2024 Annual Meeting Speakers

NRCS Chief Terry Cosby

NRCS Chief Terry Cosby leads a premier federal conservation agency known for its 3,000 field-office network that helps farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners nationwide plan and carry out voluntary conservation activities on their operations.

Chief Cosby’s more than 40-year career with NRCS, he has held numerous leadership and staff positions. He began his career as an NRCS intern in Iowa in 1979 and rose through the agency’s ranks to become its 17th chief on May 24, 2021. Prior to his current position, Cosby served as NRCS’s Acting Chief for several months.

Chief Cosby’s conservation and agricultural roots run deep. He grew up on his family’s cotton farm and attended a land grant university that prepared him well to serve all producers, including those who were historically underserved. His childhood, education and passion for conservation and agriculture paved the way for him to reach great heights throughout his NRCS career. Prior to being named Acting Chief, he served as NRCS State Conservationist in Ohio for 16 years. His other leadership positions include Deputy State Conservationist in Idaho, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations in Missouri, and Area Resource Conservationist in Iowa.

Chief Cosby will be giving a keynote address at Tuesday’s General Session.

Karen Ross – Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture

Secretary Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture has unmatched leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and in California, in areas including environmental stewardship, climate change adaptation, and trade. Before joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, served as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, and as Vice-President of the Agricultural Council of California.

Secretary Ross is passionate about fostering the reconnection of consumers to the land and the people who produce their food, and to improving the access of all California citizens to healthy, nutritious California-grown agricultural products, celebrated for their diversity and abundance in serving local, national and global markets. During Secretary Ross’ tenure, the Department has focused on core functions to protect and promote California agriculture, investing in the Department’s employees to provide the best service to farmers, ranchers and consumers and fostering an agricultural industry that embraces its role as a global leader on everything from the most technical aspects of farming to the broadest environmental imperatives.

Secretary Ross has strengthened partnerships across government, academia and the non- profit sector in the drive to maintain and improve environmental stewardship and to develop adaptation strategies for the specific impacts of climate change. She has initiated programs to provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable environmental stewardship practices through water conservation, energy efficiency, nutrient management, and ecosystem services; and she has worked to provide greater access to farm-fresh foods at school cafeterias through CDFA’s Farm to Fork Program.

Secretary Ross will be providing a keynote at Monday’s General Session.

Erik Wahl – Artist & Author

Erik Wahl is a San Diego based and internationally recognized graffiti artist, best-selling author of The Spark and the Grind and UNTHINK, and entrepreneur. He has a catalyst for inspiring audiences to unleash their creativity to achieve superior levels of performance and challenging professionals to embrace disruption and build their value proposition. He redefines the term “keynote speaker.” Pulling from his history as both a businessman and an artist, Erik’s on-stage painting seamlessly becomes a visual metaphor to the core of his message, encouraging organizations towards innovations and superior levels of performance.

Wahl believes the purpose of art is not to produce a product, the purpose of art is to produce thinking. The secret is not the mechanics or technical skill that create art – but the process of introspection and different levels of contemplation that generate it. Once you learn to embrace this process, your creative potential is limitless.

Wahl will be providing a keynote at Monday’s General Session. During his keynote, he will be creating two pieces of artwork that will be available in the NCF Auction.

Dr. Dewayne L. Goldman – USDA Senior Advisor for Racial Justice and Equity

Dr. Dewayne L. Goldmon is the inaugural Senior Advisor for Racial Justice and Equity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) where he serves as a key advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture. In this Presidential appointment, he provides counsel on a broad range of matters, and liaises with relevant White House personnel on designing, planning, and executing key initiatives and priorities while representing the Secretary and USDA on inter- and intra-agency working groups and public facing forums.

He provides leadership on the implementation of congressional initiatives and on cross-departmental racial equity work. Goldmon works closely with the Secretary and the department to address the cumulative impacts of prior discrimination, working with his colleagues to transform USDA into a racially equitable department.

Dr. Goldmon has served as Executive Director of the National Black Growers Council and worked for 25 years in the agricultural chemical and seed industry. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas and his Ph.D. from Iowa State University, all in agronomy.

Dr. Goldman will be a panelist during Tuesday’s General Session.

Nancy Wahl-Scheurich – Executive Director, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts

Nancy Wahl-Scheurich joined the CARCD team in early 2020 as a Project Coordinator. She soon moved to a Project Manager role and then became the Pollinator and Wildlife Habitat Program Manager. She served as Interim Executive Director from August to December 2022. When a new Executive Director was hired, she transitioned into a dual role as Deputy Director and Program Manager for Pollinator & Wildlife Habitat. She was appointed as the Executive Director in November of 2023.

Wahl-Scheurich leverages her passion for sustainability and social justice and private sector project management/coordination experience – along with 10 years as an eco-entrepreneur – to get the job done. Earlier in her career, she held management and executive positions in the software industry, with a focus on international business. While her children were young, she consulted and taught business courses at CSU Monterey Bay. Prior to joining CARCD, Nancy founded a company that manufactured energy efficient lighting products made in the USA from recycled e-waste plastic, and co-founded another dedicated to bringing clean, affordable electricity to un-electrified communities in Africa. She has a BS in Business Administration, a BA in French and Inter-American studies, and an MS in Marketing. She speaks Spanish, French, and German and is studying Swahili in her spare time. Nancy is a native Californian, currently living in Santa Cruz.

Wahl-Scheurich will be a panelist during Tuesday’s General Session.

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