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Welcome, 2022 Speakers!

Meet the Speakers at the 63rd Annual FWAA Conference in Boise, Idaho

Source: Emily Gluch, Marketing & Events Coordinator

Earn the chance of 10 CEU Credits at this year's conference, thanks to the following speakers for making this year's conference more robust than ever.

NEW! Are you looking for a 10-hour OSHA training? David Modde - J.R. Simplot offers his expertise to all Far West members to stay compliant and safe.


OSHA 10-Hour Training Certificate

David Modde - J.R. Simplot Company

Professional Development

Tim McArdle - Responsible Ag


Leslie Druffel - McGregor Co.

Leslie was born and raised in the Moscow, Idaho, area. Aside from her degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Idaho, her most valuable education came from living in a rural setting where she learned hard work, being a good listener, and spending time with family. She and her husband, Heath, live on a dryland wheat farm near Colton, WA.

Employed by The McGregor Company for 29 years, Leslie works closely with Alex McGregor, Chairman of The McGregor Company, on public policy, sustainability, and environmental issues – spending considerable time lately on issues related to the lower Snake River dams. Additionally, she is actively involved in Ag literacy projects and workforce development.


Daren Coppock - Agricultural Retailers Association

Daren Coppock began serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) in November 2009. In this role, he leads eight staff to accomplish the ARA's mission, ensuring a profitable business environment for members of the association through its public policy work in Washington, DC. ARA also provides additional value to members through various educational and leadership training opportunities, an informative and social annual conference, and regular updates on critical legislative and regulatory issues.


Chris Novak - Crop Life America

Chris Novak is CropLife America's President and Chief Executive Officer (CLA). Established in 1933, CLA represents the developers, manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of plant science solutions for agriculture and pest management in the United States. CLA’s member companies produce, sell and distribute virtually all of the vital crop protection and biotechnology products used by American farmers. Novak joined CLA in August 2018.


Jason Troendle - The Fertilizer Institute

Jason Troendle serves as the Economist for The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) and helps to provide data, information, and reports on the entire fertilizer industry. Prior to joining TFI, Jason worked in agricultural consulting and as a part of another trade association. He has solid agricultural roots growing up in rural MN. He has an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State and a masters in Applied Economics with a focus on Food and Agriculture from Cornell University.


Scott Bedke - Idaho Representative

Born in Twin Falls; graduated Oakley High School; bachelor’s degree in finance from Brigham Young University; rancher; member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; former president of Idaho Cattle Association; former director of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; former Oakley City Council member; Joint Finance & Appropriations Committee; Revenue & Taxation Committee; Resources & Conservation Committee; Transportation & Defense Committee; Chair Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee; Credit Rating Enhancement Committee; Speaker of the House (December 2012-present); spouse: Sarah; four children; 14 grandchildren.


Nutrient Management

Dan Olk - USDA

Dan Olk is a soil biochemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service and works at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa. He is a Ph.D. graduate (1993) of the University of California, Davis and worked for eight years at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines before his employment with the USDA-ARS (2001-present). Since 2009 Dr. Olk has conducted field evaluations of humic products in corn─soybean rotations of the U.S. Midwest, studying the efficacy of humic products for improving crop growth as influenced by environmental variables, including annual weather patterns and soil type. Field research has also addressed responses by corn structural biochemistry and root growth to humic products, and more recently has studied long-term benefits to soil physical properties. His laboratory research has used an integrated extraction for physical and chemical fractions of soil organic matter to link seasonal changes in their masses and biochemical natures to crop production and soil nutrient cycling in field conditions.


Olga Walsh - University of Idaho

Dr. Olga Walsh is an Associate Professor, an Agronomist, and an Extension Specialist with the University of Idaho. Dr. Walsh is directing the Cropping Systems program at Parma Research and Extension Center since 2014. The program is focused on developing scientifically based, field-tested grower recommendations for improved sustainability and profitability of farming operations. Enhancing fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency and irrigation water conservation are the two major focal points of her work. The current projects are in wheat, barley, beans, corn, sugar beets, onions, potatoes, and hops. Dr. Walsh’s training and background is in Soil Fertility, Plant Nutrient Management, and Precision Agriculture. Originally from Russia, she obtained her BS degree in Soil Science at St. Petersburg State University, Russia. She received her MS and PhD degrees in Soil Science at the Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, focusing on Precision Nutrient Management. Prior to her University of Idaho appointment, she has served as an Assistant Professor of Soil Nutrient Management with Montana State University for 4 years. Dr. Walsh is a published author on a variety of precision agriculture topics and has presented at numerous national and international precision agriculture events.


Linda Schott - University of Idaho

Linda joined the University of Idaho (UI) as the Soil and Nutrient Management Extension Specialist based in Twin Falls in January 2019. Originally from Iowa, she received her MS at Iowa State University and Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Agricultural Engineering. Dr. Schott's research and extension program focuses on how management practices, such as tillage, cover crops, and manure application, impact soil health and water quality.


Edwin Suarez - KOCH

Edwin Suarez is the Senior Agronomist for Koch Agronomics Services. In the past he has worked with organizations such as United Nations Environmental Program and the USDA NLAE Lab (former Soil Tilth Lab). Suarez also worked for Purdue University where he obtained his graduate degree. He has worked with The US Potato Industry under different roles in multiple projects. More recently his work has been with the Ag Retail Industry. His main area of expertise is soil fertility and plant nutrition with emphasis on soil health and nutrient management.


Rhett Spears - University of Idaho

Rhett Spear was raised on a commercial farm in southern Idaho growing sugar beets, alfalfa, and small grains. He received a Bachelor's degree from Utah State University in chemistry and a PhD in Horticulture focusing on potato production from Washington State University. Following graduation, he worked for four years as the agronomist at McCain Foods in Burley, ID before accepting his current position as an Assistant Professor and the Potato Variety Development Specialist at the University of Idaho Research and Extension Center located in Aberdeen, ID.


Wesley Haun - Tiger-Sul

Wesley Haun is a senior agronomist with Tiger-Sul Products. He coordinates soil fertility and crop nutrition research with various research organizations in the United States of America and internationally. He conducts agronomic educational programs emphasizing the benefits of a complete plant nutrient management program. Wesley received his Bachelor of Science Degree with major in Agricultural Mechanization and a Master's Degree with a major in Plant & Soil Science from the University of Tennessee. His certifications include Certified Professional Agronomist, Certified Professional Soil Scientist, and Certified Crop Adviser. He has a diverse agronomy background that spans retail sales consulting at the farm gate to agronomist at regional, national, and international levels.


Mir Seyedbagheri - BioGro

Mir is the Director of Research and Development for BioGro Inc, as well as Professor Emeritus at the University of Idaho. Mir has 40 years of applied research experience in soil health, nutrients, water-use efficiencies, and salt bioremediation.

A pioneer in promoting humic substances in the Pacific Northwest, Mir has also gained international recognition for on-farm applied research on regenerative agriculture and for his innovative, applied research on the effects of functional nanocarbons on soil and plant metabolisms. In addition, Mir is the recipient of 34 scholarly and prestigious awards, including the 2016 Hall of Fame Award in Agriculture.


Christi Falen - ICL

Christi is an agronomist with a passion for putting applied research and new advancements into practical application on the farm to maximize ROI and soil/environmental benefits. She has worked in cropping systems in the Western US for over 20 years. Training and learning from the next generation of agronomists are near and dear to her heart.


Alan Blaylock - Nutrien

Dr. Alan Blaylock earned a Ph.D. in Soil Fertility from Iowa State Univ (1989) and BS and MS degrees in Agronomy from Brigham Young Univ. He supports marketing, sales, and product development for Nutrien and has managed research and education programs in key global markets, such as No. America, Europe, and China. He joined Nutrien (formerly Agrium) in 1996 after serving as Extension Soils Specialist at University of Wyoming.

Alan has served numerous regional and national committees, and as chair of multiple divisions in the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). He was recognized in 2018 by SSSA with the Soil Science Industry and Professional Leadership Award and in 2010 by ASA with the Agronomic Industry Award. Alan is a recognized expert in the fertilizer industry on various nutrient management topics and has spoken on nutrient management at numerous regional, national, and international conferences.


Eva Nambi - University of Idaho

Eva Nambi is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Idaho based at the Parma Research and Extension Centre. In addition to editorial roles, she is involved in several projects that aim to address nutrient and water use efficiency. She has a background in soil fertility management and agronomy. She received both her masters and PhD degree from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater (2021). In her current role as a research fellow, she conducts research on evaluation of effects of irrigation patterns in hops, tillage practices and water scheduling in beans as well as performance of spring wheat varieties.


Soil & Water

Rob Osburn - Precision Labs

As Product and Field Development Technical Manager at Precision Laboratories, Dr. Rob Osburn brings 35 years of agricultural experience in product development across various crop inputs. In his 11 years at Precision, Dr. Osburn has been instrumental in technical product development and sales support across the company's product portfolio. One of his primary areas of responsibility since 2014 has been development and commercialization of the range of soil surfactant water management products for irrigation injection, with particular focus on-field performance and validation. Dr. Osburn has a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining Precision Laboratories, he started his career at Gustafson, Inc. working on development and commercialization of seed treatment pesticide products. This was followed by 18 years at what was then the Nitragin Company (ultimately EMD Crop BioScience and Monsanto BioAg), where he managed the research group and was responsible for technical development of many different seeds, furrow, and foliar-applied microbial and biochemical products, and ultimately Monsanto as part of their seed treatment group, where he was responsible for technical development of the Acceleron seed treatment system for soybeans.


Zach Worden - TELUS Ag

Zach Worden serves as Agronomy Business Director in TELUS Agriculture's Agribusiness Division. Zach began his career at Agrian as an intern and quickly rose through the ranks holding leadership positions within Agrian's Client Success department. His client skills and passion for technology and agriculture have made for a successful career trajectory. Zach received his bachelor's degree in Agriculture Business from California State University, Fresno. Outside of the office, Zach is an avid golfer and hunter.


Jason Riopel - Bayer

Jason is a graduate of North Dakota State University with a bachelor's and master's degree in Natural Resources Management with an emphasis in Soil Science. In his master's research he took part in a large project setting benchmark soil carbon levels in CRP for 5 states from Montana to Iowa. Some of this data was recently published in an article in the SSSA Journal of Soil & Water Management & Conservation. After grad school he spent over 3 years in research agronomy in western North Dakota working in Winter Wheat, over 6 years in the oil and natural gas industry, and multiple roles within Bayer. At Bayer he worked in Crop Protection for 2 years before transitioning to his current role on the Bayer Carbon team. In his current position he works with the operations team to work with farmers on the carbon journey through enrollment, data collection, verification, validation, and payment. Outside of work Jason enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, 3 boys, and yellow lab. They currently reside in a small town in Missouri.


Kendall Kahl - University of Idaho

Kahl manages the Soil and Water Resources Lab where much of the research is focused around carbon and nitrogen cycling, earthworm ecology and soil health monitoring in regional conservation agriculture soils and native ecosystems.


Michael Larkin - Helena Agri Enterprises LLC

Michael Larkin has worked extensively in the West, Northwest, and Northern Plains as a technical agronomist supporting retail sales and precision ag initiatives in many geographies and across a diverse array of crops and cropping systems. His expertise in soils, plant nutrition, and interpreting soil, plant, and water analyses has helped many growers improve and increase productivity. He earned a BS in Agronomy and MS in Soil Science from Utah State University.


Abigail Tomasek - Oregon State University

r. Abigail Tomasek is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and is the statewide Soil and Water Quality Extension Specialist at Oregon State University. She has worked locally and internationally on the effects of land management practices on soil and water quality, and she is broadly interested in developing and implementing practices that promote agricultural productivity while maintaining environmental health. In her extension role, she is interested in learning from and working alongside the Pacific Northwest’s agricultural community to co-create efficient, innovative, and sustainable agricultural practices.