Eunice “Eunie” Biel, president
Eunie serves as president of Fillmore County Farmers Union in Minnesota. She is a frequent participant in National Farmers Union (NFU) legislative fly-ins, and has served several times on the NFU policy committee. Eunie was born into an active Farmers Union family, and her mother attended one of the first ladies’ fly-ins in the 1960s. Eunie’s family farm, Biel Dairy, consists of 220 cows and young stock, and 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans and hay. Four generations of her family work on the farm.
William “Bill” Beam, vice president
Bill served as the deputy administrator for Farm Programs of the USDA from 2018-2021. In that role, he oversaw and implemented policies and procedures that regulate the delivery of federal farm programs. He along with his staff oversaw major portions of the farm bill including programs that help farmers, ranchers and forest stewards manage market risks, recover from disasters, and conserve and protect natural resources through the Farm Service Agency’s network of over 2,100 state and county offices. Bill is the owner and operator of Beam Farms Inc., a fourth-generation row crop (corn, soy, wheat), specialty crop and hay operation in Elverson, Pennsylvania, and of a large sawdust trucking business. Previously, he served on the United Soybean Board for nine years, on the United States Soybean Export Council for two years, and in leadership positions with the Pennsylvania Soybean Board.
F. Samuel “Sam” Eberts, secretary
Sam is an accomplished senior executive and board member with over 25 years’ experience with Fortune 500 companies in health care, consumer and industrial services. He chairs the Daerter Group, a venture firm in North Carolina and New York providing seed investment for promising startups in health care and smart technology. He recently retired as the chief legal officer, corporate secretary and senior vice president of Global Corporate Affairs for LabCorp, where he held enterprise-wide responsibility for the myriad global functions such as legal, compliance, public policy/government relations, communications, and community affairs/philanthropy. Sam serves on the board of trustees for Endicott College and the Alamance Community College Foundation. He is also on the advisory boards for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C., and the World Policy Institute in New York, non-partisan think tanks for global policy analysis. In addition, he serves on the Corporate Governance Forum at Harvard Law School. Previously, Sam served on the Health Care Policy Leadership Council at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his wife, Angela.
Christine Stearn, treasurer
Christine Stearn joins the RIPE board with a background in organizational management and development. She previously worked on business models and regulatory opportunities for clean energy firms for the Smart Electric Power Alliance. Christine has a variety of experience ranging from launching startups to working at a global sustainability think tank to building an analytic program for a $3-billion operating organization. She earned an MBA from Columbia University and certification in risk management assurance by the Institute of Internal Auditors. She brings years of experience as a member of the board of directors for a youth scholarship nonprofit. Christine lives in Michigan but grew up in Pennsylvania’s farm country amid an extended family of farmers. She is enthusiastic about RIPE’s mission to cultivate financial incentives for agricultural and environmental outcomes.
Philip Johnson “PJ” Haynie III
PJ is the fifth-generation owner and operator of Haynie Farms LLC, a grain farming business, producing corn, wheat, soybeans and canola throughout all four counties of the Northern Neck of Virginia. PJ and his family also own and operate a food-grade liquid bulk and dry bulk transportation company, a timber harvesting company, and a landscaping and excavating company. In Arkansas, he owns several rice farms and the first black-owned rice mill in the state. PJ serves as chairman of the National Black Growers Council, a membership organization working to improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of Black row crop farmers. PJ’s service as a farmer-leader started when he was vice president of his Future Farmers of America chapter while working on his family farm. While attending Virginia Tech, where he pursued a degree in agriculture and applied economics, PJ served as president of the Virginia Tech chapter of Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences. He also served on USDA’s Plant Variety Protection Act Board and on the Agricultural Advisory Council for Virginia’s first congressional district. He and his wife, Lisa, reside in Reedville, Virginia, with their three children.
K. Stratton Kirton
Stratton is managing director of strategy at Penta Group, where he advises clients on strategy development and public policy with a focus on issues related to energy, environment, technology and trade. He was previously managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies (HPS), which became Penta in a merger in late 2022. Prior to joining HPS, Stratton was a member of the public affairs and energy practices at Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Washington and PBN Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Moscow. Stratton advised leading technology companies, multinational energy companies and large U.S. trade associations on reputational and regulatory issues. Previously, Stratton worked for Rep. Mike McIntyre and Sen. Bill Nelson on their legislative policy teams. During this time he worked closely with the House Committee on Agriculture, and the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Stratton graduated from Stetson University with a dual bachelor’s degree in political science and Russian studies, and he holds a masters in energy policy from Georgetown University. He helps to manage his family’s ranch and tree farms located in North Florida, and he and his wife own a small hay farm in Virginia.
Curt Mether, past president
Curt previously served as president of Iowa Corn Growers Association and is an active member of Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers Association, U.S. Grains Council, and American Green Gas. Curt is a third-generation family farmer, and grows corn and soybeans on 1,400 acres with his wife, Anita. They use no-till, cover crops and other practices that invest in soil health and water quality. Curt is enthusiastic about RIPE’s mission to help growers develop new economic opportunities while investing in their farms’ conservation practices to benefit the farm, neighbors and future generations. Curt also volunteers with 4-H programs and Sunday school education, investing in the next generation.
Tracy is founder and CEO of ImpacTT Collective LLC, where she provides strategic advice on organizational transformation, operational excellence, organizational culture and professional performance. She spent over 18 years in marketing with the Credit Union National Association, a national association that provides legislative advocacy, training and events for America’s credit unions. Tracy is also the co-founder and managing member of S&T Ag LLC, a production farming operation offering agronomy services to farming operations. With her husband and parents, Tracy owns a family farm in Wisconsin that grows corn, soy and wheat. She previously volunteered with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s young adult group. Tracy is a member of the board of directors of the Cambridge, Wisconsin, school district, where she’s served for more than 17 years and has been president since 2016. In this role, she leads a seven-person board to serve 900+ students and manage a $12 million budget. During her tenure, she has led the transformation of an 80-acre farm to a K-12 curriculum facility, including a charter school. Tracy lives in Cambridge, Wisconsin, with her family.
Brennan and his wife, Gwendolyn, own and operate Phoenix Gardens, a diversified small-scale farm in Georgia that sells at four farmers markets per week. They also operate a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and are leaders in the local food system movement. They are known for providing high quality produce grown using environmentally sound methods. Brennan is also the 1890 land grant liaison and limited-resource/minority farmer outreach specialist with the USDA’s Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). In this role, he works and travels extensively across the Southern region promoting the SARE grants program and providing educational resources, networking with regional partners, and building new relationships with producers, NGOs, and community groups regarding sustainable agriculture. Brennan is a former board member of SSARE and a former board member of Georgia Organics and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. After becoming active in local Georgia farmers markets, Brennan went on to co-found the Georgia Farmers Market Association, where he also served as board chair.