March 4-6, 2021 - America's largest farmer-led, farmer-focused agricultural & educational experience!

Learning Center Sessions

Check out all these great sessions from the 2020 Commodity Classic!


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, cover crops, policy, the future of farming, rural development, marketing, weather and more. Offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.


THURSDAY, February 27


8:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Farm Management Strategies in Times of Rising Volatility

Sponsored by Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture


Speakers: Jason Henderson, Associate Dean and Director of Purdue Extension; Michael Langemeier, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University; James Mintert, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University and Director, Center for Commercial Agriculture; Fred Seamon, Executive Director of Commodity Research and Product Development, CME Group


In this session, a panel of experts will share key lessons from 2019 and help producers plan for the financial and risk management realities of 2020. The discussion will feature the latest data from the Purdue/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer. These results will have a specific focus on what farmers see happening with regard to their current financial situation, expected profitability in 2020, the desirability of making large investments in their farms, plans for expansion, and their approach to risk management during current challenging times.






9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Taking Your Yields to the Next Level: Hear from the Yield Masters
Sponsored by AgriGold


Moderator: Mike Kavanaugh, Agronomy Manager, AgriGold


Speakers: Randy Dowdy, NCGA Corn Yield Champion and Soybean World Record Holder, Valdosta, Georgia; David Hula, Corn Yield World Record Holder, Charles City, Virginia


The most successful growers have more in common than just the high-yielding seed they use. They all know maximizing their acres is a team effort. It takes a combination of the best genetics, know-how, and true partnership to be a Yield Master. If you’re interested in and committed to trying something new—and are willing to be a student of the crop—don’t miss this Yield Master session to learn the approach that the nation’s top corn growers take to growing high-yielding corn.





1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (on the Main Stage)
Economic Factors Impacting Your Machinery Purchases: Is Your Equipment an Asset or Liability?

Sponsored by CLAAS


Speakers: Manda Patrick, Director of Sales & Business Development, Iron Solutions; Cameron Hurnurd, Director of Data Services, Iron Solutions. Invited: CLAAS/University Professional and an Ag Machinery Dealer


Machinery expense continues to be farmers’ largest capital expense. Understanding how machinery values change over time along with technology advancements of new machinery can have a significant impact on your bottom line. We will explore used machinery trends, efficiency gains with new product introductions, and the cost to maintain.





2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. (on the Main Stage)
Investing in Profitability through 4R Nutrient Stewardship and Conservation

Sponsored by The Fertilizer Institute, NACHURS Alpine Solutions, and Certified Crop Adviser Program


Moderator: Sally Flis, PhD, CCA, Senior Director of Agronomy, The Fertilizer Institute
Calvin Haile, Co-Owner, Haile Farm, LLC, Dunnsville, Virginia; Bruce Knight, Owner/Founder, Strategic Conservation Solutions, LLC; 2020 Certified Crop Adviser of the Year (to be named at the session)


Come meet the 2020 Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) of the year awarded by the American Society of Agronomy.  Following the award presentation, a panel including the award winner, 4R Advocate farmer, and sustainable agriculture specialist, will discuss the adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship and conservation practices. The 4R Nutrient Stewardship considers the Right fertilizer source at the Right rate, at the Right time and in the Right place. The panel will cover impacts of practice adoption on farm profitability, nutrient and soil losses, and using practice data to meet consumer company sustainability goals and open new markets to farmers.





friday, FEBRUARY 28


12:30 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Ag Equipment Safety on Public Roadways (on the Main Stage)

Sponsored by Association of Equipment Manufacturers


Speakers: John Fisher, Vice President of Technical Affairs (Retired), Alamo Group; Dale Dobson, Safety Administrator, Division of Agricultural Education and Outreach, Kentucky Department of Agriculture


Lighting and marking standards and regulations (e.g. the AMISA Bill) can be difficult to interpret and understand. Together with Dale Dobson, John Fisher will counsel attendees using the AEM “Visual Guide to Lighting and Marking,” which he was instrumental in developing. This session will provide guidance as you prepare your equipment for on-road travel. Topics will include the appropriate use of the often-misapplied SMV and SIS symbols and a brief explanation of recent changes to North American ag field equipment braking performance standards to accommodate the increased operational speed and mass of ag equipment.





1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Containers: Connecting Farmers to Global Markets

Sponsored by Illinois Soybean Association


Moderator: Eric Woodie, Trade Analyst, Illinois Soybean Association
Panelists: Sal Litrico, CEO, American Patriot Holdings; Derek Reed, Commodity Trader/Merchandiser, GFG Ag Services, LLC


Although a small part of the U.S. grain market, container exports are becoming more popular. Shipments of containerized soybeans to Southeast Asia increased by 40% between 2014 and 2018. Container shipping has helped propel the growth of soybean exports to numerous global markets including Indonesia, which is now one of the five largest international destinations for U.S. soybeans. Market diversification is imperative in today’s dynamic agricultural environment. Our panel will explore these topics and more—all from the viewpoint of veterans in the industry.





Agriculture’s Connectivity Crisis: Is 5G the Solution?
Sponsored by Syngenta


Moderator: Ariel Wiegard, Federal Government Relations Manager, Syngenta
Panelists: Jeff Johnston, Lead Economist ‒ Communications at CoBank;
Justin Welch, Digital Product Manager at Syngenta; Chad Rupe, Administrator, USDA Rural Utilities Service



In December 2019, the Federal Communication Commission created a new $9 billion fund to deliver broadband to rural America via 5G, fifth-generation wireless internet technology. Reception to the fund has been mixed; while many consider 5G a major win for farmers, others contend 5G is not the answer for rural America’s connectivity needs. Federal leaders will hold an important conversation about the practical and political issues impacting widespread adoption of 5G in rural America, and whether 5G will enable you to adopt transformational technology that will accelerate innovation, sustainability and economic opportunity on your farm.





Beyond the Aurora Borealis: What’s Up in the Upper Atmosphere
Sponsored by DTN


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


We’re familiar with the shimmering Northern Lights of the upper atmosphere. But, scientists are also identifying how the upper atmosphere can suddenly influence our surface temperature and weather patterns. DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson will detail these influences, their impact on the 2019 crop year, and how they may affect the 2020 growing season.





2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
Innovations in Grain Marketing & Risk Management: 

How Farms Can Stay Profitable in Volatile Markets
Sponsored by National Sorghum Producers


Speakers: Rich Morrison, VP of Farm Services, NAU Country Insurance Company; Tom Sell, Managing Director, Combest, Sell & Associates


Regardless of how high or low grain markets go at harvest, volatility is likely here to stay, making active marketing and risk management more important than ever. And, with each of the last five years presenting opportunities for farmers to sell grain forward at profitable levels, more marketing and risk management support will be key to farm profitability moving forward. Topics will include marketing and crop insurance and an in-depth look at the links between marketing and crop insurance through futures, options and products like Production Cost Insurance and Whole Farm Revenue Protection. Presented in financial partnership with RMA.


This Learning Center Session will be broadcast live on Tony St. James’ “All Ag, All Day”
radio show.





Assessing & Expanding Soil Health for Production, Economic and Environmental Benefits: The FFAR Soil Health Collaboration
Sponsored by National Corn Growers Association


Speakers: Maria Bowman, PhD, Lead Scientist, Soil Health Partnership; Pipa Elias, Director of Agriculture in North America, The Nature Conservancy; Wayne Honeycutt, PhD, President and CEO, Soil Health Institute


Discover more about a unique partnership between three organizations: the Soil Health Institute, Soil Health Partnership and The Nature Conservancy—and how you can apply their findings and insights. With support from a FFAR (Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research) grant, this group is researching soil health in a practical way for farmers and landowners through long-term agricultural experiment fields in North America and evaluating new and existing soil health measures and frameworks. Learn about on-farm applied field level trials in partnership with growers to provide information on how to incorporate practices into their operations, and using the findings to address landowners and rental agreements to include incentivized adoption.





2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
Leading Economic and Agronomic Decisions (LEAD)

Sponsored by John Deere


Speakers: Pauley Bradley, Manager, Customer Outcome Marketing, John Deere; Brad Van De Woestyne, PhD, Manager, Agronomic Innovation, John Deere; Scott Schadler, Manager, Production System Field Research, John Deere


How likely is it that you can replicate yield claims made in the marketplace on your own farm? In this session, you’ll see a vision for how you can use advanced technology and analytics to accelerate your learning about practices and approaches that may work best on your farm. In the process, you enhance your ability to unlock higher yields and reduce the cost of producing corn and soybeans. You’ll also discover how participating in John Deere on-farm research may be right for your operation.





Ag Technology: Sorting Through the Opportunities for Your Farm
Sponsored by United Soybean Board/Soy Checkoff









Moderator: Robert Brunner, Associate Dean for Innovation and Chief Disruption Officer, Gies College of Business, University of Illinois; Principal and Founder of Innodative, LLC
Farmer Panel: Jay Myers, Farmer from Colfax, North Dakota; Deb Gangwish, Farmer from Shelton, Nebraska; Kent Martin, Farmer from Alva, Oklahoma; Steve Lacey, Farmer from Wendell, Minnesota


Innovation is at the heart of American agriculture. And as farm technology rapidly develops, it’s only natural that farmers will feel the pressure to adapt. With so many options and companies to choose from, how can farmers determine what’s going to be viable and beneficial to their farm? A panel of progressive farmers, representing a cross-section of commodities including soy, corn, wheat and sorghum, will discuss how integrating today’s technology led to more informed management decisions about their farms. You’ll hear about real experiences from fellow farmers on a topic that can be difficult to navigate.





3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Beyond the Paperwork: Navigating the Emotional Stress of Succession Planning

Sponsored by Sipcam Agro









Moderator: Cyndi Young, Ag Operations/Director of Brownfield Ag News

Panelists: Nadia Gagliardini, Sipcam Oxon, third-generation Owner/President; Jon Whatley, Texas Farmer – cotton, corn, milo, some cattle; Brandon Hunnicutt, Nebraska Farmer – corn, soybeans, seed corn, popcorn, sorghum; Patty Leonard, Virginia Dairy Farmer – sold most cows, now agritainment/agritourism; Jason Medows, Missouri cow-calf operation, full-time pharmacist


Succession Planning is a hot topic. But while there are many resources available to guide farmers from a legal and financial perspective, there is a significant piece that no one discusses – the emotional stress. This session breaks that silence and starts those important conversations. Invited panelists include Nadia Gagliardini, president of Sipcam Oxon, a family-owned agri-business, and several growers who will share how they’ve navigated the stress of tough family conversations and the weight of taking responsibility for their multi-generational operations.






Moneyball Seed: How Data, Analytics and New Breeding Models are Changing the Future of Seed ROI for Farmers
Sponsored by Farmers Business Network


Speakers: Matt Foley, GM - Retail Seed Brands for FBN; Dan Dyer, PhD, FBN Head of Research & Development; Matthew Meisner, FBN Head of Data Science; Zach Johnson, Millennial Farmer from Minnesota
The use of data analytics in agriculture is transforming the way we think about seed ROI. Join us for an engaging panel discussion and see how this revolution is putting power back into farmers' hands through price transparency, seed relabeling information, real-world performance data and new breeding techniques that deliver quality genetics at a competitive price. Discover ways to farm smarter and boost your ROI by putting data-driven tools and decision-making to work on your operation.






Saturday, FEBRUARY 29


8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.
Need for Narrow: The Future of Corn Production

Sponsored by Calmer Corn Heads


Speakers: Fred E. Below, PhD, Professor of Crop Physiology, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois; Randy Bales, Manager, Fairholme Ag, LLC; Brad Bales, Assistant Manager, Fairholme Ag, LLC


Increases in corn yields have been closely associated with increases in planting population. Too high a population, however, can cause competition for resources and decrease yield. Narrow row spacing (anything less than 30 inches) is a good strategy for managing higher plant populations, allowing for greater light interception, better availability of water and mineral nutrients, and the potential for substantial increases in yield. This session will educate growers on the value of narrow rows for corn production, why they work, and what additional management factors will be necessary to realize the full economic value of switching to narrow rows.





A Deeper Understanding of Soil Characteristics: Improving Seed and Management Decision-Making
Sponsored by WinField United


Speakers: Jonathan Zuk, Agronomist, WinField United; Jason Weller, Senior Director of Sustainability, Land O’Lakes; Jimmy Emmons, Emmons Farms owner and FPAC Regional Coordinator


Proper soil health is a key component in growing a successful crop. But a basic baseline may not be enough. Understanding the chemical makeup of the soil—as well as its physical and biological characteristics—can have a powerful, positive impact on decision making. This  session will cover new research, data and technology that will make deeper soil analysis possible in order to help you make the best seed and management decisions on every acre—helping you identify where data-backed profit potential lies.





Beyond China: Creating New Markets for U.S. Soy
Sponsored by U.S. Soybean Export Council


Speakers: Jim Sutter, CEO, USSEC; Monte Peterson, Vice Chairman, USSEC; Daryl Cates, Farmer, Columbia, Illinois


While the U.S. - China Trade War pushed market diversification into the spotlight, developing new markets has been a primary focus for the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) for many years. During this session, USSEC leaders will discuss the organization’s “Emerging International Markets for U.S. Soy” strategy, which identifies new markets (such as Egypt, Nigeria, and India) by evaluating economic activity, growing populations, and demand for protein. Come learn more about the actions USSEC is undertaking to build a strong future for U.S. Soy and why there is substantial cause for optimism in carving out new opportunities for U.S. Soy farmers in emerging regions and markets. The session will include an opportunity for Q&A and discussion with USSEC leaders.





12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Closing Learning Center Session
Grain Marketing 101: Creating a Plan that Works

Sponsored by Farm Futures and Channel Seed


Speaker: Matt Bennett, Channel Seed grain marketing consultant, Farmer and former Grain Elevator Manager


Discover the nuts and bolts of starting a grain marketing plan that works. Learn how to develop a business-minded approach for your grain marketing to remove the emotional roller coaster of market shifts and world influences. Learn to evaluate your farm’s marketing plan the same way an investor looks at an investment portfolio. The end result: A more effective marketing plan. Learn and realize at what levels you can safely market, based on your individual farm’s break-even points. By knowing your costs of production and typical production levels, you can target incremental price levels that, if reached, will ensure you maximize the opportunities presented by the markets.