Farmers have continued to find new ways of producing agricultural commodities. For many years, the adoption of new technologies and modernized farming practices have allowed producers across the world to generate more output with their available resources. These far-reaching gains in productivity have been crucial in satisfying the needs of a growing population. Moreover, despite concerns about slower productivity growth in other sectors of the global economy and unprecedented challenges from the pandemic of the past year, productivity in agriculture has continued to increase in many regions and across numerous commodity groups.

The 2021 Agricultural Symposium, “The Roots of Agricultural Productivity Growth” will explore the key drivers of the persistent growth in agricultural productivity, linkages to other industries, and environmental considerations. The topic was originally planned for 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. Disruptions connected to the pandemic and wide fluctuations in agricultural markets have underscored the importance of further research and discussion surrounding productivity, and the vulnerabilities of production, when assessing longer-term conditions in agriculture and related industries.


The 2021 Agricultural Symposium will take place virtually. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. External LinkRegister here.


Agricultural Symposium Research
Read the leading research on this year's topic of agricultural productivity.


May 24, 2021

1:15 p.m. 1:30 p.m.

Opening Remarks

Nathan Kauffman
Vice President, Economist and Omaha Branch Executive
1:30 p.m. 2:45 p.m.

Session 1: The Drivers of Agricultural Productivity Growth

This session will explore the overarching factors behind agricultural productivity growth, barriers to growth, and which inputs are generating the strongest gains.

Philip Pardey
Professor and Director, International Science and Technology Practice and Policy (InSTePP) Center, University of Minnesota
Keith Fuglie
Economist, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Larkin Martin
Chief Executive Officer, Martin Farm
Cortney Cowley
Economist, Regional Research
3:00 p.m. 4:15 p.m.

Session 2: The Role of Technology and Data

This session will discuss how technology and the use of data will affect future prospects of agricultural productivity growth.

Terry Griffin
Associate Professor and Cropping Systems Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University
Gregory Graff
Professor, Agricultural and Resource Economics, Colorado State University
John Raines
Chief Commercial Officer, The Climate Corporation
Deanna Kovar
Vice President, Production and Precision Ag Production Systems, Deere & Company
Alison Felix
Senior Policy Advisor, Economic Research
4:30 p.m. 5:30 p.m.

Keynote Address

Esther L. George
President and Chief Executive Officer

May 25, 2021

8:30 a.m. 9:00 a.m.

Keynote Address

Ertharin Cousin
Distinguished Fellow of Global Food and Agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Food Security and the Environment.
9:15 a.m. 10:30 a.m.

Session 3: Supply Chain Spillovers

This session will explore the ways in which agricultural productivity affects, or is affected by, businesses in other segments of the agricultural supply chain.

Sergio Lence
Professor and Marlin Cole Chair of International Agricultural Economics, Iowa State University
Heidi Schweizer
Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University
Jim Pillen
Founder and Owner, Pillen Family Farms/DNA Genetics
Seth Post
Regional General Manager, CGB Enterprises
Chad Wilkerson
Vice President, Economist and Oklahoma City Branch Executive
10:45 a.m. 12:00 p.m.

Session 4: Environmental Linkages

This session will discuss the linkages between environmental conditions and agricultural productivity, and implications for food security.

Wolfram Schlenker
Professor, Columbia University
Will Martin
Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI
Julie Borlaug
Vice President, Inari Ag
Gabe Gusmini
Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, The Plant Pathways Company, Inc.
Nicholas Sly
Assistant Vice President and Denver Branch Executive
12:15 p.m. 12:45 p.m.

Concluding Discussion

Nathan Kauffman
Vice President, Economist and Omaha Branch Executive