MSU alum Norm Asbjornson donates $2 million to MSU’s Montana Plant Sciences Chair

BOZEMAN – Montana State University and the MSU Alumni Foundation announced today that longtime university supporter Norm Asbjornson has given $2 million in support of the Montana Plant Sciences Chair, the first endowed chair in the MSU College of Agriculture. The chair will formally be named the Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair in honor of Asbjornson’s hometown of Winifred, where he grew up during the Depression.

Asbjornson’s gift brings the university to within $200,000 of its $5 million goal for the endowment. The gift also marks the beginning of the fourth year of the endowment’s five-year fundraising plan. MSU plans to meet the remaining $200,000 through private development, according to Kevin Brown, senior director of development with the MSU Alumni Foundation.

The Montana Plant Sciences Chair was conceived five years ago, when theMontana Grains Foundation and dozens of other Montana farmers rallied together to invest $1 million from their own pockets for grains-focused research at MSU. In the following two years, an additional $1.8 million was raised from Montana producers and agribusiness.

“The investment from Montana producers in this chair has been remarkable,” said Charles Boyer, MSU vice president of agriculture.

Farmers across the state continue to battle pests like the wheat stem sawfly and other abiotic stressors that damage wheat yields and threaten a sustainable agricultural economy, and Montana wheat producers must be vigilant in keeping their crops healthy and viable, Boyer added.

MSU – the state’s oldest and largest land-grant institution – joined the grassroots call to bring a world-renowned scientist to the university who would help Montana grain growers remain competitive and sustainable through research tailored specifically for Montana’s current and future challenges in production agriculture. Together, Montana’s agricultural community and MSU challenged themselves to raise $5 million dollars in five years to bring a permanent endowed plant science chair to MSU.

The chair has since grown into a vision for expanding statewide support for Montana’s grain growers with the help of MSU faculty and the Montana Grains Foundation, Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, Montana Grain Growers Association and a multitude of agribusinesses and grain producers.

Asbjornson, a 1960 mechanical engineering graduate from the MSU College of Engineering, said the future of food is in the hands of farmers. With that, he added, comes responsibility.

“We have a responsibility to support and invest in programs that can have enormous economic (impact) for Montana’s agricultural economy,” he said. “MSU understands how integral producers are to applied research for the state, and I’m excited to join the Montana agricultural community in support of this endowment.”

Asbjornson added that climatic, water, disease and pest threats will continue to stress Montana’s top crop, and that funds must be invested in technological research that produces top-quality wheat genetics for Montana growers.

Boyer said the endowment will allow the current Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair, Hikmet Budak, MSU professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, to remain competitive in an integrative research program for Montana grains and find ways to strengthen the vitality of Montana wheat. Budak, who works closely with national and international advisory councils comprised of Montana farmers, agribusinesses, non-profit organizations and grower representative groups, said Asbjornson’s recent investment marks an important step for the chair’s future.

“The enormous generosity of Mr. Asbjornson will ultimately transform the ability of Montana grain growers to remain sustainable and profitable, from research provided by the state’s cornerstone land-grant institution, because it is led by and has partnered with Montana producers,” Budak said. “On behalf of MSU and our important partnership with Montana producers and Mr. Asbjornson, we’re honored to name this cooperative chair after the agricultural legacy that Mr. Asbjornson will undoubtedly leave. I’m honored to serve as the first Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair and look forward to meaningful successes alongside all who have given to this program.”

Budak’s lab focuses on innovative wheat genetics and genomics in response to pests and abiotic stress while adding nutrient value to wheat. Most recently, Budak, along with a team of 14 international scientists, successfully sequenced and mapped the genome – or complete genetic code – of durum wheat. Budak`s team is currently working on sequencing DNA and RNA code of a Montana winter wheat cultivar, Yellowstone, with an international consortium. Budak said the data is the first step to understanding which genes are present in the local wheat genome. Harnessing this knowledge to produce higher-quality Montana durum and bread wheat lines will also increase resistance to pests, environmental stress and disease, he added.

Research advancements have major implications for Montana wheat farmers, according to Lola Raska, executive vice-president of Montana Grains Foundation (MGF). Raska said the endowment is a lifetime commitment to Montana grain producers.

“MGF has worked hard over the last four years to take a vision to a reality,” Raska said. “This has been a collaborative effort by our farmers, their organizations and supporting businesses, and it’s inspiring we’re so close to full endowment, thanks to Mr. Asbjornson’s investment and confidence in Montana agriculture.”

Dale Schuler, MGF president, said the endowment’s success was always meant to benefit the industry by way of being anchored to Montana farmers.

“For our donors, this project has been about investing in Montana agriculture,” said Schuler. “We know that the collaborative nature of the endowment is an advantage for Montana farmers, and MSU has proven adept at connecting research to our at-large society.”

Gary Broyles, owner of Broyles Farms, Inc. in Rapelje, said he believes the chair’s research impact will transfer to other areas of food production.

“What’s wonderful about a program like this is that it has every potential to transcend beyond grains research,” Broyles said. “When you have the building blocks at the genome-sequencing level, it provides a pathway to other areas like nutrition and producing protein for a global food supply, so that the foundational programs in agriculture are in tandem with another.”

Asbjornson, who grew up in a one-room, 800-square-foot house, is the founder and CEO of AAON, a NASDAQ-traded heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) manufacturer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with annual revenues of $400 million and more than 1,800 employees. In 2004, he received an honorary doctorate in engineering from MSU and the Montana Board of Regents.

Asbjornson has funded five endowments with the MSU Alumni Foundation, four of which are scholarship endowments and one that focuses on rural education initiatives through the Winifred Asbjornson Rural Education Initiatives Fund.

In addition to Asbjornson, names of the supporters of the Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair can be found at msuaf.org/pscdonors.

Contact: Kevin Brown, senior development director, MSU Alumni Foundation, kevin.brown@msuaf.org or (406) 994-4815

MSU to host annual agricultural research center field days across Montana

The public is invited to attend free annual field days across Montana to tour and learn about the people, places and projects involved with agricultural research at Montana State University’s College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station or MAES. Five research stations across the state and a local Bozeman campus farm will each host a field day this summer.

“Statewide field days are a longstanding tradition where we invite the public to tour our facilities, meet our faculty and staff and learn about trends and progress in agriculture research that hopefully makes a difference in their lives,” said Barry Jacobsen, associate director of MAES. “What’s most important about field days is that they serve as an opportunity for statewide producers, farmers, ranchers and agribusiness to share successes and challenges face-to-face with faculty scientists and learn about what the university is doing in response to those challenges and needs. It’s a chance for faculty and stakeholders to engage as an agricultural community and for the university to get feedback on what we need to be focusing on.”

Field days include facility tours, explanations of research projects and results and a chance for citizens, producers, legislators and agribusiness representatives to speak with MSU scientists and Extension agents.

Summer 2017 field days include:

  • Northern Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, June 29: The field day begins at 4 p.m. with tours before and after dinner. The center is located about seven miles southwest of Havre on U.S. Highway 87. (406) 265-6115.
  • The MSU Arthur H. Post Agronomy Farm , Thursday, July 7: The Post Farm will begin tours at 8:30 a.m. followed by lunch. The Post Farm is located eight miles west of Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191. (406) 586-6819.
  • Central Agricultural Research Center, Wednesday, July 12: The field day starts at 9 a.m. and includes a free lunch. The center is located 2.5 miles west of Moccasin on U.S. Highway 87. (406) 423-5421.
  • Northwestern Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, July 13: The field day begins at 2 p.m., with dinner following the tour. NWARC is located near Creston on State Highway 35. (406) 755-4303.
  • Eastern Agricultural Research Center, Wednesday, July 19: The field day begins at 9 a.m. The center is located one mile north of Sidney on State Highway 200. (406) 433-2208.
  • Western Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, July 27: The field day starts at 4 p.m. with dinner at 5 p.m. and a tour following. WARC is located at 580 Quast Lane, Corvallis. (406) 961-3025.

MAES comprises agricultural research of on and off-campus MSU faculty. The research centers are strategically located across Montana to allow research with different soil types, elevations, climate zones and landscapes, and a local advisory council guides the research at each station. The federal Hatch Act of 1887 authorized every national land-grant university to establish an agricultural experiment station, with research reflecting the university’s curriculum and state needs. The Smith-Lever Act authorized the Extension Service in 1914. MSU College of Agriculture, Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and MSU Extension have been cooperatively serving the land-grant mission and the Montana public for the past 100 years.

For more information about the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, visit http://agresearch.montana.edu/maes.html. For more information about the station’s research centers, visit http://agresearch.montana.edu/researchcenters.html.

MSU to host agricultural outlook conference Nov. 11

BOZEMAN – The Montana State University Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics and MSU Extension will host an agricultural economics conference, “Agricultural Production Trends and Changing Food Systems,” on Nov. 11. The Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics is a joint department of the MSU College of Agriculture and MSU College of Letters and Science.

At the conference, MSU agricultural economics and Extension faculty will speak about topics tailored to the Montana agricultural industry, including grain and cattle markets, banking regulation, crop viruses, farm bill updates, Montana poverty statistics and agricultural profitability under the statewide agricultural production research grant with the Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative.

“The annual conference is an opportunity for university economists and specialists to share their research findings and value with our state’s stakeholders,” said Joel Schumacher, MSU agricultural economics Extension specialist. “We look forward to the conference each year because it’s a chance for us to connect and talk with public supporters, who ultimately guide and direct our research priorities.”

The conference’s guest M.L. Wilson Speaker this year is Jayson Lusk, who will discuss “The Future of Food.” A Regents Professor and Willard Sparks Endowed Chair in the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, Lusk is often cited as one of the country’s most prolific commenters on food policy and marketing and agricultural marketing topics related to consumer behavior. He is a fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and author of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and six books, including “Unnaturally Delicious” and “The Food Police.” He has also published editorials in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Thursday’s conference speakers include Joe Janzen, MSU assistant professor of agricultural economics, who will speak about grain market fundamentals, and Eric Belasco, MSU associate professor of agricultural economics, who will speak on cattle market fundamentals. Gary Brester, MSU agricultural economics professor, will address the impacts of emerging bank regulations on agricultural loan competition. Conference registration includes a hosted a lunch with comments from Vincent Smith, MSU professor of agricultural economics, on MSU’s new Center for Regulatory and Applied Economic Analysis.

After lunch, two in-depth breakout session will be offered. One will feature a selection of ongoing research featuring MSU Agricultural Economics Extension Specialist Kate Fuller and Nina Zidack, director of the MSU Montana Seed Potato Certification Program, who will speak on the economics of disease screening in the Montana seed potato industry. Schumacher will share Montana poverty statistics, followed by a second session that will feature faculty involved with the Montana Research and Economic Development Grant, aimed at increasing general agricultural profitability across Montana. Speakers include Anton Bekkerman, MSU associate professor of agricultural economics; George Haynes, MSU Extension agricultural policy specialist; Bruce Maxwell, MSU professor of ecology; and Colter Ellis, MSU assistant professor of sociology.

The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The morning session will be held in the Procrastinator Theater in MSU’s Strand Union Building. Conference registration is $25. Participants should call 994-3511 to register. A full schedule is available at http://www.ampc.montana.edu/fallconference.html.

The 10th annual conference is part of MSU’s larger Celebrate Agriculture weekend, set for Nov. 10-12 and hosted by the MSU College of Agriculture. More information about Celebrate Agriculture is available at http://www.montana.edu/news/16409/msu-to-host-annual-celebrate-agriculture-event-nov-10-12.

2016 Montana’s Young Ag Leadership Conference

September 30 – October 2 ♦ Holiday Inn ♦ Great Falls

Once again, we are proud to present Montana’s Young Ag Leadership Conference! This is a one-of-a-kind event, packed with everything relevant to being a young[ish] person in today’s exciting, changing world of agriculture. With workshops on marketing, finance issues, crop and livestock programs, emerging technologies, leadership development and more, there is something here for everyone.

A committee of your peers from Montana’s leading ag organizations planned this conference to create a unique experience and you won’t find a better opportunity to network with other young
leaders and industry leaders as you gather new insight on improving and promoting agriculture in our state. We hope you choose to be a part of this event, as well as take an active role in Montana’s agriculture…it’s your industry and your way of life. See you in September!
2016 YALC Planning Committee

Schedule of Events

Friday, September 30

12:30-5:30 PM  – Area Ag Tour – Tentative stops include Frontline Ag, Giant Springs Fish Hatchery, McKamey West Ranch, Sponsored by Great Falls Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee
4:00-7:30 PM  – Registration Open
6:00 PM  – Social
6:30 PM – Dinner & Keynote Four “Musts” for Nailing Your Unique Brand of Leadership (And Why It Matters, Even if You Never Want to be “The Boss”) – Sarah Bohnenkamp, Millennial
Leadership Coach, Sponsored by Independence Bank, Monsanto, & Farmers Business Network

Saturday, October 1

7:30 AM-5:00 PM – Registration & Trade Show Open
8:00-9:00 AM  – Breakfast & Opening Session – Going Global with Beef Genetics, Darrell Stevenson, Stevenson Angus, Sponsored By Torgersons, LLC & Crop Production Services
9:15-10:30 AM  – Workshops – Sponsored by CHS, Inc and Agriclear

  • UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) In Agriculture, Brandon Ewen, Ag Data Source, PC
  • Planting the Seeds of Success: Financial Management Basics, Damon Alm, Northwest Farm Credit
  • The Veterinary Feed Directive Rule: Changes in the Use of Feed-Grade Antibiotics for Livestock, Rachel Endecott, MSU Extension Beef Specialist

10:30-11:00 AM  – Coffee Break and Trade Show, Sponsored by CHS Nutrition  
11:00-12:15 AM – Workshops:

  • Agriculturalists & Meteorologists-Deciphering the Weather, Megan Vandenheuval, National Weather Service
  • Sustainability and Stewardship Practices to Benefit Your Bottom Line, Leon LaSalle, LaSalle Ranch, Inc
  • Generation Elvis to Bieber: Generational Differences in the Workplace and How to Succeed Among All Age Groups, Jaime Edmundson, Montana FFA Foundation

12:30-1:45 PM – Lunch – Our Leadership Journey, Dan Manella, Cherry Creek Radio – Sponsored by Montana Farm Bureau Foundation
1:45-3:00 PM – Workshops:

  • Food For Thought? Discussion Panel, Carrie Mess AKA Dairy Carrie & Ryan Goodman
  • How the Organic Movement Effects Our Business, Bob Quinn, President of Kamut International
  • Estate Planning: Keeping the Ground in the Family, John Heyneman, Plank Stewardship Initiative

3:00-3:30 PM – Coffee Break and Trade Show, Sponsored by MT Livestock Ag Credit
3:30-5:00 PM – Entrepreneur Spotlights: Sponsored by Montana Land Reliance

3:30-4:00: Prairie Heritage Farm w/ Electric City Coffee
4:00-4:30: Parker’s Hangover Tonic
4:30-5:00: PinkSpurs & Co.

5:30 PM – Buses Depart for Centene Stadium
6:00 PM – Social, Sponsored by Northwest Farm Credit
6:30 PM – Dinner and Dance at Centene Stadium, Sponsored by Montana Beef Council, Stockman Bank & Farmers Union Insurance

Sunday, October 2

9:00-10:30AM – Closing Breakfast, “What Do Our Customers Really Want From Us?”, Carrie Mess, AKA Dairy Carrie, Sponsored by Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.

 

To REGISTER head to the Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s website or download the form HERE. Register before September 23rd to take advantage of early bird pricing!