Washington, D.C.- Today, the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB) named 13 industry professionals to its 2019-2020 Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) class. In its 5th year, this will be the largest class to date, with participants selected from CIRB’s membership. The program gives the opportunity for selected professionals to increase their knowledge of advocacy and communications while providing networking experiences with industry leaders.

“The development and growth of the ELP program is just one of the many ways CIRB is a leader for the industry in shaping crop insurance advocacy,” said Zane Vaughn, CIRB Chairman. “I encourage all industry professionals to take advantage of this unique experience which provides a well-rounded curriculum.”

The program, which officially kicks off in September, allows participants to experience multiple Executive Committee meetings, learn how to effectively advocate for the industry with “lobby 101” seminars in Washington and receive media training and social media guidance. New to the curriculum this year is a reinsurance webinar for participants to learn more about the history and functions within the reinsurance industry.

The 2019-2020 CIRB Emerging Leaders Program class includes:

  • Neely Phelps, American Farm Bureau Insurance Services, Inc
  • Jay Mark, ARMtech Insurance Services
  • Craig Conroy, COUNTRY Financial
  • Matthew Miller, COUNTRY Financial
  • David Stewart, Crop Risk Services
  • Cade Stockberger, Crop Risk Services
  • Zach Allsup, Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa
  • Chad Simon, Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Iowa
  • Duane Hynes, Holborn
  • Jaya Hahn, Hudson Crop Insurance, Inc
  • Alexis Schroeder, Hudson Crop Insurance, Inc
  • Mat Brueggeman, Rural Community Insurance Services
  • Robert Rankin, Rural Community Insurance Services

You can learn more about the program and the new class at: cropinsurance.org/emerging-leaders-program/

Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.
Emerging Leaders Spotlight: RJ Brinkmeyer
Strategic Accounts Manager, Farmers Mutual Hail

Crop insurance has always been a part of RJ Brinkmeyer’s life. A 2nd generation crop insurance professional, RJ and his brother once co-owned a crop insurance agency which was started by their father in 1966.

In 2011, Brinkmeyer took an unexpected job opportunity with Farmers Mutual Hail as a Field Supervisor, overseeing sales for nine counties in Central Iowa. From there, he quickly moved up and in 2015, became the Strategic Accounts Manager for the state.
Last week, Brinkmeyer joined his fellow ELP’s on Capitol Hill to meet with Members of the House and Senate and advocate for crop insurance. He and his team met with Reps. Finkenauer (D-IA), Davis (R-IL), Adams (D-NC), Rouzer (R-NC), Bacon (R-NE) and Johnson (R-SD), Senator Tillis (R-NC) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS). “I find that Hill visits are much like making a sales call in the industry,” Brinkmeyer reflected. “You take time to get to know the Representative you are calling on. You prepare the key points you want to deliver and leave additional resources for them to learn more. Then you close by asking what questions they have for you and see if you can be of service to them.”
This wasn’t Brinkmeyer’s first time visiting Capitol Hill though. As a junior in high school, Brinkmeyer was selected to represent his county at Rural Electric Cooperatives Youth Delegation. It was there that he met Senator Chuck Grassley, who was serving in his first term. Brinkmeyer and his wife, Bridgette, have three daughters and two grandchildren and reside in Hubbard, IA.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.
Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.
Emerging Leaders Spotlight: Ryan Kramer
Assistant Vice President- Compliance Manager, Farmers Mutual Hail
Ryan Kramer began his crop insurance career early in life, as he worked as a part-time underwriter in high school and college. From there, Kramer moved up the ladder, serving as a Senior Underwriter, Underwriting Supervisor and Compliance Manager before landing in his role as Assistant Vice President-Compliance Manager at Farmers Mutual Hail.
Kramer’s role gives him an unique opportunity to promote program integrity. He serves as a bridge between government officials and agents or producers, which gives him unique insights into the value of the crop insurance program. “Each stakeholder in the program, whether a producer, agent, Approved Insurance Provider, or member of Congress working on the Farm Bill has, in my experience, valid concerns and opinions of the program. […] I try to bridge the gap to provide an understanding to both sides,” said Kramer.
This week, members of the Emerging Leaders Program met with their Congressional representatives in their district offices. Kramer and two other ELPs met with the office staff of Congresswoman Axne (D-IA-02) to advocate to protect the program. “Our [ELP] experience has equipped us with real examples of how risk management tools provide peace of mind to producers, even during times of variability in the agricultural market,” said Kramer. “Those experiences help us communicate to lawmakers how the crop insurance program supports their valued constituency.”
Kramer grew up in central Minnesota and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He resides in the Des Moines area and enjoys spending his free time camping, canoeing and kayaking. Follow him on Twitter at @jryan_kramer.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.

Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.

Chelsea Abrahamson
Crop Marketing Specialist, Farm Bureau Financial Services
Chelsea Abrahamson started her career in crop insurance in 2012 as an underwriter. She joined Farm Bureau Financial Services in 2017 and serves as a Crop Marketing Specialist. In her current role, Abrahamson educates agents and business units on the importance of crop insurance and assists with agent training and partnerships.
Before being selected as an Emerging Leader, Abrahamson was already developing her advocacy skills, attending the 2018 CIRB Fly-In and Policy Conference. “Advocacy is important because there is so much misinformation available regarding crop insurance. Through advocacy we are able to educate those who may not have the resources readily available to understand the true impact crop insurance has on them.”
Next week, Chelsea and fellow ELP Participants will meet with lawmakers’ district offices. “I’m excited about the opportunity to meet with the in-district team for Cindy Axne (D-IA-03). Our class was fortunate to hear from members of the Crop Insurance Coalition in November and learn how to best advocate for crop insurance when we meet with Members of Congress. Having this experience is key as we prepare to advocate in our own districts.”
Originally from rural South Dakota, Chelsea has a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business from South Dakota State University.  She and her husband live in Urbandale, IA. Follow her on twitter at @chelsea_abe.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.

This is only the fourth ELP class for CIRB and the program is already paying dividends to the organization and the industry, as well as the more than 30 participants. Previous ELP participants have become active recruiters for the program which is designed to help professionals in the crop insurance industry increase their knowledge and hands-on experience with key issues.’

Listen to interviews with some of the participants of this year’s class:

Interview with Cole Patrick, COUNTRY Financial

Interview with Ryan Kramer, Farmers Mutual Hail

Interview with Amy Zeik, Rural Community Insurance Services

Interview with Bryce Benson, American Farm Bureau Insurance Services

Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.

Kevin Boeckenstedt
Special Projects Manager, Crop Risk Services
Kevin Boeckenstedt serves the Crop Risk Services (CRS) team through his role at the intersection of technology, innovation, and claims. Boeckenstedt began working with CRS in 2010 as a System Support Technician, overseeing several aspects of information technology within the organization. Throughout the years, his responsibility has expanded to serve as a database administrator, and now as Special Projects Manager for the company.
Prior to his time at CRS, Boeckenstedt worked at the United Parcel Services in the technology department, during which he worked on servers, wiring, workstations, and laptops, giving him a strong foundation for his current position.
Boeckenstedt attended the 2019 CIRB Annual Meeting for the first time as a member of the Emerging Leaders Program. “I was extremely impressed with the format, docket of speakers and the networking opportunities,” he explained, “I found Jim Wiesemeyer’s policy forecast both entertaining and very informative. A close second was Steve Webersen from Conning Inc. who did a thoroughly fantastic job of laying out the current AIP and re-insurance company landscape. Overall, the Annual Meeting is one that should be a priority on the calendar for any crop insurance professional.”
Boeckenstedt has a Master of Science in Management and Organizational Behavior from Benedictine University and a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministries from Lincoln Christian University. Born and raised in Illinois, his family now resides in Decatur. You can follow him on twitter at @73Boeck.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.

Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.

John Haldy
Assistant Vice President, Guy Carpenter

John Haldy began his career in the reinsurance industry in 2013 as a treaty broker with Guy Carpenter. Since then, Haldy has transitioned to the role of Assistant Vice President and is based in the company’s Philadelphia office. In his role, Haldy serves in various capacities: overseeing preparation and submissions for reinsurance treaty programs, assisting with the design of new programs, coordinating data analysis with actuarial and catastrophe modeling teams, and monitoring claims and audits.
CIRB recently hosted the 2019 Annual Meeting, featuring insights from expert speakers and networking opportunities across the crop insurance and reinsurance industry. Haldy attended the meeting for the first time as a member of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program class.
“The Annual Meeting was an extremely valuable experience,” Haldy explained. “I was able to hear the session speakers discuss the pressing issues facing the crop industry. It was also helpful to be able to meet and network with countless industry leaders.”
Haldy is originally from the Philadelphia area and has a BA in History from the University of Virginia. Prior to working at Guy Carpenter, he worked in energy commodity derivative brokering, specializing in natural gas and crude oil.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.
Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight activities from the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share takeaways from program participants.
Emerging Leader Program Spotlight: Industry Networking in Kansas City
On January 6th and 7th, members of the Emerging Leaders Program gathered in Kansas City for a full program of industry networking and hands-on career development training. The class reflected on the multifaceted experience:

“I appreciated our time meeting with the NCIS leadership group,” said Ryan Kramer of Farmers Mutual Hail. “I have worked with their staff for years, but did not know the full breadth of their organization’s responsibilities.” Bryce Benson of American Farm Bureau Insurance Services said “NCIS is a vital part of the crop insurance world. Their crop research helps ensure we are using the correct methods for appraisal and serve as the go between for RMA and the AIPs.”

“The StrengthsFinder exercise was truly valuable. It helped me better understand how to work with others based off of their strengths. I personally took away an action item to perform this task with my team,” shared Amy Zeik of Rural Community Insurance Services. COUNTRY Financial’s Patrick Cole said, “Not only did I learn more about my personal strengths, but I learned ways to maximize them and grow myself as a leader in the industry.”
“Meeting with representatives from the Kansas Farm Bureau provided us a great opportunity to hear directly from an agent and producer how the federal crop insurance program affects the management of their farming operations,” added Kramer. “The conversations reinforced how important it is to promote the strength of the program.”
The next event for the Emerging Leaders Program will be a networking event at the CIRB Annual Meeting in San Diego, California. They will have the opportunity to meet other program alumni and members of the CIRB Executive Committee Board.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.

Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.

Cole Patrick
Claims Representative, COUNTRY Financial
 

With roots in a small-town Midwest community, Cole Patrick’s interest in agriculture was only natural. He recognized the importance of farming and its impact not only on the local level, but also on the national and global level. Patrick decided to pursue his passion and began his crop insurance career in 2013 as a crop adjuster for COUNTRY Financial. He applied to be a CIRB Emerging Leader because he believes agriculture is an essential industry and must be preserved and protected.
“Our producers and farmers are fortunate to have such an astounding amount of support driven by advocacy groups like CIRB. Because of their work, there is a vast network of crop insurance supporters throughout this nation’s strong ag communities. I am proud to be part of CIRB and for the opportunity to advocate for crop insurance to our state representatives and lawmakers,” Patrick said.
Earlier this month, Patrick and other members of the ELP gathered in Kansas City for industry networking and hands-on career development training. “The StrenghsFinder assessment and workshop was invaluable. Not only did I learn more about my personal strengths, but I learned ways to maximize them and grow myself as a leader in the industry.”
“COUNTRY is proud to support CIRB’s Emerging Leader Program as it continues to develop crop insurance leaders, in providing them with an in depth understanding of the crop insurance program,” explains Lindsey Rinkenberger, Director of Agribusiness Operations for COUNTRY Financial. “In my opinion, one of the most beneficial portions of the program is in allowing participants to work alongside CIRB Executive Committee members in meeting with members of Congress and USDA to discuss important issues impacting crop insurance. When nominating employees for the program, our management team considers employees who not only have a passion for crop insurance, but also have a willingness to enhance their leadership skills through continued education and networking.”
Patrick has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Eastern Illinois University. He is recently married and resides in Bloomington, IL. Follow him on twitter at @TheColePatrick.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.
Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight activities from the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share takeaways from program participants.
Emerging Leaders Program Event Spotlight: November Fly-In
CIRB’s Emerging Leaders Program joined staff in Washington D.C. for a fly-in in early November. The two-day event included advocacy training, a panel discussion with members of the Crop Insurance Coalition, and Congressional meetings on Capitol Hill. Members of the 2018-19 class weighed in on their experiences:
Chelsea Abrahamson of Farm Bureau Financial Services shared, “I really appreciated hearing from Jen McPhillips [Marsh & McLennan Companies], Lauren Sturgeon [CoBank], and Robbie Minnich [National Cotton Council] during the Crop Insurance Coalition Panel the morning of our Hill visits. They helped our group understand the impact we have through these visits and how to best educate Members of Congress and their staff.”
“Our preparation meeting before we went to the Hill was fantastic.” said Kevin Boeckenstedt of Crop Risk Services. “It gave our group the confidence to state our message, to stay on point and leave an impact. The biggest take away for me was learning what the heart of advocacy looks like.”
“Our ELP class has such a solid and diverse understanding of the crop insurance program, which helped us give insight to the Congressional offices we met with,” explained RJ Brinkmeyer of Farmers Mutual Hail “In Senator Klobuchar’s office, one of the staffers had a question about the prevented planting that farmers experienced in Southwest Minnesota this year. I explained how prevented planting is handled in a claim scenario, and how AIP’s held meetings this spring to help advise agents and producers in the affected area.”
The Emerging Leaders Program will hold for their next event in Kansas City on January 6-7. They will meet with industry leaders at the Risk Management Agency and the National Crop Insurance Services.

Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.

 

Bret Keeler
Marketing Representative, ARMtech Insurance Services
Bret Keeler has been working in the crop insurance industry since 2009, after completing a bachelor’s in Finance from Kansas State University. Bret started as an accountant and has since moved into sales roles. Bret is responsible for the growth and retention of ARMtech’s portfolio in Kansas, Colorado, and northern Oklahoma.
In November, the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program class went to Minneapolis, Minnesota to join the CIRB Executive Committee for their quarterly meeting. “It was a great experience going to Minneapolis and having the chance to meet all of the members of the CIRB Executive Committee as well as the rest of the members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program,” he said. Keeler is looking forward to “future [ELP] meetings and advocating for the crop insurance industry as well as the farmers we all serve.”
Keeler lives in Assaria, Kansas with his wife and two sons. They operate a small family farm on the original quarter of ground that his great-great grandparents homesteaded in the late 1800s. Follow him on twitter at @bkeelerksu.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.
Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.
Tracy Klever
Assistant Vice President of Training & Development, Farmers Mutual Hail
Tracy Klever learned about and became interested in agriculture while growing up on a Missouri cattle farm and working for the local Farm Service Agency. She began her crop insurance career in 2004 as an underwriter and now serves as the Assistant Vice President of Training and Development for Farmer’s Mutual Hail.
As a 2018-19 Emerging Leader, Klever and her peers joined the CIRB Executive Committee in Minneapolis, MN for their quarterly meeting. “I really enjoyed hearing the federal affairs update, which meant getting a pulse on farm bill discussions and the upcoming mid-term elections,” she said. “It brought light to the importance of CIRB’s communication efforts to engage members and coalition partners through social media.”
The Emerging Leaders took their policy learnings to the Hill this month, meeting with Congressional staff and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts (R-KS). “This was a great experience to help me prepare for the D.C. fly-in,” Klever added.
Klever has a Master’s in Agricultural Education from Oklahoma State University and a Bachelor’s degree in biology secondary education from Graceland University. She lives in Polk City, IA with her husband and two daughters. Follow her on twitter at @TracyKlever.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.
Emerging Leaders Program Visits Washington DC for November Fly-In
The 2018-19 CIRB ELP class was in Washington D.C. this week for their November fly-in. The group took a tour of the Capitol, received advocacy training, and networked with members of the Crop Insurance Coalition Jen McPhillips (Marsh & McLennan Companies), Robbie Minnich (National Cotton Council) and Lauren Sturgeon (CoBank). They then met with several Congressional offices including that of Congressman Davis (R-IL), Senator Ernst (R-IA), and Senator Klobuchar (D-MN). Members of the group also met with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts (R-KS) and received an update on the ongoing farm bill negotiations.
The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes crop insurance, AIPs and reinsurance companies, and brokerage groups.
Throughout the year, CIRB will spotlight members of the 2018-19 Emerging Leaders Program and share about their experience in the program.
Bryce Benson
Claims Supervisor, American Farm Bureau Insurance Service

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Agri-Business, Bryce Benson began a farming and ranching partnership with his brother in law and they started operating the family farm and ranch. He began his crop insurance career in 1996 and in 2005 became a claims representative for AFBIS.
This year’s ELP class began with an introductory webinar that shared insights on the legislative state-of-play for the farm bill, policy communications efforts, membership engagement, and upcoming events and meetings. “I learned that there are 154 Senate and House of Representatives that have never voted on a bill that is focused on crop insurance,” Benson explained.

Benson lives in Alva, Oklahoma and oversees claims in seven states. He and his wife, Sherrie, have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and one grandchild. Follow him on twitter @brycebenson915.

The Emerging Leaders Program is designed to equip up-and-coming professionals on key policy issues and prepare them to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.

Washington, D.C.- Today, the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB) named 10 industry professionals to its 2018-2019 Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) class. The program increases participants’ knowledge of key policy issues and prepares them with the skills they need to be effective advocates for the crop insurance industry. All participants are employees of CIRB’s growing membership, which includes both crop insurance and reinsurance companies.

“The Emerging Leaders Program is an established curriculum that provides a great experience for professionals to learn how to tackle the challenges and opportunities facing federal crop insurance,” said Ron Rutledge, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau Chairman. “CIRB has been leading the way with its advocacy and communications efforts in Washington, D.C. and it is essential to educate our rising leaders on best practices for the future.”
Now in its fourth year, a total of 24 industry professionals have graduated from the ELP program. Alumni have remained engaged in CIRB and some have even moved on to serve on the organization’s Executive Committee. The program consists of monthly activities that include webinars, industry networking and meetings with USDA’s Risk Management Agency in Kansas City. Over the course of the program, participants also attend CIRB Executive Committee meetings and receive advocacy training during two Washington, D.C. fly-ins.
The 2018-2019 CIRB Emerging Leaders Program class includes:
Chelsea Abrahamson, Farm Bureau Financial Services
Bryce Benson, American Farm Bureau Insurance Services
Kevin Boeckenstedt, Crop Risk Services
RJ Brinkmeyer, Farmers Mutual Hail
John Haldy, Guy Carpenter
Bret Keeler, ARMtech
Tracy Klever, Farmers Mutual Hail
Ryan Kramer, Farmers Mutual Hail
Cole Patrick, COUNTRY Financial
Amy Ziek, Rural Community Insurance Services
The program officially kicks off in September and will conclude in April 2019 with a graduation ceremony in Washington, D.C. You can learn more about this year’s class here. Please contact Kerry Lynch with any questions about the program.
Click here to view the full release.