By TIM ALEXANDER
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — As U.S. agriculture faces new challenges in meeting global demand for food and fiber products for an increasing population, agribusiness leaders in Illinois have a major economic stake in the future of the agriculture industry.
In that spirit, a new summit sponsored by Tate & Lyle, a leading food and industrial ingredient company with U.S. headquarters in Hoffman Estates, will spotlight new opportunities for agribusiness and farmers in the coming decade. Millikin University’s Kirkland Fine Arts Center will be the site of the 2013 Global Agribusiness Summit March 13, featuring an outlook of the agriculture industry regarding technology, genetics, government policy and more.
The 1-5 p.m. summit will feature guest speakers Monsanto Co. President Brett Begemann, Colleen Callahan, the Illinois director of USDA Rural Development, Mary Shelman of Harvard Business School and Cory Reed, John Deere vice president of global marketing services.
This summit is the result of a partnership between Tate & Lyle, whose largest production plant is located in Decatur, Millikin, the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
According to Chris Olssen, vice president of community and government affairs for Tate & Lyle, “We want to recognize the importance of agribusiness to the state’s past and future, but more than that, if we can encourage innovation and new ways of looking at doing things to take advantage of new opportunities to make agribusiness even more robust in Illinois, it would be very exciting.”
The idea for the summit arose from Tate & Lyle’s desire to make a financial contribution to Millikin that would aid the university and community, and recognize the importance of agribusiness to central Illinois and Decatur in particular.
“The dean of Millikin’s business school at the time recalled that A.D. Staley (Tate & Lyle’s former business name) and Millikin had partnered on something similar in the past, and suggested it would be a good way to use the donation,” Olssen recounted.
“We started discussions and brought in our partners to create what we think will be a very exciting and informative agribusiness summit.”
Touching on all aspects of agribusiness growth in a single-day summit was a goal of organizers. “Because agribusiness is so wide-ranging, we wanted topics that covered as much of the spectrum as possible,” he explained. “We tried to gather the academic side, the genetics side and the policy side and wrap it all into a conference with wide appeal.”
Sponsors are making an extra effort to reach out to FFA chapters and university ag programs around the state, to encourage youth to attend. “We’d like nothing better than to see young people who will be the future of agribusiness come to the summit and (explore) some of these new possibilities,” said Olssen.
Many of the guest speakers appreciate being asked to present at the Global Agribusiness Summit, according to a news release announcing the event. “The discussion on where the agriculture industry is headed is critical to all of our futures and the future of our global economy,” Shelman said.
“The world has changed gears. Demand is increasing faster than supply, which makes prices volatile. We expect less financial support from government programs in the future and sustainability has gone from fashion to staple. It is important industry leaders are on the same page, and I am excited to be a part of the upcoming summit.”
Tickets are $10 and can be reserved through the website, which also features more information, at www.globalag summit.com