Board of Directors

png;base6495855a96b043191cDr. John Ikerd is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri. John was raised on a small dairy farm in southwest Missouri, and he received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Missouri. He has worked in private industry with a large meat packing company and spent 30 years in various professorial positions at leading state universities in North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Georgia, before retiring from the University of Missouri in early 2000. He spent the first half of his academic career as a livestock marketing specialist and the latter half focused on issues related to sustainable agriculture. Since retiring, he spends most of his time writing and speaking about issues related to the sustainability of agriculture. John and his wife, Ellen, reside in Fairfield, Iowa, with their two dogs and three cats. Over the past 20 years, John has met with community members concerned about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in 16 states, four Canadian provinces, and most recently, in Wales, UK. His “truth” about the impacts of CAFOs on rural communities is based on extensive research from a wide variety of sources and his experiences in rural communities listening to arguments presented by people on both sides of this controversial issue. John has authored five books: Sustainable Capitalism, A Return to Common Sense, Small Farms Are Real Farms, Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture, and Essentials of Economic Sustainability. More comprehensive background information about John Ikerd, contact information, and selected writings about CAFO issues are available at: and

Michele Merkel is Co-Director of Food & Water Justice, the legal arm of Food & Water Watch. Michele was formerly the Chesapeake Regional Coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance. At Waterkeeper, Michele helped to develop and implement the campaigns of 18 Waterkeeper programs that protect the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays. Prior to joining the Waterkeeper, Michele was co-founder and Senior Counsel of the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). At EIP, she was responsible for developing and implementing legal campaigns under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, focusing on industrial livestock production and municipal sewage issues. Michele previously served as an attorney in the Enforcement Division of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, where she worked closely with the Department of Justice to develop and bring actions for violations of federal environmental laws. Prior to joining EPA, Michele was General Counsel for Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Michele works out of Food & Water Watch’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

DSC_0058_2Nancy Utesch is from Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, where there are more cows than people. Some of those cows belong to Nancy and her husband Lynn. The Utesch’s moved to Town of Pierce in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin in 2004, acquiring 150 acres to pursue their grass-fed beef operation. When they moved to the county they were concerned with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), but at that time there were only a few permitted operations in their area. They believed the tourism sector and the proximity to Lake Michigan offered protection against the proliferation of large farms in the county.  Fast forward over a decade later and today over thirty percent of the water from tested wells in Nancy’s county is unsafe to drink, with high levels of nitrates, bacteria, or both. Nancy and Lynn founded the group Kewaunee Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship, a citizen organization deal with environmental issues in their community.