Cultivate Your Future.2021

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Mike Boehm

Vice-Chancellor, INAR

Michael (Mike) Boehm leads efforts across the University of Nebraska system for all agricultural, natural resources, rural economic prosperity and related affairs. He holds the dual role of Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska.
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Steve Wellman
Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture
Steve Wellman became the 27th Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture in December 2017. Wellman brings a broad range of experience to the position having farmed in Nebraska for more than 30 years and also serving on various agricultural organizations and advisory committees at the federal, state, and local levels.
As Director, Wellman oversees all programs of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. His efforts include work on agriculture policy issues at both the state and national levels.
Beau Whitney

Founder and Chief Economist at Whitney Economics

Beau Whitney is the founder and Chief Economist at Whitney Economics, a global leader in cannabis and hemp business consulting and economic research.
Serving an international clientele, Beau is considered one of the leading cannabis economists. His applications of economic principles to create actionable operational and policy recommendations have been recognized by governments and throughout the economic, investment, business communities. Beau has provided policy recommendations at the state, national, and international levels and is considered an authority on cannabis economics and the supply chain.
Eswari Kalugasalam
UNO, Nebraska Business Development Center
Eswari Kalugasalam has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, business development, and research. She has advised local and international C- Suite business leaders (from Asia, European Union, and the Middle East) on strategic corporate positioning. Eswari is the International Trade Consultant advising clients on international expansion including export strategy. She also provides market research consulting as part of NBDC's Small Business Development Center Program.
Robert Tigner
Agricultural Systems Economist Educator, retired
Tigner earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University’s Animal Science department majoring in Dairy Science. His Master of Science degree is from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in Agricultural Industries.

Deciding to begin a second career while dairy farming, he worked for the University of Wisconsin-Extension as a county Dairy and Livestock agent. Returning to Iowa in 1999, he worked as an area Farm Management Field Specialist for Iowa State University. Tigner has been with Nebraska Extension since March 2009.

Tigner’s educational emphasis has included crop marketing, computer decision aids, computer accounting, farm women’s financial and risk management education, crop cost and farmland leasing, and farm bills as they are passed.

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Greg Ibach
Under Secretary in Residence in the UNL’s INAR
Greg Ibach is the Under Secretary in Residence in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He spent the past three years as the under secretary of marketing and regulatory programs for the USDA. He is a former director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, a role he held for 12 years, making him the longest-serving director in the organization’s history. Ibach farms and ranches near Sumner.
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Trevor Johnson

Hemp Program Manager, Nebraska Department of Agriculture

Trevor Johnson earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Plant Biology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012. He began his career with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture as a nursery inspector in 2014. He was promoted to a specialist position with the Pesticide Program in 2015. In May 2019, he began assisting with implementation of the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act and was promoted to Hemp Program Manager later that year

Steve Pageler

Nebraska Crop Improvement Association

Steve Pageler is a native Nebraskan who grew up on a farm in Northern Saunders County.  He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Sciences from  University of Nebraska in Lincoln and a Master of Science degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University.  He has worked in the seed industry for over 20 years including nearly 13 years at the Nebraska Crop Improvement Association. 

Concetta DiRusso, PH.D

Kennebec Analytical Services, LLC

Concetta DiRusso, Ph.D. is the President and CEO of Kennebec Analytical Services in Lincoln.  It is Nebraska’s only commercial laboratory dedicated to providing testing services for the hemp industry.  She retired from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in June 2020 where she served as George Holmes University Professor of Biochemistry. Dr. DiRusso is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Jefferson Science Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. She has published over 100 research articles and 5 patents.  KAS serves private clients and is an approved testing facility for the NE 2021 hemp harvest.
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Rory Cruise

CEO, Sweetwater Hemp Co.

Rory has been farming for 28 years and has knowledge in all aspects of agriculture from business building and maintenance to plant and soil health. In 2017 Rory began researching and planning, and in 2020 established Sweetwater Hemp Company as the world’s largest solventless ice water extraction facility extracting high-quality terpenes and cannabinoids. Rory has knowledge in growing and processing hemp and is using cutting-edge equipment to make the purest Full Spectrum Oils and high-quality hemp products.
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David Bracht

Of Counsel at Kutak Rock LLP: Agribusiness

Former Nebraska Director of Energy, David advises clients in agriculture and renewable energy on corporate, finance, and regulatory issues. David works with producers and agribusinesses involved in the production, processing, and sale of agriculture products, along with lenders, insurers, and other firms supporting agriculture and food industries. Based on his multiple government appointments, David also represents firms obtaining permits and otherwise interacting with federal, state, and local government agencies and regulators.
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Chuck Bailey

Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency

Chuck Bailey is a GIS specialist with the Production and Compliance Section of the Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency, based out of the State Office in Lincoln. In this role he is focused on helping identify hemp acres for agricultural production and associating those acres with producers within the FSA farm records system.
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Paul Guenther

Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency

Paul Guenther is a Farm Loan Specialist with the Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency, based out of the State Office in Lincoln. He primarily works with the direct loan and farm storage facility loan programs. FSA’s loan programs have financed many beginning farming operations for both traditional and emerging commodities.
Jessi Remmers

Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency

Jessi Remmers is the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) Specialist with the Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency, based out of the State Office in Lincoln.  FSA offers NAP coverage for hemp producers, focusing on the intended uses of Grain, Seed, CBD, and Fiber.
Greg York

Management & Program Analyst, USDA Rural Development

Greg York is a Management and Program Analyst with the USDA Rural Development Agency, based out of Washington, D.C. He primarily works with the Value-Added Producer Grant. The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and marketing of new products. The goals of this program are to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities and increase producer income
Deborah D. Drbal

MBusiness Programs Specialist, USDA Rural Development, Lincoln

Deborah D. Drbal has been employed by USDA Rural Development since March 1989. USDA Rural Development administers over 30 loan and grant programs. Business Programs Specialist Deborah’s primary working responsibilities are for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), the Intermediary Relending Program (IRP), Socially Disadvantaged Group Grant (SDGG) and Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) programs.
Matt Foley
Invest Nebraska
Matt Foley is the Program Director of the Combine AgTech Incubator at Invest Nebraska. As program director he oversees company recruitment, fundraising, curriculum for the start-up incubator.  Prior to his role as program director, he served as an analyst for Invest Nebraska assisting in the due-diligence and structure of 17 early-stage venture investments in Nebraska based startups.   Matt graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.S. in Economics and Management.

Josh Nichol-Caddy, MBA, CGBP, EDFP

Technology Commercialization Director

Josh Nichol-Caddy oversees the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program for the state of Nebraska. The goal of this program is to increase the number of SBIR/STTR proposals (through outreach and financial support); increase the number of SBIR/STTR awards (through technical assistance and mentoring); and better prepare SBIR/STTR awardees for commercialization success (through technical assistance and mentoring).

Nisha Avey

Business Innovation Consultant, Nebraska Department of Economic Development

Nisha Avey administers the Business Innovation Act since 2013, which matches awards under five different subprograms: the Nebraska Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program, the Microenterprise Assistance Program, Prototype, Academic Research and Development and Seed Investment programs, totaling over $8 million in assistance per year. She ran the Angel Investment Tax Credit program for three years, with $12 million awarded during that time. Nisha graduated the Venture Capital Institute, as well as earned her Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in sociology and anthropology from the University of Nebraska.

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Mark Wilkins, Ph.D., P.E.

Director of the Industrial Agricultural Products Center

Mark Wilkins is the Director of the Industrial Agricultural Products Center (IAPC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Corn Checkoff Presidential Chair. Dr. Wilkins’ research involves processing agricultural biomass to produce value-added industrial products. The IAPC is a licensed hemp processor in Nebraska and seeks to assist entrepreneurs to develop new products and processes using hemp and other agricultural crops.


Ismail Dweikat, Ph.D. 

Professor Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, UNL

Ismail Dweikat holds a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Florida.  His research includes investigating the potential of sweet sorghum as a source for bioenergy, developing inbred and hybrid of grain, sweet, and forage sorghum to be used for food, feed, and fuel. He is also working to utilize feral hemp to develop hemp varieties that are adapted to the Midwest and investigating the potential use of Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabis) and hemp for soil bioremediation, fiber, and as an oil crop for biofuel.

Dipak Santra, Ph.D.

Alternative Crops Breeding Specialist and Associate Professor of Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, UNL Extension

Dr. Dipak Santra is the Alternative Crops Breeding Specialist and Associate Professor of Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The overall goal of his program is to develop genetically improved alternative/new crops for Nebraska and nearby semi-arid High Plains of the USA. The program focuses on a number of crops belonging to ancient grains (e.g. proso millet), pulses (e.g. field pea), oil-seeds (e.g. sunflower, canola), and others (e.g. industrial hemp, mint). His presentation will include some aspects of feminized seed production (which was in collaboration with Western Farms Seed, LLC and limited field trial results of CBD-type hemp varieties, and the effect of seed coating on hemp seed germination and seedling establishment.


Milos Zaric,  

Research Assistant, UNL

Milos Zaric is a Graduate Research Assistant with the UNL Pesticide Application Technology Laboratory in North Platte, NE. His current projects involve assessing industrial hemp susceptibility to the off-target movement (e.g., particle drift) of commonly applied corn and soybean herbicides. Future projects will evaluate potential herbicide active ingredients that can be used for weed control in industrial hemp and how they may influence cannabinoid profile and THC levels in plants.
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Ruby Anderson

Lab Technician, UNL

Ruby Anderson is a Lab Technician in the UNL Agroecosystems Entomology Lab in North Platte, NE. She has worked on a variety of projects for the lab encompassing many aspects of agricultural pests and their management. Recently she has worked with surveying insects in hemp fields in southwest Nebraska. Future work will involve more research with biological control agents such as entomopathogenic nematodes.
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Julie Peterson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Entomology, UNL Extension

Julie Peterson is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist leading the UNL Agroecosystems Entomology Lab in North Platte, NE. Julie and her lab conduct research addressing the ecology and management of pests and beneficial insects focusing on IPM and resistance management in field crops. While her major focus is on corn, she also has done projects in hemp, hops, field peas, and others.
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Dustin Krajewski

Managing Partner, NE-CO Farms & Agribusiness LLC

Dustin manages the hemp operations of NE-CO Farms, an extension of the Krajewski’s fourth generation farm in Ogallala, NE. NE-CO Farms focuses on CBD/CBG hemp with trials of fiber and grain, and strategic partnerships for production, processing, and product formulation. As a Professional Engineer with an MBA, Dustin grew up in farming and has remained active in it while also practicing engineering. NE-CO Farms strives to be an industry leader through excellence, grit, and relationships; creating jobs and profitable opportunities for future farmers.
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Brad Canoyer

Owner - Canoyer Garden Center 
Brad Canoyer is the owner and grower at Canoyer Garden Center in Papillion, NE.  While he has been growing flowers, herbs, perennials, shrubs for over 10 years, he ventured into hemp when it was legalized in Nebraska, and has many lessons and best practices to share with new farmers.