Dr. Don Reynolds named Director of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

I am very pleased that this past week we announced that Dr. Don Reynolds will become the director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on Nov. 1. He also will serve as Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources for the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine.

Don served as Dean of Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, PEI, Canada from 2008 to 2014. He also has served as Associate Dean for research and graduate studies at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, Interim Chairman of ISU’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine and assistant director of ISU’s Agricultural Experiment Station.  Don is an Ohio native and he received his bachelor’s, Ph.D. and DVM from The Ohio State University.

We are extremely excited to have Don join our team on November 1st to provide leadership for the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and direction to the Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine.  With the new Veterinary Diagnostic Center set to break ground within the year for a 2017 completion, expected growth in faculty, and movement of the Nebraska Center for Virology into its expanded next era, it is exciting to have a new director with Don’s breadth of academic leadership experience on board.  His interaction with Nebraska’s livestock industry is also key as we continue to grow and build our veterinary sciences efforts and his past experience and familiarity with the ISU College of Veterinary Medicine is also a huge plus!

I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Dr. Don Beermann for doing a wonderful job serving as Interim Director of the school since January of this year when we were caught by surprise in the decision of David Hardin to step back in to the faculty from the director role.  We are very grateful that he was willing to step in and lead the school so successfully and efficiently.  He has done and continues to do a phenomenal job, including tackling some challenging and difficult issues during the past nine months.  Don has been a true servant leader and has been much appreciated by the faculty and staff of the School, and certainly by IANR as a whole.  Thanks Don!

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A little bit of dirt work, a lot of new areas to explore

If you have been on East Campus this past week, you have seen a lot of digging and little flags popping up all over campus.  We are thrilled to see three landscaping projects taking shape this week and I wanted to take a minute to tell you a little bit more about them.

First, what a joy it is to finally see our legacy plaza beginning to take shape in the green space north of Filley Hall.   In 2012, we commissioned four statues to be created as a part of the 150th Anniversary of the Land-Grant Act.   The statues were commissioned to prominently recognize Nebraska natives who have made a lasting impact on agriculture and natural resources at the national level.  The statues are of J. Sterling Morton, Clifford Hardin, Clayton Yeutter, and Mike Johanns; all former USDA Secretaries of Agriculture.  All four statues were created using donated funds.  The statues were placed this past week and will be formally dedicated during a ceremony at 3 PM on September 20th.  The ceremony will be held in the green space north of Filley Hall on UNL’s East Campus and all are welcome to attend.

A little closer to Agricultural Hall, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has been working on a project to create a legacy courtyard featuring donated bricks by students, alumni, faculty, staff, and stakeholders.  Over 100 bricks will be included in the initial installation, in the space between Agricultural Hall and Home Economics.  The proceeds from the bricks are being used to create a scholarship program for incoming freshmen.  The bricks are being installed this week and all are welcome to attend the formal dedication of the area on September 27th at 3 PM.  The CASNR tailgate will immediately follow in the East Union.  Both events are free and open to the public.

Finally, you will also notice work being done on the south side of campus across from the new Valentino’s.  We are creating a formal pedestrian entrance into campus that we hope will welcome all of our neighbors to the south, as well as all other guests to campus, in a more formal inviting manner.  That project is slated to be completed in early November.

Thank you for your patience as these projects may mildly disrupt pedestrian paths.  I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy one of these new campus features soon!

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IANR All Hands Meeting

It was wonderful visiting with many of you at this week’s IANR All Hands Meeting.  We had a packed house in the Nebraska East Union and several hundred more watching online.  I sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your day to participate.  As I said during the presentation, I truly believe we are at an inflection point in our history and that the next six years are going to dwarf the last four years in terms of our growth and advancement.

During the presentation I covered a number of topics including a reflection on the past four years, an overview of the next six years to 2020, our near-term budget/fiscal outlook, and the Phase II Faculty Hiring Plan.  I also discussed the resource optimization implementation plans, leadership transitions, celebrated servant leaders/leadership, named the 2014 Omtvedt Innovation Awardees, and highlighted upcoming community events.

If you weren’t able to join us for the presentation, you can find an archived version of the presentation by going to http://ianrhome.unl.edu/ianr-2025

What a wonderful time to be in IANR.  Thanks for all that you do.

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Nebraska State Fair!

Another Nebraska State Fair is in the books!  Hats off to our UNL Extension, Nebraska 4-H families, and members of the Nebraska FFA Association for another successful fair.  It is always enjoyable to see all of Nebraska’s best and brightest join together to show off their hard work.  Especially gratifying is that this is the 4th year for the Nebraska State Fair in its 145-year history on the new fairgrounds in Grand Island.  I remember well when I arrived here just before that first year all of the concern and raw nerves from the previous years of planning the close down and move from Lincoln.  To see such a successful and well-run, state-of-the-art, agriculturally based fair now thriving at the same time that we are rapidly closing in on the completion of Phase I of Nebraska Innovation Campus on the former fairgrounds in Lincoln is really pleasing.

Especially exciting this year was the opening of the “Raising Nebraska” exhibit.  Through a partnership with UNL Extension, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and the Nebraska State Fair, we have created a year-round interactive learning center focused on the science of agriculture and food production.  I hope you got the opportunity to tour the new space during the fair.  If you didn’t get a chance to see the exhibit, please consider stopping by sometime soon.  Year-round hours are Tuesdays from 9-11:00 a.m. CT and Thursdays from 2-4:00 p.m. CT. The exhibit is available other dates and times by appointment.  Please contact UNL Extension Educator Beth Janning to learn more or check out http://raisingnebraska.net/.  Here are a few pictures from this past weekend.  Congratulations to Dean Hibberd, Associate Dean Lodl, and all of the team who have made this happen, including phenomenal designs from Dave Bucholz’s team and successful fund-raising of over $3M so far to support the exhibit from private industry partners!   Saturday was UNL Extension’s Centennial Celebration at the State Fair.  For the past 100 years, UNL Extension has been making a difference in the lives of Nebraskans in the areas of agriculture, water, health and wellness, youth, and communities. This open house showcased some of those Extension programs that will continue to move Nebraska forward into the next century. Fairgoers enjoyed fascinating workshops, activities, and free ice cream.  The festivities marked the end of the 100 events UNL Extension hosted this past year to commemorate their centennial.  Our UNL Extension team even participated in the daily State Fair parade!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday was the inaugural UNL Red Out at the Nebraska State Fair.  Highlights included hands-on activities from various UNL Departments in the Family Fun Zone, an IANR/CASNR ice cream social, pictures with Lil Red in the UNL Admissions Booth, and a pep rally that drew a couple hundred people!  During the pep rally people competed in the biggest Husker fan contest, cheered along with our Husker Cheerleaders, and had a chance to win Husker football tickets.   Thanks to our units across campus for participating in what we hope is an annual event.  Here are a few pictures from the festivities.  

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Fall 2014 – Welcome back!

Whether you are on campus at UNL or NCTA, or at one of the many locations across the great State of Nebraska where we are serving our citizens through the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station and UNL Extension, this is an exciting time of the year. This is now my fifth “start of the school year” – and I can honestly say the collective series of things coming together all at once has me convinced this will be yet another record-setting one for our University of Nebraska history book.

We are welcoming back a record number of students, and while the final numbers are not out yet, we are certain this will be our 10th consecutive year of enrollment growth.  This will also be CASNR’s fourth consecutive year to break the all-time NU enrollment record for students studying in the agricultural sciences and natural resources areas.  NCTA is also forecasted to have a huge increase in our first year student class over last year.  Thanks to each of you for the part you play in making our campus grow!

We are welcoming 40 new faculty members who have joined IANR in the past year as a part of our faculty growth initiative, and we are looking at growing by another 30 positions in this academic year.  This past year set a new record for IANR’s research expenditures, and by all indications this coming year should be well above that record, including this week’s announcement of an $11.3M COBRE grant in the area of obesity led by Janos Zempleni.

Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC) is coming along nicely, with the conference center now open for business and with the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, NUtech Ventures, and Nebraska Innovation Campus staff moving into their new offices.  This week we are hosting a seminal meeting around the establishment of a Nebraska Alliance for Advanced Food Sanitation, bringing together some of the most impactful food companies in the world.  Combined with our partnership with ConAgra Foods, the new Food Innovation Center, now under construction at NIC, promises to be the world leader in this arena.  The Greenhouse Complex, which is set for the installation of the LemnaTec Scanalyzer system, is on track for a March 2015 move-in.  You can literally watch all of the progress on Innovation Campus by going to www.truelook.com/clients/tetrad-webcam/.

This past weekend we also dedicated the Nebraska Building at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island.  Through a partnership with UNL Extension, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and the Nebraska State Fair, we created the Raising Nebraska Experience, a year-round interactive learning center on the science of agriculture and food production in a major portion of the facility.  Our friends at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission developed a top-notch exhibit space highlighting Nebraska’s natural resources in the other major area of the building.  Dean Chuck Hibberd, Kathleen Lodl, and team have been leading a major fund-raising effort to make it a first-rate contemporary exhibit for all Nebraskans and on Friday announced a $1 million gift from Cargill Industries as the lead sponsor of the Raising Nebraska experience.  Collectively $3.2M has been raised so far in this effort from private industry support.  Be sure to stop by the State Fair from now until Labor Day to check out the entire building!

I hope you will tune into our blog (http://ianrblog.unl.edu ) or follow musings on twitter (follow me @RonnieDGreen).   I will be posting more about each of the above topics and keep you up to date weekly on a variety of happenings of importance.  You also can access our weekly radio broadcasts on KRVN through the blog.

And, I really look forward to our next IANR ALL HANDS meeting coming up soon – on Wednesday, September 3, beginning at 9:00 am CDT in the Great Plains Room of the Nebraska East Union.  Live web-streaming and archives of the session will also be available on http://ianrhome.unl.edu/welcome.  THIS WILL BE A PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT ALL HANDS session as I will be outlining the plans for our next wave of 30 IANR faculty positions, as well as a major building campaign for UNL’s east campus, and the developing 2016-18 biennium budget plan for the NU system.  We will also announce the 2014 Omtvedt Innovation Awardees, as well as two new NU Presidential Chairs to be awarded in IANR.  Please make time in your schedule to attend in person, watch the live web-stream, or if not available during the session – to watch the videotape online at your convenience.

Lastly, as many of you know, I have been away from campus for most of the past week as our family has been celebrating the life of my Mother, Frances Cahoon Green, who passed away on August 20th in Virginia.  Please know that all of the expressions of sympathy and kindness expressed to me and our family over the past year as my Mom’s final journey played out have been deeply appreciated.  As I first said a few years ago, UNL-IANR is not only a professional organization of higher education, but it is also a community of wonderful and amazing people.  We found that out in spades this past year as so many have supported us in wonderful ways.  Our most heartfelt gratitude to all of you.

I wish you the very best for an exceptional and extraordinary year ahead.  Thanks for what you do every day to impact the lives of so many in Nebraska and around the world.  Hope to see many of you in the days ahead.

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Strategic Hiring for Strategic Initiatives . . .

As many already know in the IANR community and across UNL, the coming year will see the phase I development of the Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC) come fully to life.  This has been over five years in the making since the Nebraska State Fair move first happened after its last staging in Lincoln in the summer of 2009.  I arrived on the scene at UNL in July of 2010, and it seems like the planning and discussions around the NIC have been at the center of many hours every day since.  So, to see the newly renovated former 4-H/FFA arena and the new “Innovation” building nearing completion for occupancy this summer is tremendously exciting.  In fact, the first event to be held in the new conference center is now less than a month away – the UNL Research retreat being held by my good friend and colleague, Prem Paul.

It is also beyond words the excitement we all have surrounding the fact that in July 2015, the new Food Innovation Center, currently in its initial stages of construction to the south of the renovated 4-H/FFA arena, will open with the move of our entire Food Science and Technology Department to NIC.  This is a huge opportunity for our programs in the area of food science, technology and “food for health” and is being built around an initial major partnership with ConAgra Foods, as well as a new developing alliance of major food companies in the food safety and sanitation arena and in future innovations in food manufacturing with the UNL College of Engineering.  We have been at work in developing these plans with the department and ConAgra for the past 18 months and are now moving in to the next escalated phase of our work as 2015 draws ever closer.

Additionally, the initial construction is also underway for the first installment of a new greenhouse complex on NIC – to be located just to the east of the new Food Innovation Center.  This facility will house the new automated plant phenotyping LemnaTec system – and we are deep into the final planning for its installation and full deployment as well in the months ahead.

As we have developed the NIC model and plans, it became clear to us we needed to make an investment in a leader who could help us to develop and nurture the kinds of strategic alliances that are envisioned for this first phase of NIC in the food, fuel, and water arenas.  This also follows from a recommendation that initially came from our discussions and recommendations in the IANR to 2025 planning process in 2011 where this need for IANR was identified more generally for our programs in developing partnerships with private industry and other groups.  Ironically, at the time of that planning, Dan Duncan, now NIC executive director, formulated that recommendation when he was serving as assistant dean of the Agricultural Research Division.

So, I am immensely pleased to announce we have successfully searched for and hired a new director of strategic alliances for food, fuel, and water who began work with the NIC team on April 14th.  We are very fortunate to have attracted Ann Willet to this position.  Ann brings a wealth of experience from the private sector where she served in a number of leadership positions with Novartis in strategic planning and implementation, research operations, and operational excellence.  While at Novartis, she served as the leader of a national group of scientific liaisons who worked to build relationships with key opinion leaders and researchers. A native Nebraskan, Ann holds an MBA degree from UNL and a Pharm D from UNMC.  Most recently, she has been a project director for us in the Agricultural Research Division of IANR, working with the USDA STEC CAP grant with Rod Moxley and his team, as well as coordinating on several other important projects within ARD, including our ongoing discussions with ConAgra Foods.

Ann will work directly with the team of Dan Duncan (NIC), Brad Roth (NUTech Ventures), and Ryan Anderson (UNL-ORED Corporate Relations) and will be located in the new Innovation Commons building of NIC when it opens, reporting directly to Dan and myself.  I am tremendously excited to have Ann on our team and working every day as our key point person in developing public-private partnerships that will move our programs forward in exciting ways, focused initially in making phase I development of NIC a huge success, while looking forward to planning for phase II.  She also will be working with IANR in an ongoing basis in development of partnerships that may not involve NIC.

We also just announced recently the appointment of Dr. Nick Brozovic, currently on the faculty at the University of Illinois-UC, as the director of policy for the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, effective July 1.  I did cartwheels when we finalized Nick’s appointment as he is the right person, at the right time, for a critically important position for DWFI, and certainly for the future of water for food security.  You can see more about his appointment at http://waterforfood.nebraska.edu/blog/2014/03/21/dr-nicholas-brozovic-to-join-the-daugherty-water-for-food-institute-as-director-of-policy/ .  Nick will also be an active member of our agricultural economics faculty in the area of water policy – as you will learn from his record at UIUC and Imperial College-London.  Coupled with Christopher Neale, DWFI director of research – we now have a highly talented on-the-ground team to lead our efforts forward!  Congratulations to Roberto Lenton and all of the DWFI team for bringing Nick onto the team.

Strategic hires for strategic directions to do great things for the University of Nebraska and all we serve.  These are exciting times, indeed, and every day I pinch myself in thinking about what lies ahead from the teams we are now building and have recently assembled.  We are growing a healthy future, no doubt about it!

Welcome Ann – and we look forward soon to saying the same to Nick!

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Partnership with Nebraska FFA

On April 10-12, we hosted close to 4,000 Nebraska FFA’ers for the 86th annual state FFA convention.  FFA’ers sharpened their skills with career development events and leadership activities throughout east campus. Similar to last year, we put up a giant tent where IANR hosted Fun with Wildlife featuring Dennis Ferraro, the state FFA AgriScience Fair, the Hall of Chapters, and a Husker Pep Rally where Dean Waller and I may have been talked into playing the air guitar.  The weather was perfect and we were brimming at the seams with FFA members! To see a video from last Friday’s festivities, please go to http://youtu.be/wtqzOjcTP9g

For the second year in a row, it was an honor having all seven Nebraska State FFA Officers in CASNR, and it looks like all seven of the newly elected officers will also be in CASNR!

Thank you to everyone who helped make last week a success.  Whether you coordinated a CDE contest, gave a campus tour or helped set up 1,600 chairs; your efforts are noticed and appreciated!

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Budget Reallocations in a Time of Major Growth and Momentum for IANR and UNL?

I am sure many of our IANR community members were puzzled and perhaps even perplexed when Chancellor Perlman announced to the campus community in February that once again, UNL would need to adjust its state-aided budget in order to achieve a balanced budget in the current year and moving forward.  Unfortunately, this is an all-too familiar process and situation for our campus.  However, this time it may seem quite illogical that we should be required to make budget cuts when we have been experiencing such rapid growth and momentum, particularly in IANR.  After all, haven’t we seen 9 consecutive years of student growth in CASNR, record growth in support for our research and extension programs, a very robust and sound agricultural economy, all leading to increased support from the state of Nebraska in the current biennium with no tuition increase for our resident students?  And, furthermore, aren’t we just completing the largest hiring initiative in our faculty in over 40 years, resulting in 61 new faculty joining our IANR team since 2012?  That does not sound like an environment where a budget cut should be required!

As the Chancellor has since explained to the campus, this is a result of a carry-over deficit of $2M in fiscal year 2013 coupled with a $2.65M deficit that has been added in the current fiscal year.  The campus leadership had thought our growth in student numbers might address the deficit moving forward, so we found ways internally last year to cash flow the deficit on a one-time basis.  Unfortunately, that did not come to pass, and we find ourselves now needing to fix this issue moving forward.  As Harvey pointed out in March, part of the reason for this deficit at the campus level is an increasing level of distance education tuition that now resides in the Colleges resulting from the policy established several years ago to incentivize the development of distance courses, leaving an operating deficit at the campus level.  Unfortunately, that policy was enacted not expecting the majority of such tuition to be generated over time from resident students.  Moving forward this will be addressed with a new policy to prevent this situation from occurring in the
future.

In the meantime, that has left us with a $4.65M deficit to fix in this year, and as you know that process has been moving forward over the past couple of months.  The administration proposed that the deficit be eliminated primarily from a 1% reduction in the proposed 3% salary increase pool for all faculty and staff.  This would account for $3.2M of the amount required, leaving $1.45M to be contributed proportionally across the campus operating units.  Under our standing UNL policy, this means that IANR is responsible for covering 28%, or in this case approximately $400K of the remainder.

We carefully analyzed where this $400K would come from in our permanent state-appropriated budget.  You may recall that several years ago, the former Communications and Information Technology (CIT) unit of IANR went through a re-formulation as a part of two budget reduction cycles.  The then newly formed Educational Media (EdMedia) unit was reduced in personnel and was moved to a cost recovery model with approximately $1.1M of state-funding still budgeted annually across the IANR divisions for purchase of such services, especially from UNL Extension.  That is the model we have been operating under since 2011.

We have been evaluating over the past year how this model has worked to date, and have determined that significant further reform of the unit is needed, which will be done in the coming months as a part of this budget reallocation process.  In short, we have determined that our cost structure for delivery of these services is higher than should be the case based on the market, and thus we need to bring this important part of our operations into a higher level of financial sustainability and accountability.   In an earlier blog on March 28th, I described the charge of a task force currently at work on state-wide optimization of our resources across IANR being led by associate vice chancellor Ron Yoder.  The task force has also been asked to carefully review the needs of IANR in the educational media arena and come forth with a proposal by July 1st for how we can effectively deliver the services needed for all of IANR’s diverse portfolio across our teaching, research, and extension missions under a re-formulated budget model.

We are very sensitive and empathetic to the fact that any time a budgetary adjustment process is done, there are ultimately people who are directly impacted by such change.  There is uncertainty associated with change and transition, and in the educational media support area, that is the certainly the case for both staff in the EdMedia organization, as well as customers and consumers of the services provided.  We are committed to getting this right for the long term, and I am confident the new model that emerges will put IANR in a better position than currently exists for relaying our story to the greater public across the board.

In the mean-time, please know for all involved that we are seeking a great future for IANR in this area and will assure our needs will be met better than ever before, while being sensitive to this being a time of great change for some of our staff and faculty in this area.

So, yes, we are growing IANR in unprecedented ways (and expect to continue to do so for years ahead), but, we also are committed to a healthy operating budget for our University and see this as an opportunity to develop a highly successful and sustainable educational media support services structure and system for all of IANR.

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Growing Chairs and Professorships to Grow a Healthy Future. . .

The strength of any university is built upon the quality of its people – its faculty, staff, students and alumni.  Without a doubt, the core of that strength is the talented collective pool of faculty who mentor and educate students, conduct cutting edge scholarly research and creative activity, and translate their work for application to the greater public.  In our highly engaged and dynamic Land-Grant university here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we pride ourselves on our world renowned faculty, and, nowhere is that more evident than in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Our faculty are routinely recognized in their various fields for their work – and it is a pleasure to celebrate with them throughout the year as these awards come their way.  These recognitions come from their peers nationally and internationally across various fields of the biological, physical, and social sciences, scientific societies, non-government organizations and foundations, private industry, as well as all levels of government.  The numbers of these recognitions continue to increase annually for our faculty, and provide a testament to the growing global reputation of UNL-IANR across the spectrum of natural resources, agricultural sciences, and human sciences.  While it is not possible to highlight every one of these awards as they happen – it is indeed both gratifying and humbling to see them come to our faculty members.  The most recent example was close to home as Don Weeks, professor of biochemistry, was recognized by the University of Nebraska system as one of two recipients of the 2014 Outstanding Research and Creativity Award.  Congratulations, Don – well deserved!

Recently, we have embarked in a directed way to increase the number of our faculty who hold prestigious UNL or NU chairs and professorships.  To be named to an endowed chair or professorship is the highest honor that a faculty member can receive within the University.  While we are very fortunate in UNL-IANR to have a relatively large number of such endowed chairs and professorships, we would like to see this number increase due to the highly deserving level across our faculty for such recognition.  Currently, we have 28 named chairs and professorships awarded by IANR to our faculty, with an additional 16 of our faculty members who hold UNL-wide professorships (13 Cather-Bessey, 2 Rosowski, 1 Holmes).  In recognition of the priority focus on agriculture and natural resources at NU, we are fortunate that the highest level chairs across the system, the Presidential Chairs, currently are only awarded to UNL-IANR faculty.

In the past month, it has been a pleasure to name three of our faculty to new chairs and professorships.   George Graef has been awarded the newest NU Presidential Chair – the Nebraska Soybean Board Chair.  George, a professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, is highly deserving of this honor, enabled by a partnership between Bayer CropScience, the Nebraska Soybean Board, and UNL-IANR.  George was awarded the medal for this chair in March.  He joins Stephen Baenziger as the other holder of an NU Presidential Chair – the Nebraska Wheat Growers Chair, under a similar partnership enabled by Bayer CropScience and the Nebraska Wheat Growers.

Roberto Lenton, founding executive director of the Daugherty Water for Food Institute, was awarded the medal signifying his appointment as the Daugherty Endowed Chair in late March.  Roberto is also dually appointed as a professor in our Department of Biological Systems Engineering.

Ntinos Giannakas, professor of agricultural economics, and director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Industrial Organization, was named as the Eberhard Professor of Agricultural Economics earlier this semester.  He joins Suat Irmak, professor of biological systems engineering, who was named as the Eberhard Professor of Agriculture last fall.

Over the past year, we have developed a goal of significantly adding to our availability of Presidential and endowed chairs – in fact we have identified a target of having an additional 25 such chairs by 2025.  We are well on our way with four added since we began this drive, we have two additional chairs to soon announce, and an additional proposal was made to an organization for a new Presidential Chair in the past week.   This is amongst our highest fund-raising priorities and we are pleased to be making gradual and consistent progress on our goal!  I look forward to soon announcing the next wave of new faculty being so honored.

It is humbling to be able to serve in a role working to enable talented people who are changing the world every day.

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Celebrating National Ag Day Across Nebraska!

This year, celebrating National Ag Day will be a little different for me.  I have the pleasure and privilege of traveling across Nebraska with Governor Dave Heineman, Nebraska Department of Agriculture director Greg Ibach, and Nebraska Farm Bureau president Steve Nelson.  I have no doubt that it will be a fun day as we travel to Valentine, Lexington, and Central City to draw attention to the phenomenal importance of agriculture, its people, and the huge productivity of our food system and the natural resources stewarded through it.  I regularly call attention to the fact that there has never been a more exciting time in agriculture, with its global epicenter being right here in Nebraska – and today while the nation acknowledges National Agriculture Day, it is wonderful to be able to share that with Nebraskans in three areas of our great state.

While on this whistle-stop tour, I will be drawing attention to the fact that our agricultural industry and food system has a huge opportunity and challenge ahead as we seek to meet the nutritional needs of three billion more people around the world in the next 40 years, including significantly increasing the availability of high-quality animal protein for the world’s growing middle class.  No place in the world is better positioned to deliver on that challenge than Nebraska where the diversity of our natural resources, the availability of a sustainable water supply, and the ability to continue to innovate our production with increasingly targeted technology and know-how brings it all together.  I firmly believe we can meet the challenge of producing twice as much with fewer and sustainable resources, and Nebraska will continue to grow in its impact and importance on the world stage as we move forward.

One huge area of opportunity for Nebraska is to significantly expand our livestock industries to meet these global demands.  We recently released a report jointly with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, authored by a team of our faculty in the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics, which was highlighted earlier this month at the Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney.  The full report is available at:  http://agecon.unl.edu/livestock and I encourage you to read it.  Outlined in the report is a scenario of expansion in Nebraska of swine finishing, beef feedlot finishing, dairy production, and egg production.  While Nebraska already ranks as the #1 commercial red meat production state in the U.S., collectively these expansion scenarios would further value-add our current crop and biofuels production sectors (the so-called “Golden Triangle”), resulting in substantial projected economic activity (over $1.4B and 19,000 jobs). This is exciting, and today as we celebrate National Ag Day, I will be drawing attention to this huge expanded opportunity for all Nebraskans.

Before agreeing to travel the state with my colleagues today, I had been invited to participate with a group of leaders in dedicating a statue of Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in the statuary hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.  That event is also happening today, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Dr. Borlaug’s birth.  I was really taken by an interview that was published in the Des Moines Register with Dr. Borlaug’s granddaughter, Julie Borlaug, leading up to the statue’s unveiling.  In the interview, she really challenges our community to do a better job of telling the success story of meeting the world’s food needs with technology.  It is well worth reading and can be found at:  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20140322/BUSINESS01/303220042?nclick_check=1 I could not agree with Julie more – well said on all fronts.

I hope that today you will each say a thank you to all who are involved in the food and agriculture system.  It is phenomenal that the average U.S. farmer and rancher is responsible for stewarding the resources under their care to produce a bountiful food supply and nutrients for 155 other people.  That is truly a success story that Abraham Lincoln would marvel at today were he with us.  And, thanks to all of you at the University of Nebraska and our Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources for what you do every day to help meet the grand challenge of the future as the legacy of Lincoln’s vision that established the Land-Grant University system, the USDA, and all of the bounty that we now enjoy.  Happy National Ag Day to all of you.

A few additional items for you to enjoy:

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