Age as of March 1, 2019: 66
Residence Location: Windsor, CO
Place of Operation: Windsor, CO
Business Experience: I am the owner operator of Ernst Herefords, a registered cow calf business focused on producing breeding stock for the commercial industry. In addition, I serve as Senior Director of Livestock Operations for the National Western Stock Show in Denver. Prior to the above I spent 30 years in the food industry for several nationally branded food companies. I ascended to the Senior Executive Vice President level in several of those companies.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree: Meat and Animal Science/Business Option
Past boards included Board of Directors American Hereford Association. The nation’s second largest registered cattle breed registry and member services business that focus’ on the promotion of Hereford Cattle. Certified Hereford Beef Board Member and Chairman of that Board for 3 years. Purpose is to promote the sale of beef that has Hereford genetics as a primary portion of the meats genetic parentage.
Strategic & Visionary Thinking: In the senior executive management positions I held in the food industry, strategic planning was a key part of my responsibilities. Understanding where the business was currently positioned and putting together the best plans to strategically position where our customers were migrating to was critical. At Sara Lee I envisioned and lead a team to consolidate 12 plants managed by six officer groups to a single supply chain company that improved efficiency and helped meet customer expectations.
Corporate Governance: Working for major food companies (ConAgra Foods, Sara Lee, Swift and Company, etc.) each had their corporate governance policies that we as members of senior management were responsible for maintaining corporate integrity. Balancing the interests of all stakeholders is mandatory for a public or private firm to successfully navigate our complex environment. This is especially true in the finance world that American AgCredit functions in both under public and governmental scrutiny.
Financial Expertise: As Senior Vice President for Swift and Company I was responsible for the budgetary planning and control for 7 beef processing plants and 3 pork slaughter plants. Those plants combined employed 15,000 people. Swift at the time was the largest privately held company in Colorado with sales $8 billion annually. The beef and pork plants collectively killed and processed 15 million head annually. That all equates to an operating budget of billions of dollars that fell under my jurisdiction.
Communication: Managing 30 plus meat manufacturing plants during my career required a very well-developed ability to communicate to all levels of our organization from line workers to owners and board members. Additionally, in my roles in Senior Management there was constant communication with customers, unions and countless government agencies that had regulatory oversite into our food businesses. Those same skills help grow my registered cow calf operation.
Technology: Staying current on technology advancements has been critical in all businesses that I have been involved with. Staying current was critical to the food companies I worked for as well as my cow calf business. Understanding and keeping pace with genomics advancements for example is critical to our purebred cattle business as a tool to help us continually improve our product for our customers. Companies that stay current and follow new technology trends will have a competitive edge.
Human Resource Management: In my experience of rising to a senior manager role where at one time or another managed 30 plus manufacturing plants across the country would say that I have a world of Human Resource Management experience. I have been head negotiator several times for labor contract negotiations. I have sat in board rooms and presented large capital expenditure budgets as well as annual budgets to get approval. Negotiations with customers on large and small deals has been key to my professional success.
Risk Management: Every decision made in the food business had to do with risk management. Specializing in the operations side of the business as I did, food safety carries huge implications for the future of each company’s success. We normally think of financial risk management but there are many types of risk to consider depending on the market served. They all eventually impact the financial management risks. I have a vast level of experience with a broad array of business risks that effect the bottom line.
Leadership: I have demonstrated leadership my entire life. From president of the Block and Bridle Club in college throughout my professional career I have been in leadership positions. I started as a night supervisor in the food business and worked my way to Executive Management positions in 6 different companies, several of which are among the largest in their sectors. In my registered Hereford Cattle business we have sold cattle into 20 states, Canada and Mexico and have a successful bull sale each spring.
Candidate Statement: American AgCredit is such an important financing vehicle for an industry that I love and have dedicated my career too. Personally I have funded my farming/ranching operation through American AgCredit. I have seen how important this financial institution is to agriculture in Colorado and the western states. I would like to contribute back to agriculture in a meaningful way by adding value at the Board of Director level.
My career experiences have provided me with a vast variety of experiences that I believe qualify me as a board member. I grew up on a diversified family farm in Wisconsin. Majored in Animal Science at the University of Wisconsin. Worked my way up from the grass roots of management to Executive Management positions of some of the leading meat and food companies in the nation during my 30 year career. I started and now own with my wife a registered Hereford cow calf operation and I serve as Senior Director of Livestock Operations for the National Western Stock Show. This diverse set of exposure to agriculture puts me at a unique level of understanding of many facets of business from different perspectives.
I have been fortunate to serve on the nomination committee of American AgCredit during 2017 culminating in February of 2018. It afforded me the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the workings of American AgCredit. Additionally I had the pleasure of meeting several of the officers and board members on our trip to Santa Rosa in 2017. Learning about the vast variety of financial support that this organization provides encouraged me to make this run for the board of directors.
American AgCredit is a well-run and respected organization. It has been led by strong and imaginative boards in the past and its future success demands that its board of directors continues this tradition. I believe my diverse set of experiences can add value to the Board of Directors of American AgCredit. Thank you.