Annual Convention Speakers sharing their expertise and insight

NRA General Opening Session Keynote Speaker

Randy Stuewe

Darling Ingredients

Randy Stuewe will present "Low Carbon Fuels and Sustainability" during our General Opening Session.

Randy Stuewe has served as Darling Ingredient Inc.'s Chairman and CEO since February 2003. He brings the company over 25 years of experience at various agriculture processing businesses.

Randy was Executive Vice President at ConAgra Foods, Inc. from 1996 to 2002, where he built the first farm-to-consumer soybean processing plant.  More recently he was President of Gilroy Foods in Gilroy, California, the world’s garlic capital, and managed the packaged-food company’s garlic and onion dehydration operations.  Prior to 1996, Randy spent twelve years in management, sales and trading positions at Cargill, Incorporated.

After growing up in Salina, Kansas, Randy earned a B.S. degree in finance from Kansas State University and attended the Carlson School of Management Executive Program. 

NRA Welcome Luncheon Guest Speaker

Greg Schwem

Greg Schwem Corporate Comedy

Whether he's emceeing, entertaining, or dispensing motivation, Greg Schwem knows how to make you laugh – all the way to the top.

Dubbed the ''King of the hill in the world of corporate comedy" by the Chicago Tribune, dozens of associations and corporations, from Microsoft to McDonald’s, turn to Greg for laughs as one of the top stand-ups in the business. A nationally syndicated humor columnist for Tribune Content Agency, he is also the author of two best-sellers, including "The Road to Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS (Business Stories) From a Corporate Comedian."

On stage, he shares his hilarious, relatable observations on technology and the business environment, including smartphone abuse, social network overload, never-ending conference calls, "frequently" asked questions, text messaging addiction, and home office workers. Combining clean, good-natured comedy with lightning-fast improv skills and PowerPoint support, he takes audiences on comical tours of the office environment — based on actual research of their workplace — and injects a healthy dose of humor back into corporate America.

FPRF Innovate Conference

B.J. Bench, PH.D

Tyson Foods Ingredient Solutions

Dr. B.J. Bench will present "Oxidation in Rendering and Pet Food — Challenges and Opportunities for Improvement" during Tuesday's FPRF Innovate Conference.

B.J. is the Director of Food Safety & Quality Assurance for the Tyson Foods Ingredient Solutions at Tyson Foods, Inc. He joined the team in March 2017. Before transitioning to the Animal Nutrition Group, B.J. served as the Senior Chemist for the company where he was responsible for chemistry operations in multiple locations and oversaw research and development for method enhancements/developments.

Prior to his current role, B.J. was Tyson Foods’ Senior Chemist, responsible for oversight of nutritional labeling, quality control testing, and research and development activities including novel method developments and optimization of routine methodologies to be streamlined into production style analyses.

B.J. received his B.S. in Chemistry from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, and was a NIH post-doctoral fellow at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.


NRA Industry Issues Forum

Randy Blach


Randy Blach will present "What’s Ahead for the U.S. & Global Livestock Industry?" during Friday's Industry Issues Forum.

Randy is CEO of CattleFax, an organization focused on helping member cattle producers make more profitable marketing and management decisions. Randy joined CattleFax in 1981 and served as director of market analysis for 15 years and accepted his current role in 2001.

A Colorado native, Randy and his family remain actively involved in cattle ranching with cow/calf, stocker and finished cattle. He was raised on his family’s ranch in Yuma, and graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in animal science. Randy received the Honor Alumni award from its College of Agricultural Sciences in 2004 and the Livestock Leader Award in 2011.

Randy and his wife have two children. His son plays for the San Francisco Giants baseball team and his daughter attends Creighton University and competes in soccer. They enjoy spending time together at sporting events and at their ranch in eastern Colorado.

NRA Industry Issues Forum

Mark Brinkmann

Diamond Pet Foods

Mark Brinkmann will present “Pet Food & Rendering – Working Together” during Friday’s Industry Issues Forum.

Mark is vice president of operations for Diamond Pet Foods where he is responsible for product development, nutritional science, quality control and food safety. His pet food background began in nutritional research with Hill's Pet Nutrition where he worked directly under Dr. Mark Morris, Jr., the founder of Hill's Science & Prescription diets.  In 1995, Mark joined Diamond Pet Foods and was instrumental in developing lines of pet food that have contributed to Diamond's significant sales growth over the past 22 years.  He is also a contributing author to Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 3rd Edition.  Mark holds a Bachelor's of Science in Agriculture from the University of Missouri and an MBA from St. Louis University.


NRA Industry Issues Forum

Cameron Bruett


Cameron Bruett will present "Sustainability: Risk and Opportunity" during our Industry Issues Forum.

Cameron has led corporate communications, industry affairs and sustainability at JBS USA since 2012. He started his career at JBS in 2008, managing government relations in Washington, D.C. Prior to JBS, Cameron served on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and held positions with ConAgra Foods and USDA.

Cameron is the past president and an executive committee member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. He graduated from Tuskegee University.

FPRF Innovate Conference

Kevin Finneran

Clemson University

Dr. Kevin Finneran will present "Use of Rendered Animal Co-Products as Electron Donors in Environmental Remediation" during Tuesday's FPRF Innovate Conference.

Kevin Finneran is an associate professor of environmental engineering at Clemson University. He received his Ph.D. in microbiology in 2001 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has been a professor at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and a consultant at Geosyntec. His expertise is environmental remediation using microbial and chemical reactions. He is a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which recognizes young researchers considered experts in their field. He owns and operates Finneran Environmental, LLC, which support clients on the most difficult or problematic environmental remediation projects.

NRA Industry Issues Forum

Donnell Rehagen

National Biodiesel Board

Donnell Rehagen will present "The Future of the Biodiesel Industry" during our Industry Issues Forum.

Donnell is the Chief Executive Officer for biomass based diesel’s preeminent trade association. With nearly 200 member companies, the National Biodiesel Board is the leading U.S. organization representing biodiesel and renewable diesel. Previously serving as Chief Operating Officer, Donnell managed the implementation and execution of NBB’s more than $14 million annual budget. Working with project managers, staff and contractors, Donnell has helped ensure NBB delivers outstanding results for members and funding partners. In addition he has led the annual National Biodiesel Conference & Expo.

Donnell joined NBB in 2004. Under his watch NBB has successfully leveraged dues dollars four to one with outside funding. Prior to working for the NBB, he was the fleet administrator for the Missouri Department of Transportation where he was responsible for all aspects of the department’s $400 million fleet including implementation of their biodiesel (B20) use program. Donnell has Masters in Public Administration from the University of Missouri – Columbia and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems from Missouri State University.

International Market Forum

Secretary Karen Ross

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Karen Ross was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 2011. She has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally and in California. 

Secretary Ross served as Chief of Staff for USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers and Vice-President of the Agricultural Council of California.  Before moving to California, she was the Director of Government Relations for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and a Field Representative for U.S. Senator Edward Zorinsky.

Secretary Ross was active in 4-H growing up on a farm in western Nebraska. She and her husband own 800 acres of the family farm where her younger brother, a fourth generation farmer, grows dryland what, feed grains and cattle. Secretary Ross has a B.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program.  

FPRF Innovate Conference

Michele M. Sayles, Ph.D.

Diamond Pet Foods

Dr. Michele Sayles will present "The FPRF/Colorado State University Alliance — What has been Started, Completed, is in Progress and What is Planned for the Future in Pet Food Research."

Michele has over 21 years experience in Food Safety, Quality and Food Microbiology. Michele’s current role is Executive Director of Food Safety and Quality for Diamond Pet Foods. Prior to joining Diamond, Michele was responsible for the Global Food Safety and Microbiology Program at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Michele has held key Food Safety and Quality positions across various industries. She was the Sr. Corporate Quality Assurance & Food Safety Manager for the Sara Lee Corporation;  the Director of HACCP and Food Safety for Seaboard Foods; and Director of Pork Safety for the National Pork Board.

Michele holds a Ph.D. in Food Microbiology from Oklahoma State University, a Masters of Science degree from Kansas State University and a Bachelor of Science degree from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. 

FPRF Innovate Conference

Ken Tasaki, Ph.D.

Tomorrow Water

Dr. Ken Tasaki will present "Extracting Keratin from Hog Hair and Other Technologies for Better Rendering."

He is the Vice President of Business Development for Tomorrow Water in Los Angeles, CA. He was formerly Director of Technology Research for Mitsubishi Chemical USA and Adjunct Professor of the Advanced Science Technology Center at Kyushu University. Ken has been issued three U.S. patents, authored more than 60 publications, chapters in text books, and given many invited presentations. He has more than 10 years of experience in extracting protein from manure and 20 years of experience in lithium-ion battery R&D for electric vehicles.

He received his Ph.D. in Polymer Science from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1985 and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.