NIAA Graduates Animal Agriculture Leaders

The first cohort of the Advanced Training for Animal Agriculture Leaders completed the 16-month program.

The inaugural class of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s (NIAA) Advanced Training for Animal Agriculture Leaders completed their 16-month leadership training program at NIAA’s Annual Conference.

The leadership training course is sponsored in part by the United Soybean Board and was created by NIAA to empower animal agriculture professionals to strengthen previous leadership development experiences and collaborate with peers across the industry. The inaugural cohort began their training in January 2022 and participated in multiple group and one-on-one virtual and in-person sessions, including Sacramento, CA; Kansas City, MO; and Alexandria, VA.

The inaugural cohort encompassed a range of agricultural sectors to advance animal agriculture’s role in today’s food system. Participants included:

  • Rebecca Barnett, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
  • Tera Barnhardt, Animal Welfare Consulting & Research, LLC
  • Pierce Bennett, Minnesota Farm Bureau
  • Kaitlyn Briggs, Dairy Management, Inc.
  • Ryan Goodman, Beef Runner and Certified Angus Beef
  • Todd Hanten, Hanten’s Dairy, Inc.
  • Katherine Harrison, Harrison Farms
  • Michelle Hiscocks, Iowa State University Department of Animal Science
  • Madison Hopcia, Upstate Niagra Cooperative
  • Josh Luth, Schreiber Foods
  • Karaline Mayer, Hill’s Pet Food
  • Eric Moore, Norbrook, Inc.
  • Hayley Springer, Pennsylvania State University
  • Reginald Strickland, Strickland Farming Group

The final cohort session featured small-group capstone projects that were presented at NIAA’s Annual Conference in April.

“The NIAA Leadership Cohort is beyond what I imagined and has been a challenging and rewarding experience. You are able to plan your own experiences, have unique opportunities, network and travel. I have loved meeting likeminded individuals from all different sectors of animal agriculture, networking, learning together and helping each other along the way. Travelling to different areas of the country to see the various perspectives and practices of agriculture has been really enjoyable. NIAA’s cohort is one of the few that lets you plan your experiences and is geared towards what you are interested in growing in and highly recommend participating if you are looking to grow in your profession and in your understanding of agriculture,” said Madison Simmons Hopcia, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. and inaugural cohort member.

NIAA will open nominations for the third cohort in October. To learn more about the program, its sponsors, and how to participate in the next cohort, visit