US meat and livestock companies spend big on ag education, could Australia learn from it?

Eric Barker, 21/03/2022

WITH only a small percentage of the American population growing up in the agricultural industry, companies have spending big on attracting young and talented minds.

That money was in full force last week, with a steer selling for US$1 million to help students fund their university degrees. (Click here for Beef Central’s story on the steer auction)

But the steer auctions are not the only example of the United States cattle industry making significant investments to educate the next generation.

In 1986, a group of industry leaders formed an organisation called the International Stockmen’s Educational Foundation – with the aim of connecting university students to industry.

Its main program has been the International Livestock Congress, where students come from the across the world, including Australia,  to discuss the future of the industry with industry leaders. It also has a fellowship program, which helps senior level university students fund the networking trip.

For decades, the foundation was propped up by a private endowment and some money from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where its flagship event is held. But ISEF chair Dr James “Bo” Reagan said companies were doing most of funding now.

“We have a lot of companies who will come and sponsor students directly, companies like Cargill and Tyson Foods,” Dr Reagan said.

“Other funding comes from registrations to the conference and we have 27 board members from big agricultural companies who will donate to the organisation. A lot of companies still understand the importance of building relationships and that is what our organisation is about.”

Discussion without an agenda

Dr Reagan said the organisation aimed to keep association agendas out of discussions to make sure there was a clear understanding of the industry’s issues.

“We try to focus on major issues that facing the domestic and international beef industries,” he said.

“It is a good mix between academia and industry, we do not have members and we tell anyone from associations to keep their agenda at the door. That way we can have a good honest discussion about the industry’s issues.”

The International Livestock Congress in Houston last week heard about a series of issues including misinformation about meat.

Russell Cross is a past president, founding member and professor at Texas A&M university, who has become part of its Hall of Fame. He said while the immediate aim was to have good discussion about industry issues, the big picture was to help formulate policy for the future.

“There are no strings attached to what we can talk about, even if it is controversial we can talk about it,” Dr Cross said.

“We like to talk about a lot of things with the younger generation of the industry that will eventually influence policy in their time.”

Dr Cross said Texas was an education powerhouse of the US, which was why companies were keen to fund organisations like the ISEF.

“We have 60 universities in this state, so there has always been a focus on education in agriculture here,” he said.

“One of the biggest agricultural universities, Texas A&M, has about 70,000 students now and it’s important to make sure they have a good education.”

After a successful International Livestock Congress in 2022, the ISEF was ramping its funding drive with agriculture companies.

Dr Reagan said while it was a challenge to drum up the funding, he was confident companies were still going to come through.

“We’ve had a lot of great comments about this year’s conference and how we have addressed some of the problems in the industry,” he said.

“We are still counting on the companies going forward and we are confident with our past record.”


Beef Central sent Tamworth-based reporter Eric Barker to Houston, Texas this month, to attend the International Livestock Congress and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo – the largest stock show in the world. His reports have been appearing in the past three weeks….







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  1. James Cross, 21/03/2022

    Sounds like a great way to further the student numbers and introduce new blood to agriculture.
    Industry and business in Queensland could get there heads together and revamp upgrade and make spectacular used of Longreach and Emerald AG college campuses

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