2017 Wisconsin Agricultural Outlook Speaker Biographies


Agriculture Situation and Outlook


Paul D. Mitchell

Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
Director of Renk AgriBusiness Institute
Extension State Specialist in Cropping Systems and Environmental Management
Co-Director of UW Extension’s Nutrient and Pest Management Program (NPM) Program

Paul Mitchell’s research program focuses on the economics of crop production, emphasizing pest management and risk management for commodity crops, and specialty crop economics. His published work examines insect and weed management, management of pest resistance, estimation of yield loss functions from pest damage, and economic benefits of pest control at the farm and societal levels.  For more see Paul Mitchell’s webpage.

Mark Stephenson, PhD

Director, Center for Dairy Profitability
202 Taylor Hall

Mark Stephenson has been employed since July, 2010. In this position, Dr. Stephenson conducts and coordinates research and outreach activities related to the dairy industry. He is involved in applied research at the firm-level, including milk assembly costs, processing costs and efficiencies, new processing technologies and new dairy ingredients. He is also active in sector-level performance including dairy policy and price forecasting.

Prior to his present position, Mark was the Associate Director for Educational Outreach with the Cornell Program on Dairy Markets and Policy.



Todd Hubbs

Clin Asst Prof., Agriculture Commerce Markets
Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics
326 Mumford Hall
1301 W. Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801

B.A. in History, Missouri State University
B.S. in Economics, Missouri State University
Ph.D in Agricultural Economics, Purdue University

My research focuses on agricultural commodity and financial markets with an emphasis on commodity market analysis and financial risk.  Current research is focused on commodity price forecasting and financial stress measurement in the agricultural sector.

Lunch Speaker



John Biondi

Discovery to Product (D2P)
University of Wisconsin Madison

Director John Biondi is a veteran entrepreneur with extensive experience in early-stage high technology companies. He has raised more than $60 million for nine early-stage ventures in areas such as nanotechnology, medical devices, biotechnology, software and advanced materials. He has experience in early-stage strategy, business and revenue models and optimizing market share with minimal investment. John and his wife live on and manage an organic orchard in Mineral Point, Wisconsin where they grow specialty apples for the production of brandy and ciders for the Cider Farm brand of products.

Current Trends and Future Challenges

James B Wood

Wood Communications Group
44 E Mifflin St.
Madison, WI 53703
B.S. Degree -UW-Milwaukee
M.S. Degree – UW-Milwaukee
PhD. Degree – Duke University

Mr. Wood is Chairman of Wood Communications Group (WCG), a nationally recognized and respected strategic communications firm specializing in research, strategic planning, community and media relations and crisis management.

Mr. Wood’s career spans more than forty years in both public and private sector management. He served as Executive Assistant to Governor Patrick J. Lucey (Governor of Wisconsin, 1971-77), managed the governor’s re-election campaign, served as Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, and was a candidate for Governor in 1982.

In 1984 he founded Wood Communications Group and has spent the past three decades advising major corporations and professional and trade associations. Mr. Wood is a recognized authority on the development and implementation of public policy, and has had significant experience in facilitation and mediation. He currently serves as Strategic Counsel to the Wisconsin Education Business Roundtable, Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. and the BE BOLD Council.

Matthew Kures

Community Development Specialist
UW Extension Center for Community and Economic Development
(608) 265-8258

Matt has been with UW-Extension’s Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) since 2001.  Working in partnership with Extension’s statewide network of Community Resource Development (CRD) educators, he carries out the Wisconsin Idea by assisting communities and organizations in the areas of socio-economic impact analysis, regional competitiveness, central city revitalization, and industry cluster analysis.  While Matt’s research emphasis is on the state’s urban areas, he has worked in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Matt is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a member of In Business Magazine’s 2007 class of 40 Under 40.

Wisconsin Agricultural Innovation: Successes and Challenges

Bill Tracy

Professor, Department of Agronomy Chair
365 Moore Hall

Bill Tracy is the Clif Bar Family Foundation – Organic Valley Professor of Organic Plant Breeding and chair of the dept. of agronomy, UW-Madison. UW-Madison. Bill’s research is on sweet corn breeding. At Madison, Bill leads the largest public sector sweet corn breeding program in the world. He has developed sweet corn varieties that are grown commercially on every continent (except Antarctica). His varieties have generated 100s of millions of dollars for seed and processing companies. Bill’s research areas include the genetics, genomics, and biochemistry of endosperm carbohydrate synthesis, the relationship between plant development and pest resistance, and the origin and phylogenetics of sweet corn. Bill and his collaborators have developed sweet corn hybrids and open pollinated varieties for organic growers. Bill has mentored more than 40 graduate students most of whom work in commercial plant breeding.  Bill has taught introductory agronomy for 32 years and has advised over 400 undergrads. In 2014 Bill was named public plant breeder of the year by the National Association of Commercial Plant Breeders.  Bill is chair of the USDA Maize Crop Germplasm Committee and the International Maize Germplasm Resources Advisory Committee.


Steve Van Lannen

American Foods Group
President and Chief Operating Officer
BS – UW-Madison, Agricultural Journalism with emphasis in Animal Science

Born and raised on a dairy farm in Shawano County, Wisconsin. Participated in International Agriculture exchange programs and was a State FFA Officer prior to attending UW-Madison.

Have spent over 25 years in the beef packing industry. Holding various management positions in plant operations, food safety and cattle procurement with Packer land Packing, Sun Land Beef, Smithfield Beef Group and Coleman Natural Foods.

Joined American Foods Group, LLC in 2008 and is the President/COO. AFG is based in Green Bay, WI. and is privately owned by the Rosen Family Operating 12 plants in 6 states; AFG is the 5th largest beef processor in the country and also operates further processing and cooked meat plants as well as a transportation and logistics company. The Life Sciences division operates labs producing raw materials for research, the pharmaceutical and biomedical industries.



Kent Weigel

Department Chair – Professor
Dairy Science
Breeding and Genetics
266A Animal Sciences

Dr. Kent Weigel is Professor and Chair of the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  He also serves as Extension Dairy Genetics Specialist for the State of Wisconsin and is a key technical consultant for the National Association of Animal Breeders and other industry partners.  His research focuses on genetic improvement of the productivity, health, and fertility of dairy cattle using tools such as genomic selection, crossbreeding, advanced reproductive technologies, and electronic data capture systems.  Dr. Weigel has published more than 150 peer-reviewed journal articles on various aspects of genetic and genomic improvement of dairy cattle and has given lectures to academic, industry, and producer audiences in more than twenty-five countries.



Mark Garthwaite

Wisconsin Brewers Guild
PO Box 45961
Madison, WI  53744

Mark Garthwaite is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild, the trade organization representing Wisconsin’s independent craft breweries. Previously a Senior Research Specialist in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his role with Wisconsin Brewers Guild includes promotion and advocacy for small, local, and independent craft breweries and serving as a resource for Wisconsin’s brewing industry partners.