VP of Government Affairs & Chief Scientist
Western Sugar Cooperative
Dr. Rebecca Larson has spent more than 20 years working in the beet sugar industry. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Field Biology from St. Cloud State University in 1999 and went on to receive her doctorate in Plant Science with an emphasis in Plant Pathology and Biochemistry from Montana State University in 2003. The work from her dissertation led to patenting and commercialization of a novel disease control agent which landed her induction into Montana State University’s Inventors Society in 2014. Early in her career Dr. Larson established a proteomics program at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service when working for the Agency as a Plant Physiologist. Her work elucidated the biochemical foundations of plant resistance/tolerance in sugarbeet. The findings were extensively published in the peer-reviewed literature and created the foundation of her expertise in integrated pest management. Looking to expand her knowledge in applied agronomy, plant breeding and crop protection, Dr. Larson moved to private industry where she ultimately joined the North American R&D Leadership Team at Syngenta overseeing end-to-end research activities for Diverse Field Crops, which included sugarbeet. In 2015, Dr. Larson joined Western Sugar Cooperative and currently serves as Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Chief Scientist.
During her tenure with Western Sugar much of her work has been sustainability focused. She developed and implemented a Sustainability Management System and Continuous Improvement Program. She led the farmers through on-farm sustainability certification, making Western Sugar the first verified supplier of 100% sustainably produced sugar in the Americas. Dr. Larson also spear-headed the first life cycle assessment of sugarbeets in North America to create the foundation for continuous improvement and research investments for the cooperative. Her efforts today focus on optimizing nutrient use efficiency, improving and maintaining soil health, and the commoditization of ecosystem services.