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Event to honor Rod Nilsestuen legacy

March 23, 2012

A conference March 30 in River Falls will explore important agriculture and conservation themes as it honors the legacy of the late Rod Nilsestuen.

The Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Event will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the UWRiver Falls University Center. The theme will be “Feeding the World, Sustaining the Land, Inspiring Cooperative Action.” Longtime Wisconsin agriculture and business leader Tom Lyon will be master of ceremonies.

Nilsestuen, who earned his undergraduate degree at UWRF, was Wisconsin secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at the time of his death in July 2010. Prior to taking that role, he was a cooperative leader in the Midwest and nation, including serving as chief executive officer of the Cooperative Network of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

While secretary of agriculture, he made conservation of Wisconsin working lands a top priority.

Keynote speakers will be Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust, and Martin Lowery, vice president of external affairs for the National Rural Electric Coop.

Scholl, an Illinois farmer who leads the nation’s major agricultural lands conservation organization, will explore the challenges American agriculture faces as it feeds the world while striving to conserve land and water resources.

A panel discussion will follow. Panelists include Wayne Nilsestuen, Rod’s brother and an official with USAID, a government agency that provides U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide; John Rosenow, a Cochrane dairy farmer and a leader in efforts to address rural immigration issues; and Margaret Krome, policy director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and a member of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Board. Former UWRF dean of agriculture Gary Rohde will moderate.

Lowery will speak on how cooperatives represent an economic system that empowers people, builds communities and helps to feed the world while sustaining resources. His presentation coincides with the International Year of Cooperatives.

A Panel on the Cooperative system will follow. Panelists will include Doug Wilson, chief executive officer for Cooperative Resources International; Tracey Dudzinski, board member for Cooperative Care of Wautoma, a home-care service provider in a multi-county region of central Wisconsin; and cooperative leader Christine Sukalski of Reiland Farms, in LeRoy, Minn., Judy Ziewacz, a Wisconsin cooperative and agriculture leader, will moderate.

The event will include a lunch and 4:00 p.m. reception. The lunch will feature an announcement about plans for the Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Fund, established in the wake of Nilsestuen’s death and overseen by the Ralph K. Morris Foundation.

The foundation has been cooperating with UW-River Falls on appropriate uses for the fund. Cost is $100 for adults and $25 for students. On-line registration is available on the Ralph K. Morris Foundation web site, www. ralphkmorrisfoundation.org.