2021 Summer Meeting Speakers

Confirmed Speakers

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Thomas J. Vilsack was confirmed as the 32nd United States Secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 23, 2021 by the U.S. Senate.

He was nominated by President Joe Biden to return to a role where he served for eight years under President Barack Obama. As leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the 30th Secretary of Agriculture between 2009-2017, Vilsack worked hard to strengthen the American agricultural economy, build vibrant rural communities and create new markets for innovation in rural America. He fought to put Americans back to work by investing in rural infrastructure, renewable energy and large-scale conservation partnerships. Under his leadership, USDA supported America’s farmers, ranchers and growers who drove the rural economy forward, set records for U.S. agricultural exports, provided food assistance to millions of Americans, and helped provide a safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply for the American people. USDA introduced healthier food choices in school meals to benefit 50 million children during Vilsack’s tenure and expanded free and reduced-price lunches for millions of kids.

Secretary Vilsack has provided remarks for the 75th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, July 25.

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who was among the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014.

She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms.

Senator Duckworth has provided remarks for the 75th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, July 25.

CSCB Program Manager Cindy Lair

Cindy Lair manages the Colorado State Conservation Board (CSCB) and other conservation programs for the Colorado Department of Agriculture.  The CSCB provides financial support and statutory oversight to the 75 Conservation Districts within Colorado.

A Natural Resources Management graduate of Colorado State University, she represents the Department of Agriculture on the critical nexus of natural resources/natural climate solutions/agriculture by serving on the US Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Team for Colorado and representing agriculture on Governor Polis’ GHG Reduction Roadmap Team. Cindy coordinates the Department’s implementation of a state Soil Health Program and works closely with partnering agencies and conservation districts to ensure focus on incentivizing innovation and voluntary conservation. She served on the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Western Region Administrative Council for 10 years and served as chair in 2012-13. Cindy served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Conservation Agencies (NASCA) and served on the Executive Board from 2017-2019. Cindy is alumna of the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Class of 2014.

Lair will be speaking at the Conservation Forum on Monday, July 26.

NRCS Chief Terry Cosby

Terry Cosby was appointed to serve as chief of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in May of 2021. In this role, Chief oversees the 3,000 NRCS field offices and their employees across the nation.

Cosby began his career with the agency in 1979 as a student trainee in Iowa. Terry’s roots run deep. Raised on a cotton farm with his eight siblings in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, his love for the land began at an early age. The farm, now in his family for three generations, was purchased by his great-grandfather in the late 1800s.

Cosby will be speaking at the Conservation Forum on Monday, July 26.

RFD Radio Network Director Rita Frazer

Rita Frazer has been director of network and audio services for the RFD Radio Network and the Illinois Farm Bureau since January 2015. As director, she is responsible for the management and administration of the RFD Radio Network. Rita is also a full-time farm broadcaster, joining DeLoss Jahnke in producing and distributing more than a dozen programs each weekday used by more than 80 Illinois radio stations. Previously, Frazer served as network anchor/broadcast editor for RFD and president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB).

Frazer will be emceeing the NACD 75th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, July 25, and the Conservation Forum on Monday, July 26.


GROWMARK, Inc. Chairman of the Board and President John Reifsteck

John Reifsteck became Chairman of the Board and President of GROWMARK, Inc. on August 28, 2013. He operates a grain farm in western Champaign County, Illinois. Reifsteck is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture economics and education.

Reifsteck has served on the GROWMARK Board since 1993, holding leadership roles including Vice-Chairman of the Board and chairman of the Budget/Audit Committee. Throughout his career, Reifsteck has served on the boards of numerous agricultural organizations. He is a past president of the Illini FS Board of Directors and the Champaign County Farm Bureau, and is a current participant in the University of Illinois Chinese Leadership Program. He is a recipient of the University of Illinois 2018 College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) Alumni Association Award of Merit. Reifsteck has been honored as Director of the Year by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Master Farmer by Prairie Farmer magazine, and Farm Leader of the Year by the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette.

Reifsteck and his wife Nancy have two grown sons and one grandson. He will be speaking during the Conservation Forum on Monday, July 26.

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