Homefield Advantage Heartland Conference

The HomeField Advantage Heartland Conference featured discussions between public and private sector leaders in agriculture, transportation and technology. Below is the full conference program and the materials that introduced each topic area and some pilot projects that were highlighted as examples of efforts that cut across industries or states.

Who Should Participate?

  • Transportation, Ag & Technology (public & private) executives and staff
  • Ag producers & shippers
  • Precision Ag developers and manufacturers
  • Rail and barge operators
  • Internet service providers
  • State DOT program managers who direct discretionary funds
  • Carbon credit program managers
  • City & County economic development officials
  • Transportation logistics industry officials
  • Legislators
  • Mayors
  • City/County commissioners

Click here to Register 


10:00 a.m. Heartland Challenges & Opportunities: Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz moderates the opening session which features agricultural leaders providing real-world examples reflecting the state of affairs in their industries, including where they see opportunities for growth and where challenges need to be met. Panelists include:

  • Ken McCarty, Owner of McCarty Family Farms (ROI of sustainable farming)
  • Jim Roy, Vice President of Human Resources Strategy at Percipio Partners (labor shortages and automation)

10:30 a.m. The Road to Better Infrastructure & Increased Ag Profitability Panel Discussion: As other countries have increased investment in their transportation systems, what was once a competitive advantage for U.S. ag producers is no longer the case. In a global economy, it’s important to recognize the competition is not among states, but across the world. This session will focus on how the Heartland, as a region, can leverage technology and transportation investments to drive down the cost of transporting ag products to regain an economic advantage. Panelists include:


  • Cary Sifferath, Senior Director of Global Programs for U.S. Grains Council
  • Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director of Soy Transportation Coalition
  • Bo DeLong, Vice President of Grain for DeLong Company (containers/grain movement)
  • Tom Slunecka, CEO of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association & Ag Management Solutions
  • Steve Sinik, Transportation & Logistics Lead, Cargill
  • Ryan Endorf, Economist in the Office of Transportation Policy, USDOT


  • Ed Mortimer, Vice President of Transportation & Infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Staffer
  • Carolyn McGinn, Incoming Chair of the Council of State Governments – Midwest & Kansas State Senator
  • Jack Marchbanks, Director of Ohio Department of Transportation

Noon Lunch Break

1:00 p.m. The Road to Carbon Sequestration & Economy Opportunity Panel Discussion: This session will focus increasing access to precision agriculture technologies to increase profitability & sustainability, reduce emissions and water usage, and access carbon credit markets. Panel will discuss public/private partnerships with ag producers to share technology including fiber optic cable and edge computing being installed along highway right-of-way to increase economic opportunities and reduce emissions. It will also seek other ideas for ways to increase economic opportunities. Panelists include:


  • Eric Fleming, General Manager of Elecsys, Lindsay Corporation
  • Karen Woodrich, State Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • Phil Silver, State & Local government transportation leader of Amazon Web Services
  • Dana Peterson, Chief Strategy Officer of Emerging Prairie (Grand Farm)
  • Chad Pawlak, CEO of Locus Agricultural Solutions (CarbonNOW)


  • U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Staffer
  • Carolyn McGinn, Incoming Chair of the Council of State Governments – Midwest & Kansas State Senator
  • Ed Mortimer, Vice President of Transportation & Infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

    2:30 p.m. CEO Lightning Round: CEOs, Cabinet Secretaries, Directors of state Departments of Transportation and Agriculture from across the Heartland will synthesize ideas put forward throughout the day including which they are most interested in implementing in the near term. Focus question: What idea is most impactful and should be worked on first in the near term? Who runs point on further developing the idea into a grant or pilot? Panelist Include:

    • Iowa DOT Director Scott Marler
    • Missouri DOT Director Patrick McKenna
    • Ohio Director Jack Marchbanks
    • President & CEO John Greuling (Will County Center for Economic Development

    3:00 p.m. Adjourn

    Participating Organizations

    • The Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation
    • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    • Soy Transportation Coalition
    • Kansas Department of Agriculture
    • U.S. Grains Council
    • Cargill
    • Lindsay Corporation
    • Amazon
    • Percipio Partners
    • DeLong Company
    • Soy Transportation Coalition
    • Locus Agricultural Solutions

    Panelist Biographies

    Bo DeLong
    Vice President of Grain
    The DeLong Co., Inc.

    Bo DeLong currently serves as Vice President of Grain for The DeLong Co., Inc. After attending the University of Wisconsin, DeLong went into the family business and began his career merchandising grain for the company’s country grain elevators. In the early 1980s, he began originating and selling specialty grains to food processors and by the late 80s, expanded into selling containers of “tofu type” soybeans to Japan. In 2004, when economics made exporting commercial grain and feedstuffs by containers feasible, he put The DeLong Co. into position to become a leader in container exports.

    For the past 20 years, DeLong has overseen numerous acquisitions of country elevators and the building of trans-load facilities to expand company operations. He is currently responsible for the company’s grain elevators and trans-loading operations across the states of New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Kansas.

    Ryan Endorf
    Economist, Office of Transportation Policy
    US DOT

    Ryan is an economist within the Office of Transportation Policy at U.S. DOT. He manages national multimodal freight policy for the Department, including the development of guidance for State Freight Plans. He also supports U.S. DOT’s major discretionary grants programs and assists on regulatory evaluations for U.S. DOT’s regulatory actions.

    Eric Fleming
    General Manager of Elecsys
    Lindsay Corporation

    Eric Fleming is the General Manager of Lindsay Corporation’s technology division, Elecsys International, based in Olathe, Kansas. Since assuming this role in 2020, Eric oversees the Elecsys and RoadConnect brands of connected solutions for the water, oil and infrastructure industries.

    Prior to this, Eric spent four years in various finance leadership roles in Lindsay’s corporate and industrial water divisions, most recently leading Corporate Development and Treasury. Eric also led the company’s global Foundation for Growth initiative, focused on company performance and innovation.

    Prior to joining Lindsay, Eric worked in the investment industry, managing a private partnership. He also served in finance and operations consulting roles at Ernst and Young and Sprint.

    Eric earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    Ken McCarty
    McCarty Family Farms, LLC

    Ken McCarty works as part of McCarty Family Farms, LLC. He responsible for animal welfare, compliance to third party certifications, sustainability initiatives and public relations along with helping manage the Rexford dairy. Since 2005, McCarty Farms have grown from 1,500 milking cows on one farm to 13,000 milking cows across five different dairies today. Currently, the dairies produce roughly 1.3 million pounds of raw Non GMO Certified and Validus Certified raw milk per day, of which approximately 685,000 pounds is processed per day through an evaporative condensing plant located in Rexford and shipped to Danone North America.

    McCarty is a graduate of Kansas State University where he majored in Animal Science and Industry with a production management option and participated in the Dairy Science club, Ag Student Council, the Dairy Cattle Judging team. He currently lives in Colby, Kansas with his wife Courtney and three children, Kaeden, age 14, Kohen, age 5, and Krew age 3.

    Carolyn McGinn
    Incoming Chair of the Council of State Governments – Midwest
    Kansas State Senator

    Senator Carolyn McGinn is a 4th generation resident of the 31st District where she serves.

    Carolyn first became active in local politics through grassroots landowners’ rights advocacy and Sedgwick Public Schools, where her children attended She was elected to the Kansas State Senate in 2004 and has been re-elected since. She served as the Ways and Means Chair for six years and serves on the Agriculture and Natural Resource and Local Government Committees.

    In her role as chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee, she was uniquely positioned to influence discussions at the state level, particularly as it relates to the funding of state services. Carolyn understands strategic investments are key to delivering quality services and better outcomes for Kansans, whether that be in the classroom, on our roads or in our hospitals.

    She graduated from Valley Center High School and achieved a business degree from Wichita State University before earning a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from Friends University with a focus on water issues.

    Carolyn lives with her husband Mark on a family farm outside the town of Sedgwick where they raised two sons.

    Ed Mortimer
    Vice President, Transportation and Infrastructure
    US. Chamber of Commerce

    Ed Mortimer serves as vice president of Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Mortimer oversees the development and implementation of the Chamber’s transportation infrastructure policy and represents the Chamber on Capitol Hill as well as before the administration and industry organizations. He also leads the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition, a collaborative effort by business, labor, transportation stakeholders, and concerned citizens to advocate for improved and increased federal investment in the nation’s aging and overburdened transportation system.

    Mortimer comes to the Chamber from AECOM, an engineering and construction company, where he served as director of government relations. He was responsible for coordinating government affairs efforts with the company’s infrastructure market segment, representing AECOM’s interests before federal, state, and local officials. Prior to that, Mortimer was director of Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber. Earlier in his career, he was director of government relations for the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) and a legislative representative for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

    Mortimer received a bachelor’s of arts in political science from American University and completed an executive management program at Georgetown University. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife and two children.

    Dana Peterson
    Chief Strategy Officer
    Emerging Prairie

    Dana Peterson is a builder of people and organizations, change agent, and effective leader and communicator. As Chief Strategy Officer she oversees the implementation of the strategic plan, works with existing partners, builds new partnerships, including federal and state government partners.

    Prior to joining Emerging Prairie, Dana served in Washington, DC in the U.S. Department of Agriculture working to implement rural prosperity priorities, farm bill programs, and urgent COVID relief to America’s farmers and ranchers.

    Dana grew up in north central Kansas on a crop and livestock farm and studied agricultural economics at Kansas State University. She enjoys serving her community and spending time with family and friends.

    Chad Pawlak
    Locus Agricultural Solutions

    Chad Pawlak is an active global entrepreneurial executive who brings a unique range of experience across agribusiness, including crop protection, genetics, dairy and specialty foods. His proven track record for building new companies and turning ideas into commercialized products makes him a valuable leader for the Locus AG team. As CEO, Pawlak drives the company’s vision, strategy, execution, operations and commercial development of its innovative soil technologies and CarbonNOW® carbon farming program—which have been globally recognized for their superior economic, agronomic and environmental impacts.

    Jim Roy
    Vice President of Human Resources Strategy
    Percipio Partners

    Roy has 25 years of experience in the fields of staffing, recruiting and human resources. After touring over 2100 manufacturing and warehouse facilities in his career, Jim has developed workforce best practices that can be utilized to improve retention and reduce turnover. The staffing industry allowed Jim to learn many lessons in business, ranging from staff management to recruiting techniques and a healthy dose of acquisition activity.

    He is active in a number of organizations designed to support the growth of workforce. From economic development to transit based job access, Jim spends his time helping create more opportunities for companies to grow and individuals find gainful employmed. He is also an active fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Jim earned his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and is a proud father of three girls.

    Cary B. Sifferath
    Senior Director of Global Programs
    U.S. Grains Council

    Cary Sifferath serves as the senior director of global programs for the U.S. Grains Council, a non-profit organization that promotes the global use of U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products including ethanol and distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS). In this capacity, Sifferath is responsible for oversight of the Council’s 10 international offices and all worldwide programs.

    Sifferath has held various positions within the Council since joining in 1993. Before joining the Council, he was a district sales manager for Kent Feeds, Inc., of Muscatine, Iowa.

    Sifferath has lived and traveled extensively in and outside of the U.S. collecting information and firsthand knowledge of world grain supply and demand from regular contacts with local feed grain importers, processors, end-users and various agricultural agencies. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, in agricultural economics and animal science.

    Phil Silver
    Leader, Transportation

    Phil leads Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) state and local government transportation vertical, including activities with airports, seaports, transit agencies, tolling authorities, traffic departments, parking, departments of transportation, and regional planning organizations.

    Over the past twenty years Phil held sales and strategy leadership roles in global systems integration firms who are specialists in payments, traffic management, tolling, parking, IoT, and advanced analytics. Phil served in the U.S. Navy, capping a 25-year active duty and reserve career with command of two expeditionary warfare units that deployed overseas in support of our Naval Forces, retiring as a Captain.

    Phil serves on the board of directors of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA). He earned a Masters in Executive Leadership from University of San Diego, an MBA from Fordham University, and Bachelor degrees in Chemistry and History from the University of Florida.

    Steve Sinik
    Business Transportation Lead

    Steve Sinik serves as Business Transportation Lead, providing oversight over the Domestic Transportaion/International Supply Chain for Cargill’s protein business. He has worked for 30 years for the company.

    Sinik earned a Bachelor’s in Business from the University of British Columbia. He currently lives in Wichita where he works as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas.

    Tom Slunecka
    Minnesota Soybean

    Tom Slunecka has been the chief executive officer of Minnesota Soybean since August of 2012. Since then, he has overseen the creation of several new non-profit and for-profit entities, including Plasma Blue and the Ag Innovation Campus, along with the creation and development of Ag Management Solutions, which focuses on providing services to ag associations and the businesses they manage. He currently serves as CEO of AMS.

    Before joining Minnesota Soybean, Slunecka had a long history in the biofuels and agriculture industry. Throughout his career, he has launched several products, services and companies, many of which are still relevant today. His previous experience includes serving as executive director of the Ethanol Promotion & Information Council, Omaha, Neb., and vice president of marketing for the National Corn Growers Association, St. Louis. In addition, Slunecka worked with the Urban Air Initiative and Phibro Animal Health where he was vice president of marketing for PhibroChem, a specialty supply company focused on ethanol and animal agriculture in New Jersey.

    Tom is a native of South Dakota and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Business from South Dakota State University in Brookings. Tom and his wife, Robyn, have three sons, Wyatt, William and Jack.

    Mike Steenhoek
    Executive Director
    Soy Transportation Coalition

    Mike Steenhoek is executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition (STC), an initiative established in 2007 and comprised of the United Soybean Board, the American Soybean Association, and thirteen state soybean boards. The Soy Transportation Coalition exists to promote a cost effective, reliable, and competitive transportation system that serves the agriculture industry.

    As executive director of the STC, Mike’s responsibilities include communicating the initiative and the importance of transportation issues to soybean growers and processors; establishing and executing the organization’s strategic direction; and building collaborations with other effected industries.

    Mike is a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness and the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Freight Advisory Council. Prior to his work on the STC, Mike worked for United States Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa) for eight years – both in Washington, DC, and most recently in Des Moines, Iowa. In Washington, DC, Mike served as the Senator’s scheduler and frequent speechwriter. In Des Moines, Mike served as Senator Grassley’s director of economic development.

    Karen Woodrich
    State Conservationist
    US Department of Agriculture

    Karen Woodrich began her professional career with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service as a Soil Conservationist in 1998 in Portage, MI. She spent the next 10 years in MI and WI working directly with farmers and forester owners as a Soil Conservationist and District Conservationist covering diverse types of agriculture, both large and small, along with a wide range of conservation resource concerns.

    Woodrich served as the State Conservationist in Kentucky prior to being selected as the State Conservationist in Kansas in 2018. Over her 23 years with USDA, Karen has worked on several projects to further streamlining efforts in program and technical service delivery, while promoting diversity and inclusion of services and staff. She has served in multiple national capacities at the NRCS National Office as the Acting Ecological Sciences Division Director and as an Acting Senior Policy Advisor to the Undersecretary at the US Department of Agriculture. She is a 2020 graduate of the USDA Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program.

    Karen is a native of central Wisconsin, with a background in dairy and Christmas tree farming.

    Karen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Soil Science, from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. She resides in Salina, KS, with her husband.

    Julie Lorenz
    Kansas Department of Transportation

    Julie Lorenz was appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly in January 2019 to lead the Kansas Department of Transportation. With more than 25 years of experience, she is recognized as a national leader in the areas of policy development, collaboration and scenario planning.

    Previously, Lorenz directed national engineering firms’ strategic consulting and public engagement services for transportation projects at the local, regional and national levels. She was recently elected president of the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) – a collaboration of transportation leaders representing 10 Midwest states to advance highway, transit and related issues important to the region. Lorenz also serves on the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board and is chairing the Council on Aviation for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

    Lorenz is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where she earned a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Psychology and Drury University, where she earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Psychology and Business Administration.

    Her role of secretary is her second tour of duty for KDOT, as she served as the Director of Public Affairs from 2003 to 2011.

    Julie Bushell
    Paige Wireless

    Julie Bushell is the President of Paige Wireless and Director of Paige Precision Agriculture. She is an experiences, results-driven leader and visionary designing and implementing connectivity solutions to solve rural America’s large connectivity gap. Passionate about empowering and shaping the sustainable industries of the future through technological advanced in IoT, Broadband, Biosecurity, Food Safety and Precision Agriculture.

    Bushell's career has been laser-focused on rural economic development since joining Paige in 2004 and becoming partner in 2013. Her passion for our country’s producers and their ability to compete on a global scale drives her business, from products and services to emerging technology and advocacy.

    In March 2019, Bushell spear-headed the creation of Paige Wireless, a new innovative arm of Paige Electric. Paige Wireless was born from Bushell's dedication to continuous improvement, and her passion to connect the under-served. She believes measurable societal advancements are born in rural America.

    Beyond her work at Paige Electric, Bushell is involved in the Irrigation Association where she serves on the Board of Directors. She has also served as Chair of the Government Affairs Committee from 2017-2019 and Vice-Chair from 2015-2017. Her work has spanned multiple technology innovation initiatives and successfully advocating for the connectivity to support them in the 2018 Farm Bill. Julie also serves as vice chair for the "Encouraging Adoption of Precision Agriculture" working group for the FCC's Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force.

    John E. Grueling
    President and CEO

    John enjoys a national reputation as an economic development professional. During the past 30 years, prior to joining the CED in 2001, Greuling managed the economic development program for the State of Colorado, directed community economic development initiatives in Colorado, Illinois and North Carolina, and headed a private consulting firm providing location assistance to corporations.

    Jack Marchbanks, Ph.D.
    Ohio Department of Transportation

    Jack Marchbanks served as Assistant Director for Business & Human Resources for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) from July 2017 until his appointment as Director by Gov. DeWine in January 2019.

    In his role as Assistant Director, he was responsible for the overall management of the department’s 5,000 employees and the development of its $3.3 billion budget. He provided strategic direction to the statewide administrators of the agency’s finance, human resources, information technology, legal, and communications divisions, as well as the opportunity, diversity and inclusion programs. His duties also included service as a voting member of the State Infrastructure Bank and fiduciary oversight of federal fund transfers from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Federal Rail Administration.

    He is a former member of the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) and has worked in the private sector as Business Development & Marketing Director for PRIME AE Group, Inc.

    A staunch believer in life-long learning, Dr. Marchbanks recently earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Ohio University. He also holds an M.B.A. from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a Master’s Degree from Clark-Atlanta University. He is a proud graduate of the University of Dayton, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.

    He is married to Alice Flowers and lives in Columbus, Ohio.

    Scott Marler
    Iowa Department of Transportation

    Scott Marler became the Iowa DOT Director in February of 2020. He has worked for the Iowa DOT for over 20 years, with experience in traffic operations, highway project development, regulatory compliance, and the natural environment. Marler has been active in leadership development and workforce planning and has also been instrumental in advancing geospatial technologies and systems throughout the Department.

    Prior to serving as Director, Marler served as the Director of the Operations Division since December 2017. In his role, he was responsible for highway operations and traffic management on the state’s 9,400 miles of highways and bridges, including the areas of construction and materials, maintenance, motor vehicle enforcement, traffic operations, and traffic and safety.

    Marler is active on several national committees associated with the American Association of State Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB). He has served on a national technical committee for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an expert panel for TRB, and a course development committee for the National Highway Institute. Marler has also served on Governor’s councils and other state of Iowa task forces.

    He holds a Master of Science degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

    Patrick McKenna
    Missouri Department of Transportation

    Patrick K. McKenna became Director of the Missouri Department of Transportation in December of 2015. As director of MoDOT, Mr. McKenna oversees all operations of the department.

    Prior to coming to Missouri, he served as the deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. Mr. McKenna also spent 13 years in Washington, D.C. working in the United States Senate, serving as chief financial officer among other positions.

    Mr. McKenna was elected to a one-year term as president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in October of 2019. The previous year, he served as vice president of the association and chair of the Strategic Management Committee and Transportation Policy Forum during the development of AASHTO’s surface transportation reauthorization policy. He is also a member of AASHTO’s executive committee and served as president of the Mid America Association of Transportation Officials from 2017-2018.

    Mr. McKenna has a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Bentley College and a Master of Science in Management and Finance from the University of Maryland University College.

    He and his wife, Suzanne, have two sons, Patrick Jr. and Connor, and a daughter, Kelsey.

    Mike Beam
    Kansas Department of Agriculture

    Mike Beam was appointed secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture by Governor Laura Kelly in January 2019 and confirmed in April.

    Beam came to KDA following 38 years of experience in association management for the Kansas Livestock Association. He has served as the Executive Director of the Ranchland Trust of Kansas, an affiliate of KLA, for 15 years.

    He has dedicated his career to assisting farmers and ranchers to advance their policy and public relations needs and in building highly visible, responsive and respected organizations. In his role at KLA he participated and led coalitions in strategizing and implementing legislative and regulatory initiatives.

    His responsibilities at KLA allowed him to serve on several statewide committees and task forces, including Governor Brownback’s Flint Hills Working Group; the smoke management plan task force; the Kansas Technical Committee, advising USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; the Ecotourism Steering Committee; a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism task force regarding Kansas deer hunting laws; and the KDWPT Nongame Wildlife Advisory Council.

    In addition to his professional duties at KLA, Beam has demonstrated his leadership as president of several state and regional organizations, including Partnership of Rangeland Trusts, Symphony in the Flint Hills, Agribusiness Council of Kansas City and Kansas Society of Association Executives.

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