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UKAg Animal and Food Sciences recognizes ag leaders

Warren Beeler, left; Bob Harmon, right

PHOTO: Steve Patton, UK Ag Communications Specialist
LEXINGTON, Ky.

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Department of Animal and Food Sciences annually recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the department and to animal agriculture in Kentucky and across the United States. This year the department inducted Warren Beeler into its Hall of Fame and awarded the Distinguished Alumna Award to Margaret Benson.

In January, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer appointed Warren Beeler as the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s director of the Ag Policy. Prior to his appointment, Beeler helped establish and advance the Kentucky Proud program. From 2010 to 2013, he concurrently led the governor-appointed Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission to the Agricultural Development Board’s approval of guidelines for the care and welfare of Kentucky-produced livestock.

Beeler initiated the Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program in 2011, an offshoot of the National Pork Producers Leadership Initiative. This program was originally designed for swine production, but Beeler has expanded it to the production of safe and healthy food.

Donald Ely and Debra Aaron, faculty members in animal and food sciences, wrote in their nomination of Beeler that he “is such an advocate of animal agriculture. He will stand on any corner of any city, and has done so, to deliver the message that livestock of today are produced in cleaner, safer and healthier environments than ever before in history.”

Beeler’s base is the family farm, having operated a diversified farm in the Caneyville community for more than 30 years. As a nationally recognized livestock judge, he has judged hog shows in 42 states and numerous 4-H and FFA shows. Nominators Ely and Aaron said he never forgets a kid’s name and all livestock judging kids know Beeler. In fact, 32 years ago, Warren Beeler held a livestock judging clinic under a small tent on his farm in Caneyville. That clinic grew and has evolved into the Kentucky Junior Livestock Expo, which later expanded to expos at Morehead State University and Murray State University.

He works with faculty from UKAg, Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University and Murray State University to produce the state livestock judging and skillathon contests, regional FFA judging contests and the National FFA Livestock Judging contest. The UK Block and Bridle Club, UK faculty and Warren Beeler team up to conduct the Annual Kentucky Beef Expo Youth Judging Contest in Louisville each March. This partnership provides UK students the opportunity to hone leadership and managerial skills.

Beeler has long been an advocate for youth in agriculture and established the Junior Activities Hampshire Swine Registry, which was the first youth organization in the U.S. swine industry. He also developed the popular 4-H Livestock Skillathon Program for Kentucky.

His nominators said he is a living ag legend who is a teacher, friend, leader, motivator and an inspiration to the next generation of leaders and ambassadors for animal agriculture.

Benson, who earned a doctorate degree in ruminant nutrition at UK in 1984, currently serves as the chair of the Department of Animal Sciences at Washington State University. She grew up on a livestock and grain farm in Okabena, Minn. and remains an owner of the family farm.

Before going to WSU in 2007, Benson was a professor of animal sciences at Michigan State University from 1985 to 2007, where she had research, instruction and extension responsibilities and taught courses in animal sciences, ruminant nutrition, sheep production and management and ethics in animal agriculture.

As department chair, Benson leads faculty and staff who he said are engaged in, and committed to, delivering outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs, conducting diverse research programs that contribute new findings to fundamental and applied animal science disciplines, and delivering extension programs that address emerging and relevant issues designed to sustain animal agriculture in the Pacific Northwest, nationally and globally.

Throughout her career, Benson has served the American Society of Animal Sciences through membership on national and sectional program committees, awards committees and the editorial board of the Journal of Animal Science. She was elected to a three-year term on the ASAS board of directors in 2004. Then, in 2010 she was elected to begin a three-year rotation as president-elect, president and past president.

Under Benson’s leadership, the society embarked upon the most comprehensive strategic action plan in its history of 100-plus years. Largely due to her leadership, ASAS followed through with a new marketing plan that resulted in a significant increase in membership among professionals, graduate students and undergraduates, implemented sponsorship-funding models for webinars and launched an external stakeholders website, http://www.AnimalSmart.org.

Benson’s nominators said one of her greatest contributions was initiating and steering a conference focused on funding livestock research and outreach for the future. Known as Innovate 2012, it was held in October to discuss novel funding models and to develop a framework for future funding for animal research, education and extension activities.

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