BayBio and MarylandBio, supporting hundreds of growing life sciences companies in the process.

In addition, Gardner has served as chair and a member of boards including Seeding Labs, a Boston nonprofit dedicated to building science capacity around the world; the Exploratorium, a science museum in Northern California; and at Johns Hopkins University. For more than a decade, Gardner produced the NPR show Biotech Nation. He has contributed to publications including the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, Startup Magazine, and Medtech Insight.

Gardner previously served as a founding team member and mentor to life sciences startups including SageLegion, Cancer Commons, Cornerstone, and the Patent & License Exchange, among others. He is the author of numerous publications on the life sciences ecosystem, including “California Tool Works” and the award-winning series of BayBioIMPACT annual reports.

Jamaica Gayle is the Senior Manager of Sustainability at PBPC

Jamaica Gayle

Senior Manager of Sustainability, Plant Based Products Council
Jamaica Gayle is the Senior Manager of Sustainability at PBPC. In her position, she manages PBPC’s efforts to advance sustainability across plant-based product value chains. Jamaica is also responsible for representing PBPC in a broad range of industry and environmental coalitions focused on sustainability issues.

Prior to joining PBPC, Jamaica served as the Executive Director of the National Foreign Trade Council’s Global Innovation Forum, a project to elevate small businesses to help foster an inclusive policy landscape. In this role, she led the organization’s work to advance small business exports and sustainable trade initiatives. Jamaica began her career as a coordinator with the National Association of Manufacturers.

Jamaica is also a Women Leaders in Energy and Climate Fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Co-Chair of the Inclusion in Trade programming section of the Association of Women in International Trade. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the American University in Washington, D.C.

Originally from Minnesota, Jamaica has a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and sustainable agriculture. She holds the following certificates: Urban Agriculture Certificate, University of District of Columbia; Nature-Based Solutions for Disaster & Climate Resilience Certificate, UN Sustainable Development; Permaculture Design Certificate.
Graham Givens Senior Sustainability Manager, Foodbuy

Graham Givens

Senior Sustainability Manager, Foodbuy
Graham Givens holds the position of Senior Sustainability Manager at Foodbuy. He is responsible for verifying whether suppliers meet customer sustainability criteria, managing sustainability reporting and compliance, and project managing customer sustainability requests and goal development.

Since joining Foodbuy in 2017, Graham has supported corporate social responsibility as well as other business processes such as culinary engagement. Prior to joining Foodbuy, Graham worked in the non-profit sector for various groups, including Environment America and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. Graham earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and Sociology from the University of Mary Washington and received a Master of Business Administration from NC State University.

Anthony L. Goins, Director, Nebraska Department of Economic Development

Anthony L. Goins

Director, Nebraska Department of Economic Development
Anthony L. Goins was reappointed Director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development by Governor Jim Pillen in January 2023. With his extensive experience building and managing successful teams and organizations at the highest levels of industry, Tony is spearheading the Department’s pursuit of economic opportunities for all Nebraskans.

Tony has a background in operations, where he specialized in global financial services and earned a reputation as a strategic, results-driven executive. He formerly served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Cabela’s World’s Foremost Bank. Before moving to Lincoln, he was a Senior Vice President and Support Executive at JPMorgan Chase, where he led operations in Asia and North America. Tony has held senior-level positions at USAA, Ford Motor Credit Company, Key Bank, QVC and American Express.

Tony is a small business owner, as co-founder of Capital Cigar Lounge in southwest Lincoln. He is deeply involved in the community and serves on boards including Bryan Health and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska. He is Advisor to the Board for I3 Bank; Board Director and Risk Committee Chair for Nelnet Bank; and Board Director for Inceptia, a division of the National Student Loan Program. He is also a faculty member of the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an advisory board member of the Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Innovation for North Carolina A&T State University.

Tony majored in business management at North Carolina A&T State University, and served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He is married to Kimberly, and they have four children: a son Anthony II (married to Dr. Stephanie Goins) and three daughters: Toni (married to son-in-law Anthony Brockman), Briana and Jayla. He has six grandchildren: Jaylin, Jada, Jiya, Journey, Reese and Anthony III.
Ian Jacobson, President, Eco-Products

Ian Jacobson

President, Eco-Products, PBC

Ian Jacobson is the President of Eco-Products, PBC, a leading provider of environmentally responsible foodservice disposables. With a professional and personal commitment to Zero Waste initiatives, Jacobson brings a broad perspective on national and regional efforts around waste diversion from both the public and private sectors. He also serves as Board Treasurer for Eco-Cycle, a Colorado non-profit focused on innovating, advocating, and implementing Zero Waste solutions. Jacobson lives in Boulder, CO, with his wife and three children.

Sarah Jelken Cargill

Sarah Jelken

 Vice President, Industrial Segment Leader, Cargill Starches, Sweeteners and Texturizers North America

Sarah Jelken is the Vice President, Industrial Segment Leader for Cargill Starches, Sweeteners and Texturizers North America (CSSTNA). Cargill is committed to helping the world thrive by providing food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services globally with 150,000 employees in 70 countries. Prior to this role Sarah spent 13 years in Cargill in a variety of general management and trading/merchandising/risk management roles. These include serving as Assistant Vice President Starch Product Line Leader, and the Corn Oil Product Line Manager, the General Manager for Cargill’s trading and soy crush business in Lusaka, Zambia and as the Merchandising Leader for the Northwest Region of Cargill AgHorizons. Sarah also worked as a Business Analyst in the Strategy & Business Development group, as a Merchant in Cargill’s Grain and Oilseeds group, and as a member of the Board of Directors of Ag Partners, LLC, a 50/50 Cargill/Coop owned Joint Venture which handles grain, agronomy, and feed in Iowa.

Before joining Cargill in 2008, Sarah spent 5 years as Quality Manager in a specialized agency of the United Nations in Bern, Switzerland. Sarah has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech. Sarah serves as the Global Chair of the Cargill Women’s Network and mentors Veterans entering the work force post military career thru American Corporate Partners. She and her husband Chad currently reside in Victoria, MN and she has 2 stepsons, Riley (23) and Gavin (21).

Arvin Cesar Lagda, MSc, PhD Director of Cell and Cell Products Fermentation Facility

Arvin Cesar Lagda, MSc, PhD

Director of Cell and Cell Products Fermentation Facility, Waksman Institute of Microbiology, Rutgers University

Dr. Arvin Lagda is the Director of the Cell and Cell Products Fermentation Facility of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, a Rutgers University based scale up Pilot Plant whose main clients include the academia, start-up firms, small biotech corporations and larger companies who find their in-house facilities overtaxed. The plant is one of the pioneering scale-up facilities of its kind in the region built in the early 1950’s through the efforts of Dr. Selman A. Waksman after his Nobel Prize winning discovery of the antibiotic Streptomycin (co-discovered with Albert Schatz). For the last two decades, the facility provided services to several companies from areas of biotechnology, personal care, and diagnostics technology.

Arvin is responsible for the overall operation of the Pilot Plant including scientific operations, administrative, and business development. He holds a PhD in Molecular Microbiology from South Korea and did his post-doctoral trainings at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Baltimore, MD) and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine (New York City) in areas of biophysics, microbiology, and biotechnology. He is currently pursuing an MBA in Pharmaceutical Management at Rutgers Business School.

J. Eric Lee, Director of Business Development, Fermentation & Bioindustry, Primient

Eric Lee

Director of Business Development, Fermentation & Bioindustry, Primient

Eric has 35 years of experience in the fermentation and bio-processing industry having successfully fulfilled roles related to fermentation optimization, strain selection, process scale-up, and manufacturing. Eric has led several teams to development & commercialization of novel fermentation-based products over the course of his career. Additionally, he has extensive expertise in business development and market management. Eric joined Primient in January of 2022 to focus on development of fermentation-based initiatives as a key strategic market segment for the company. Eric is primarily focused on evaluating and developing strategic partnerships that leverage Primient’s current and evolving capabilities in this high growth market space. In addition, Eric also provides technical support for Primient products used within the fermentation & bioindustry market segment, as well as evaluating development of new products. Eric received BS degrees in Biology and Chemistry from Manchester College. He is a member of the Society for Industrial Microbiology.

Megan Lennon Energy and Environment Section Supervisor, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Megan Lennon

Energy and Environment Section Supervisor, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Megan Lennon leads the Energy and Environment Section at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and her portfolio includes bioeconomy and advanced biofuel programs, agricultural and economic development policymaking, and climate-smart initiatives to decarbonize the agricultural sector. Over the past 15 years, she has worked at the nexus of working lands, sustainability, and climate in Minnesota’s executive and legislative branches. Megan builds strategic relationships with agribusiness, NGOs, and academic institutions to ensure the health of our environment and the strength of Minnesota’s agricultural economy.

Julia Marsh, CEO and Co-founder of Sway

Julia Marsh

Co-founder & CEO, Sway

Californian designer Julia Marsh is the CEO and Co-founder of Sway, a venture-backed biomaterials company that produces regenerative packaging made from seaweed. Marsh spent over a decade building brand and packaging systems for consumer goods companies, technology startups, and design studios. Her work is inspired by a lifelong affection for the ocean, and the belief that designers must take part in solving the planet’s greatest challenges. Sway is on a mission to replenish the planet from sea to soil, by scaling packaging solutions that create healthy ocean ecosystems, eliminate plastic waste, and support a more inclusive environmental movement.

Josie Montoney-Crawford Manager of Public Policy National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

Josie Montoney-Crawford

Manager of Public Policy, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

Josie Montoney-Crawford joined NASDA in December 2022, as Manager of Public Policy. In this role, she assists with the development and implementation of policy in the Plant Agriculture and Pesticides Committee, as well as the Rural Development and Financial Security Committee. Before joining NASDA, Josie worked at CropLife America as a member of the government relations team on both federal and international pesticide issues and served as its PAC Manager. Josie earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communication and public management, leadership and policy from The Ohio State University. She is from Amanda, Ohio, and enjoys photography and cheering on the Buckeyes in her free time.

Linda Norris-Waldt, Deputy Director, and Advocacy and Chapters Director, US Composting Council

Linda Norris-Waldt

Deputy Director, US Composting Council

Linda Norris-Waldt is Deputy Director, and Advocacy and Chapters Director, of the US Composting Council. She has held various roles at the council for ten years. Linda has been in the recycling industry for 30 years, having spent 10 years as the Recycling Director for Frederick County, MD. She is a University of Maryland graduate, a member of the MD-DC Composting Council Steering Committee and Maryland Compost Advocacy Coalition. Additionally, Linda is part of the Frederick Compost Workgroup, a citizens advocacy group for composting and food waste in Frederick County. She lives in Middletown, MD.

Wendy Owens, Founder & CEO, Hexas Biomass

Wendy Owens

Founder & CEO, Hexas Biomass

Wendy Owens is the Founder and CEO of Hexas Biomass, a biomaterials company producing plant-based raw materials. She is a serial entrepreneur with experience across multiple industries. Hexas combines Owens’ background in materials engineering and biotechnology with a passion to save the Earth. Concurrently with past entrepreneurial endeavors, Owens has spent 14 years as an executive-level appointed advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative. Owens is a published author on a variety of subjects and has a Master of Art degree from Tufts University.

Shannon Pinc

Senior Circular Economy Manager, NatureWorks LLC

Shannon Pinc is the Sr. Circular Economy Manager for NatureWorks, a global biopolymer supplier. Her interest in managing natural resources led her to complete her B.A. in Biology from St. Catherine’s University and her M.S. in Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering from the University of Minnesota. Her interest in managing natural resources and maintaining them for future generations is a lifelong passion. Shannon’s role is to partner with stakeholders across the entire value chain to ensure sustainable, circular, end-of-use management of products made with NatureWorks biopolymers.

Daniel Sasu, Vice President, Global Customer Experience and Channel Development, Ingredion Incorporated

Daniel Sasu

VP, Global Customer Experience & Channel Development, Ingredion Incorporated

Daniel has about 20 years industry and management consulting experience across multiple industries and geographies in developed and emerging markets. He has demonstrated expertise in providing strategic direction and leading cross functional teams to drive sustainable growth. Additionally, he has extensive experience in leading teams to drive business transformation to improve customers’ experience and enhance business performance and employee engagement.

At Ingredion, Daniel has pioneered and established customer experience and channel development management disciplines and he leads multiple cross-functional teams in defining and executing Ingredion’s customer experience and channel development strategy, globally, to create shared value with customers.

Prior to Ingredion, Daniel was a Management Consultant with Deloitte Consulting where he led several successful transformation and strategy projects for Fortune 100 consumer and industrial product manufacturers. He also worked with Unilever, Coca-Cola, and MTN in several commercial leadership roles.

Daniel is a member of Forrester’s Customer Experience Council and the Conference Board’s Customer Experience Council. Daniel has an MBA in strategy, finance, and marketing from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He and his wife, Abena, have two daughters, Danielle and Illaria. Daniel is an avid traveler and has been to more than 30 countries across five continents.
Erica Stark, Exec Dir, National Hemp Association

Erica Stark

Executive Director, National Hemp Association

Erica Stark is a highly committed and knowledgeable hemp professional who has dedicated herself to the growth and development of the hemp industry. As the Executive Director of the National Hemp Association (NHA) since 2017, Stark has become a trusted voice for policymakers and industry leaders. She was honored to be invited to testify at a U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture hearing in 2019.

Stark's service to the hemp industry can be traced back to her 2014 grassroots advocacy work. She went on to become a founding member of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council (PAHIC), serving as both Secretary and Executive Director. Stark was part of a small team that successfully pushed through hemp legislation in Pennsylvania with a unanimous vote in a single session. In 2023, she was elected as Chairwoman of PAHIC. Stark also serves on the Pennsylvania Hemp Steering Committee, an advisory council to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Stark’s passion for hemp has earned her numerous speaking engagements, where she shares her insights and ideas on the role hemp can play in sustainability and mitigating climate change. She has played an instrumental role in the growth of the hemp industry and is poised to continue doing so in the future.

Sherry Vinton, Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture

Sherry Vinton

Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture

Sherry Vinton was appointed as the Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) in January 2023 by Governor Jim Pillen.   

As NDA Director, Vinton oversees all programs of the agency including animal disease traceability programs, regulatory programs for plants and animals, food safety and consumer protection programs, and the promotion of Nebraska agriculture and ag products.

A lifelong Nebraskan and livestock producer, Vinton brings a wide range of experience, leadership, and knowledge to this position.

Vinton is a fifth-generation rancher on a family ranch south of Whitman in the Sandhills of Nebraska. The Vinton family runs a cow-calf operation where they raise Angus cattle that graze on native pasture, irrigated alfalfa and sub irrigated prairie hay. Vinton attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she studied accounting and currently manages the business end of the family ranch.

Vinton is a leader in Nebraska agriculture who knows the importance of the industry for the future of the state. Her passion for farming, ranching, and nature makes her the perfect advocate for agriculture, someone who will stand up for farmers and ranchers, promote and grow Nebraska agriculture, increase market access for Nebraska ag products and add value to the commodities we produce.

Vinton’s experience on various agricultural organizations and advisory committees at the local, state, and federal level serves Nebraska well. She was appointed to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board in 2012 and represented Congressional District 3 on the Nebraska Environmental Trust board for 14 years after her appointment in 2007. Vinton also served as treasurer and mentor for the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition and is a member of the Agriculture Builders of Nebraska.

Starting in 2019 and just prior to becoming NDA’s director, Vinton served as Vice President of Nebraska Farm Bureau. She was also a member of the Board of Directors of Nebraska Farm Bureau for 6 years.

Vinton and her husband, Chris, have three married children (two who work on the ranch, and one who farms in northeast Nebraska) and 10 grandchildren.