Student Voice


February 5, 2023



Agricultural leaders cope with new challenges

April 4, 2014

UW-River Falls will host the third annual Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Event on Friday, April 4, featuring a keynote address by Tom Lyon, former CEO of Cooperative Resources International (CRI) and a former member of the UW-System Board of Regents. The address will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Kinnickinnic Theater in the University Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Lyon’s talk will focus on the changes faced by agricultural producers and companies in the food economy, and the skills and attributes that new leaders must develop to respond to these changes.

As agriculture and the food economy evolve and adapt to the new realities of the 21st century, the essential skills to lead agribusinesses must adapt as well. As the average size of U.S. farms increases, the challenges of managing larger businesses become more significant. As organic production and other specialized forms of agriculture become an increasingly important part of the food economy, agricultural producers must decide how to address them. Finally, as agriculture and food economies become more global in nature, the question of how to conduct business in other parts of the world adds to the complexity of managing what was once the family farm.

Nilsestuen, who earned his undergraduate degree at UWRF, was the Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at the time of his death in July 2010. He is remembered as a proud steward of sustainable agriculture and a leader in the national cooperative movement who strove to balance the needs of sustainable land use with the maximization of agricultural production. Nilsestuen worked to find common ground on topics like the power of cooperatives, farmland conservation, the future of rural America and the increased pressure on agriculture to feed the world. The inaugural Rod Nilsestuen Legacy Event, “Feeding the World, Sustaining the Land, Inspiring Cooperative Action,” was held in March 2012.

The Rod Nilsestuen Fund was established by friends, family and colleagues, and several land conservation and cooperative organizations and is part of the Ralph K. Morris Foundation, an organization that shares Nilsestuen’s dedication to cooperatives and leadership development.

For more information, contact Jim White, assistant professor of Agricultural Economics, at