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2024 Annual Meeting Speakers
(Stay tuned for more announcements!)

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Michael Burdeny


Challenge Dairy Products, Inc.

Michael Burdeny is President of Challenge Dairy Products, Inc. -- a CA heritage brand established in 1911-- the leading butter brand in the west and a top challenger nationally. Challenge is a wholly owned subsidiary of CDI and leads the sales, marketing and distribution of its Challenge, Danish Creamery branded and private label butter at key retailers, along with other dairy products to 2,500+ foodservice accounts. Michael plays an integral role in fueling commercial growth, leading the teams responsible for innovation, marketing and sales.

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Susan Shields

VP of Marketing

Clover Sonoma 

Susan has over 35 years of experience with better-for-you foods and beverages, leading teams to deliver/exceed goals. Susan’s experience spans across Retail and Food Service Marketing and Business Management with positions including Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Innovation Officer. Susan has a passion for health & wellness, and she has focused her career on building and growing natural and organic brands. She is committed to having a positive impact on consumers’ lives by providing great tasting and nutritional products that are produced and distributed in a sustainable way.

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Dana Coale

Deputy Administrator, Ag Marketing Service


Dana H. Coale was appointed Deputy Administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, Dairy Program, in September 2004, the first female to hold this position. Ms. Coale manages the Federal milk marketing order program, dairy market news reporting, development of dairy product standards, inspecting and grading dairy products and facilities, domestic and export auditing and accreditation services, economic and statistical analysis services and providing oversight to the Fluid Milk and Dairy Promotion and Research Programs. 

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Darrin Monteiro

VP, Sustainability & Member Relations

California Dairies, Inc. 

Darrin manages CDI’s sustainability team that develops and maintains key sustainability metrics throughout the supply chain, from the farm to the customer. Additionally, he engages with customers, identifying and securing value-add opportunities on behalf of CDI and our member-owners. Darrin also manages the CDI field team and government relations for the company.  With nearly 25 years of experience in the industry, he started his career on his family farm, Monteiro Bros. Dairy. Prior to joining CDI, Darrin worked for the USDA – Farm Service Agency.

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Dr. Michael Swanson

Chief Agricultural Economist

Wells Fargo, Agri-Food Institute

Michael Swanson is an agricultural economist and consultant for Wells Fargo, the largest commercial agricultural lender in the United States since 1997. Based in Minneapolis, his responsibilities include analyzing the impact of energy on agriculture and strategic analysis for key agricultural commodities and livestock sectors. His focus includes the systems analysis of consumer food demand and its linkage to agribusiness. Additionally, he helps develop credit and risk strategies for Wells Fargo’s customers, and performs macroeconomic and international analysis on agricultural production and agribusiness.

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John Talbot


California Milk Advisory Board 

John Talbot brings more than 25 years of marketing and brand management experience to his role as CEO of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) where he focuses on building awareness and demand for California dairy products across the U.S. and around the world.  

Mr. Talbot began his career in sales at Procter & Gamble before joining Pepsi-Cola where he spent 12 years in a variety of brand management and product development roles. His background in consumer products also includes 2 years leading new product development for E&J Gallo Winery and 3 years running global market development for the Almond Board of California. 

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Katie Davey

Executive Director 

Dairy Institute of California 

She has over 20 years of experience successfully implementing federal, state and local legislative and regulatory programs, political strategies and initiatives in business and government. Prior she served for over 10 years during her career as a senior lobbyist for the California Restaurant Association.  Katie has extensive experience in government service, the private sector, and trade associations across a variety of industries from construction to biotechnology.   

Katie in her free time enjoys participating in the She Shares Mentorship Program, spending time with her family, dining in Sacramento restaurants and traveling. 


Phil Plourd


EverAg Insights

Phil Plourd is Head of Market Intelligence for Ever.Ag. He has been involved in dairy market analysis, research, forecasting, consulting and risk management activities for more than 25 years. Phil draws on that experience to lead an expert team helping clients find better ways to do business – across the supply chain and around the world. He is a popular speaker who engages audiences on a variety of topics. A resident of Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, Phil also serves on the Board of Directors of the Madison Public Library Foundation. 

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Josh Walters

President & CEO 

Walters Strategies 

Joshua C. Walters is a resourceful political professional and attorney with a background in politics, campaigns, legislative process, issue advocacy, as well as association and litigation management. Walters is a proven crisis manager and specializes in developing campaign strategy, coalition building and management, and crafting compelling and effective messaging that achieves results across the media spectrum. 


Michael Boccadoro

Executive Directors

California Creamery Operators Association

Michael Boccadoro has participated in California’s environmental policy arena for more than 30 years. He specializes in public affairs consulting and has distinctive expertise in the areas of environmental, climate, natural resources, and sustainability management. As president of West Coast Advisors, Boccadoro is responsible for overseeing the firm’s climate and sustainability practices. Boccadoro serves as executive director of Dairy Cares, the Agricultural Energy Consumers Association and the California Creamery Operators Association.

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Chris Kopman



Chris Kopman is is responsible for setting the strategic direction, managing financial matters and delivering business results. Before coming to Newtrient, Chris was Vice President of Business Services for the Kraft Heinz Company with responsibility for the shared services organization managing the transactions related to the $21B of Net Sales in North America. Over a 16-year career at Kraft, he held various finance roles and spent the majority of his career supporting the Cheese & Dairy business. Prior to joining Kraft, Chris worked for Caterpillar, Inc. in Peoria.  Chris is an experienced finance and business professional with a proven track record of driving strategic initiatives and delivering business results. 


Drew Lerner

Founder, President, and Senior Agricultural Meteorologist 

World Weather Inc. 

Drew Lerner is the Founder, President, and Senior Agricultural Meteorologist for World Weather Inc. He has been forecasting international weather for 45 years. Drew has been supporting the agricultural industry by providing detailed short and long range weather predictions for each major crop area in the world. His daily assessments of crop and weather expectations supports commodity market trade, farmers and helps many companies make better agricultural business decisions. 


Marla Buerk

Executive Vice President– Global Innovation and Insight

Dairy at Dairy Management Inc.

Marla Buerk is Executive Vice President of Innovation for DMI’s Global Partnerships. In this role, she works with the dairy industry on strategy and innovation development based on consumer insights and product science. ​

Prior to joining DMI, Marla led Innovation for Kraft Foods Cheese and Pizza Divisions. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Pennsylvania State University and her MBA from the University of Virginia.​

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Norrie Wilson

Executive Vice President

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy at Dairy Management Inc.

Norrie Wilson supports DMI’s work in the identification of high-growth health and wellness opportunities to attract, stimulate, and secure investment and talent in health and wellness U.S. dairy science, technology, and product innovation.​

Prior to DMI, Norrie led the Disruptive Innovation insights team at ConAgra to pioneer the development of new innovation models. She also led global insight teams for Unilever’s Beauty & Wellbeing and Personal Care divisions.​

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Olivia Barker

Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs

Circular Action Alliance 

Olivia Barker leads producer recruitment, stakeholder engagement and communications efforts on behalf of Circular Action Alliance, a U.S., nonprofit Producer Responsibility Organization established to support the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility laws for paper and packaging. She has 15 years of experience leading policy, public affairs and communications initiatives for multi-national companies and clients. Olivia previously held roles at The Coca-Cola Company and Amazon and has spent the last six years helping companies navigate circular economy policy trends and opportunities at all levels of government. 

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Michael Benedetti

Sr. QA, Regulatory, Sustainability 

Clover Sonoma 

Leading quality, food safety, regulatory compliance and sustainability efforts for Clover Sonoma, Michael Benedetti is dedicated to delivering the highest quality dairy products while minimizing the company’s impact on the environment. Working closely with Clover Sonoma’s product and operations teams and network of 30 family farms, Michael oversees all aspects of the company’s sustainability initiatives which include the implementation of regenerative on-farm practices, packaging innovations and operational improvements.

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Gary Germaine

Vice President– Production Operations

Leprino Foods Company

Gary is the Vice President of Production Operations for Leprino Foods, a leading manufacturer of mozzarella cheese and nutrition products.   He has been with the company for the past 14 years and he currently leads the Western Region production facilities in California and New Mexico.   Before moving responsibilities to operations, Gary was the Vice President of Global Quality for Leprino Foods.   He was responsible for the food safety and quality systems for all nine manufacturing facilities.  Prior to joining Leprino Foods, Gary was part of the Western Region Operations team at Land O Lakes for 18 years, where he worked in the manufacturing of cheese, butter and dried dairy products.   

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LaDonna Hale


Lucerne Foods

With a background in sales and leadership, LaDonna Hale's career expands several decades and includes retail and wholesale grocery, general merchandise, fresh merchandising, as well as food manufacturing.  Vice President of Sales for Albertsons Companies, Inc., and President of the Lucerne Foods business unit, LaDonna is twice recognized by her peers as a Top Woman in Grocery.  A Certified Strategic Professional Advisor, LaDonna is fervent about using consumer and category data in developing empowered teams that thrive in executing competitive plans that drive sales. 

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Paul D. Myer


Athian, Inc.

Paul is the CEO and Founder of Athian, a sustainability software company that has built the world’s first carbon Marketplace for the livestock industry.  Athian’s platform provides quality greenhouse gas insetting credits that fund livestock producers’ sustainability measures.  Athian was funded by industry leading companies in animal health (Elanco & DSM Venturing), Dairy (Newtrient & California Dairies Inc.), and Beef (Tyson Ventures & AACo).   


Andre Brasil

Vice President– Business Development 

California Bioenergy 

André Brasil is the Vice President, Business Development at California Bioenergy (CalBio). CalBio builds, owns, and operates digesters with a focus on dairy biogas in California. With 55 operating digesters, 77 planned operational by year-end, CalBio will achieve reductions of roughly 1.6 million metric tons of CO2e. André manages Cal Bio's project pipeline development and the business development team. Having built a digester on his own family dairy, André works with dairy farmers to identify a cost-effective project that meets the dairy's needs, creates a new revenue stream, and furthers their sustainability goals. 

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Ben Whiteman

Product Manager–Circularity and Sustainable Manufacturing

GE Vernova 

With a background in supply chain and manufacturing, Ben Whiteman is the Lead Product Manager for Circularity and Sustainability at GE Vernova. He brings a visionary and grounded approach to software innovation in digital manufacturing. He has managed, analyzed, and optimized manufacturing in Food & Beverage and Consumer Packaged Goods. He now works with GE Vernova’s extensive customer base in diverse industries to help them meet their sustainability goals. Ben is a practiced systems-thinker with a passion for architecting circular, regenerative, and equitable industrial processes that drive multi-dimensional business value at local and global scales. 

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Jason Pelz

Vice President of Sustainability  
Tetra Pak

Jason Pelz is vice president of sustainability for Tetra Pak in the United States, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean. Jason and his team work with a range of stakeholders across various geographies to advance Tetra Pak’s global sustainability ambitions, including growing recycling and collection of post-consumer cartons, and reducing climate impact across the value chain. Jason also serves as vice president of recycling projects for Carton Council of North America. 

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Kaelen McCrane

Senior Originator 

Mainspring Energy

Dedicated to delivering low cost, sustainable solutions, Kaelen McCrane is a Senior Originator with Mainspring Energy, a fuel flexible, low emission power generation technology provider. Prior to Mainspring, Kaelen was an Area Sales Manager with Quinn CAT Power for 6.5 years developing temporary and permanent power generation and air compression solutions across southern and central California. At Quinn, Kaelen was also responsible for new business development for Nikola’s battery electric and Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, delivering some of the very first Zero Emission Class 8 trucks in the state.  

Stay tuned for more speaker announcements!

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