5:00 PM – Welcome
5:15 PM – Opportunities in Agriculture
5:30 PM – Dinner
6:15 PM – Keynote Speaker
7:15 PM – Energy Panel
7:45 PM – Legislative Panel
8:30 PM – Program Concludes
Rural Forum Speakers
President, Minnesota FFA
Katie Ketchum is the 2023-2024 Minnesota FFA State President. Katie is originally from Altura, Minnesota and is the daughter of Mike and Mary Ketchum. Katie grew up on a small dairy farm, where her family owns and operates a herd of 130 Registered Holsteins and Jerseys and farms 500 acres of land. She joined FFA as a 7th grader in 2016 and has since earned multiple degrees throughout the association and most recently at the beginning of November obtained her American Degree, the highest degree that an FFA member can receive.
Katie graduated from Lewiston-Altura High School in 2022 and is currently in her sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she is majoring in Agricultural Education and double minoring in animal and dairy sciences. At college Katie is active in Ag Ed Society, Dairy Club, and many other activities. After graduating with her teaching degree, she plans to teach agricultural education and be an FFA advisor at a rural high school. Katie also plans to continue to grow and manage her own herd of Registered Holsteins and Jerseys throughout college and beyond alongside her parents, grandparents, and sister as the fourth generation on the farm.
Bob Reiter, Ph.D.
Head of Research & Development Crop Science Division, Bayer
As Head of Crop Science Research & Development (R&D), Bob Reiter serves as a member of the Executive Leadership Team. Reiter oversees the Crop Science R&D pipeline, leading thousands of scientists in the creation of sustainable agricultural solutions with the goal of helping farmers grow safe and affordable food while protecting the planet that sustains us.
Having held various leadership roles across R&D as well as in Supply Chain, Reiter has nearly 30 years of experience in discovering, developing and delivering innovative solutions.
He holds a Master of Science and a Doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from the Pennsylvania State University.
Executive Director, MN Bio-Fuels
Brian Werner was appointed Executive Director of MN Bio-Fuels on Sept 26, 2022. A native of Marshall, MN, Brian’s prior experience includes working for Sen. Amy Klobuchar as Deputy Legislative Director/Senior Legislative Assistant for renewable energy and agriculture. Throughout that time, he supported the Senator’s work to protect mandatory funding for Farm Bill energy title programs, maintain stability in the implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard, provide economic relief for biofuel producers negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and secure federal investment in biofuel infrastructure.
Brian also spent time on Capitol Hill in the offices of former Congressman Collin Peterson and former U.S. Senator, Tim Johnson, of South Dakota. He received his BA from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a master’s degree in public policy and public administration from American University in Washington, D.C.
In his spare time Brian enjoys golfing, watching Twins baseball and Gopher football, hiking and traveling with his wife Lori, and explaining the difference between field corn and sweet corn to his non-Midwestern friends.
Pam Gorman Prochaska
General Manager, Nuclear Fleet Operations at Xcel Energy
Pam is General Manager of Nuclear Fleet Operations where she oversees Nuclear Policy, Planning and Partnerships as well as the Business Strategy for the nuclear fleet. She began her career more than 30 years ago in the operations department at the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant. After 10 years in operations, she spent time in various plant positions including project management, regulatory, communications and training as well as time on the opco side of the company.
Pam is a graduate of the University of Minnesota- Duluth where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Secondary Math Education.
Rep. Samantha Vang (D-Brookyln Park)
Chair of the Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee
First elected in 2018, Samantha Vang serves as State Representative for the northwestern Minneapolis suburbs of Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center. She currently serves as the Chair of the Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee. She also serves on the state’s first Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus and the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus. Representative Vang is one of the first Hmong American women to serve in the Minnesota House. Before running for office, she worked as a community organizer.
She received her B.A. degrees in Political Science and Communications from Gustavus Adolphus College. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family.
Rep. Bjorn Olson (R-Fairmont)
Assistant Minority Leader
Bjorn Olson is an Assistant Minority Leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He represents District 22A, which includes parts of Blue Earth, Faribault, Martin, and Watonwan Counties. He is also a member of the Taxes, Transportation, and Veterans Committees.
Outside of the legislature, Bjorn lives with his wife Hannah and their three children in Fairmont. They previously lived in Elmore, Minnesota, where Bjorn served as Mayor for two terms.
Bjorn is also a farmer and a Captain in the United States Army Reserves. Before becoming a state representative, he taught middle school history at Blue Earth Area Schools for 8 years.
His varied experiences guide his pursuit to provide moral and family-based representation of his communities in Saint Paul.
Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne)
Assistant Minority Leader
Senator Weber was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016, 2020, and 2022. He serves all or part of nine counties in the southwest corner of the state. He serves on the Senate Energy & Utilities Committee and serves as ranking minority member on the Taxes Committee.
Senator Weber is a native of his district having grown up in Rock County and graduated from Luverne High School. He went on to business college in professional accounting. He is the owner and president of Jensen Management Service, Inc. a real estate brokerage, appraisal, and management firm. Before his service in the Minnesota Senate, he served sixteen years in local government as a council member and mayor of Luverne.
RURAL FORUM SPONSORS
DOOR PRIZE SPONSOR
Thank you to all our speakers, attendees, and sponsors with a special shout out to our Presenting Sponsor, Gislason & Hunter LLP. We would not be able to make Rural Forum happen without all of YOU! Help us improve Rural Forum by taking our attendee survey found below.