An Urban's Rural View

A Virtual Summit Not To Be Missed

Urban C Lehner
By  Urban C Lehner , Editor Emeritus
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The 2020 DTN Ag Summit will not look like this, shot at a previous DTN Ag Summit in Chicago. This year we're going virtual. (DTN file photo)

Were you to hold a gun to my head and force me to say something good about COVID-19, it would be this: At least it walloped us after we'd developed the ability to hold meetings virtually. This fortuitous timing enabled tens of millions to retreat into self-quarantine at home but continue working. Imagine how much harder the pandemic would have sapped both public health and the economy had it occurred even 20 years ago.

It's amazing what can be done using today's virtual-meeting technologies. A couple of months ago, I finished three years as board chair of a conservation nonprofit. The organization's ritual is for the outgoing chair to wear a Superman suit, remove the suit's red cape at meeting's end and hand it to the incoming chair. We performed this ritual on Zoom, 3,000 miles separating the new chair and me, but with our windows side-by-side, looking to the rest of the board like we were right next to each other doing a physical handoff.

I can't help repeating myself. It's amazing what these technologies can do.

Which brings me to the subject of today's post -- this year's DTN Ag Summit. The previous 13 years, we put on this event at a hotel in Chicago. Thanks in large part to the leadership of the late, great Marcia Zarley Taylor, the Ag Summit blossomed into a major event, routinely drawing 700 farmers, ranchers and other ag professionals.

This year the pandemic intervened, but the show must go on. No mere virus can stop it. The 14th Ag Summit will be held, virtually, on the mornings of Dec. 7-9. Though nothing can beat being in the same room, DTN's user-friendly virtual platform will make the experience almost as good. There will even be networking opportunities.

This year's theme is "Farm Strong: Strategies to Build Resilience." Expect authoritative outlooks on markets, weather and world trade; 15-minute updates on the next farm bill, tax developments, land prices and some new, more accurate weather forecasts coming soon from DTN; and sessions on leveraging data, farmers' views of farm equipment, and Microsoft's efforts to use the cloud and artificial intelligence to transform agriculture.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. You can view the complete agenda here… and an interesting description of it by Gregg Hillyer, editor-in-chief of Progressive Farmer, here….

The presenters include DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman, DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson, family mediator Lance Woodbury, IHS Markit Senior Executive Ken Eriksen, trust guru David Horsager, leadership expert Jon Gordon and others too numerous to mention.

The Marcia Zarley Taylor Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Kip Tom, who serves as United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. There couldn't be a better man for the job. Ambassador Tom knew Marcia well and attended earlier Ag Summits as an Indiana farmer and agribusiness man.

Many farmers knew Marcia. She created the Ag Summits back in 2007 in her first year as DTN's executive editor. The events she hosted in her previous position as chief editor of Top Producer magazine prompted some farmers to refer to any event she put on as "Marcia-stock" -- like Woodstock, they said, except run by Marcia.

While no one can fill her shoes, we think Marcia would be proud of the Ag Summits DTN has put on in the years since her untimely passing.

I hope you'll consider signing up for this year's Ag Summit. (…) I think you'll find it informative and entertaining.

Urban C. Lehner can be reached at


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