The cream of the crop: “Top 10 Industry Leaders under 40” named by Cattle Business Weekly | TheFencePost.com

The cream of the crop: “Top 10 Industry Leaders under 40” named by Cattle Business Weekly

Nikki Work | Fence Post Reporter/Editorial Designer

Cattle Business Weekly, an agricultural publication based out of Philip, S.D., published its annual list this week of the "Top 10 Industry Leaders under 40."

The publication chooses 10 people from the nine state region they serve, which includes Colorado and the states surrounding South Dakota.

"They have to show leadership qualities within the agriculture industry," said Codi Mills, editor of Cattle Business Weekly. "We also look at what they have as far as community involvement."

This week, The Fence Post will feature the first of two installments, celebrating these agricultural leaders and their accomplishments, as well as asking them several questions on the current state and the future of agriculture.

The full list of this year's winners is available on Cattle Business Weekly's website at http://bit.ly/1Fd82tW.

Dale Woerner

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Greeley, Colo.

Dale Woerner, 33, was raised in Fredericksburg, Texas, where he developed an interest for agriculture through 4-H, FFA and his grandparents' farm and ranch.

He studied animal science at Texas Tech University, where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees.

In 2009, Woerner received his Ph.D. from Colorado State University in animal science/meat science. Now, Woerner is an assistant professor at CSU in the Department of Animal Sciences in Fort Collins, Colo., and lives in Greeley, Colo., with his wife, Wendy, and his 3-year-old son, Drake.

His work includes both research and instruction, both factors Mills said contributed to his selection.

Q: What was your reaction to being named one of the "Top 10 Industry Leaders" by Cattle Business Weekly?

A: I was and I am extremely humbled by this honor. There are many people that are directly involved in agricultural production that are more deserving than I am.

Q: What do you think is the most important issue facing agriculture right now?

A: I believe that the greatest issue facing agriculture today is the general misunderstanding by society of food production and production agriculture. This fear of mine is coupled with the fact that most everyone on the planet today that is under the age of 60 will likely face challenges with food supply, water supply and food costs. It is our duty in agriculture and science to be proactive at communicating the truths about production agriculture to the general public, and it is also our duty to continue to develop technologies to increase efficiencies and responsibly manage our natural resources.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of working in agriculture?

A: The most rewarding part of my job is educating youth, agricultural producers and the general public.

Q: What are your plans for your future in agriculture?

A: My future plans are to continue to give all that I can to make a difference in the lives of the people in this world by improving meat and livestock production.

Erika Kenner

leeds, n.d.

Erika Kenner, 36, grew up in North Dakota, where her father owned a Simmental cattle business.

She is a third generation farmer with a lifelong passion for animals, partially cultivated by her time in 4-H.

She graduated from North Dakota State University in 2002 with a a bachelor's degree in animal science and communications.

Now, she co-owns and operates Kenner Simmentals with her father and is on the American Simmental Association Board of Directors. Her duties on the farm and ranch vary from management to calving to marketing and more, and she says no two days are the same.

Q: What was your reaction to being named one of the "Top 10 Industry Leaders" by Cattle Business Weekly?

A: I was very surprised. I always wait for that issue to come out each fall to see who was chosen and never imagined myself in that category. I do not feel as though I have done enough yet to be compared to those who have received it before me, but I guess that is why it is called "Industry Leaders under 40." I am not done yet!

Q: What do you think is the most important issue facing agriculture right now?

A: I can list several issues right now. At first, I thought about the declining number of younger people wanting/able to come back to the farm. Then, I thought about the transportation demands for the commodities. But in the end, I feel the biggest issue is the special interest groups. There are so many large, powerful and wealthy groups in this country that seem to want to over-regulate agriculture in order to stop production. It amazes me how people think they are going to eat. We have a long road ahead of educating consumers that we do have a safe product. People want to know where their food comes from, but many urban people are so out of touch with how that happens. The amount of misinformation out there is confusing to people so they are not sure who to believe.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of working in agriculture?

A: I love knowing that what I do is making a difference in the world. We are providing food for people's tables. As a seedstock producer, we are not directly feeding the consumer, but we strive to produce the best for our customers who are directly feeding the consumer. I love hearing that our genetics have made our customers successful. I also feel so blessed to work with so many great people. The agriculture industry is full of wonderful, intelligent and compassionate people.

Q: What are your plans for your future in agriculture?

A: I plan to be on our farm/ranch and hope to be able to pass it on to the next generation and keep feeding the world. One of my goals is to utilize our new facility to host educational days for students to learn more about agriculture.

Beau Mathewson

Potter, Neb.

Beau Mathewson, 32, was born in the Nebraska panhandle, where he was raised on his family's farming and ranching operation.

He received his bachelor's degree in Agricultural Business from the University of Wyoming in 2004, where he said he "concentrated on range cow production economics, and economics and finance."

Mathewson is the ranch manager of RGM, Inc., where he and his parents now operate the ranch his grandparents used to run.

The ranch's primary business focus is range-based cattle feeding.

Q: What was your reaction to being named one of the "Top 10 Industry Leaders" by Cattle Business Weekly?

A: I was honored to be named for the title. For years I have observed the Top 10 Leaders issue and read all the honoree's profiles with admiration. I have always tried to be a positive, objective voice for production animal agriculture, and it was a humbling surprise to be named to this year's list.

Q: What do you think is the most important issue facing agriculture right now?

A:Right now, I see government regulation and intervention as the most pressing challenges to agriculture. I think that the government has helped agriculture immensely through conservation programs, producer education and the wonderful work of the ARS and NRCS, as well as the unparalleled research that comes out of land grant universities. The threats I see come in the form of market distortion due to government intervention in markets, as well as the costs associated with compliance for regulations handed down by agencies. Sadly, the end result of an over-regulated industry is consolidation of firms to more efficiently cover increased costs. This, of course, is detrimental to family operations, which make up the vast majority of ag producers. I also think that cash crop production-centered ag policy shortchanges animal agriculture and also has adverse ecological and environmental impacts.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of working in agriculture?

A: Making positive, long-lasting impacts is the most rewarding part of ag for me. Whether through teaching others about agriculture or by making changes in a grazing plan to improve species diversity and production, there are few occupations where a person is capable of making such great and meaningful changes.

Q: What are your plans for your future in agriculture?

A: I would like to continue to expand and improve our operation. I would also like to start a dedicated stocker back grounding facility. I think that there are many opportunities in agriculture for those willing to work hard and innovate.

Matt Gunderson

Gretna, neb.

Matt Gunderson, 35, was raised in South Dakota on a crop, hay and livestock operation.

Growing up, he raised Suffolk sheep and began raising cattle in the '90s. He was involved in 4-H and served as the State 4-H Council Ambassador.

Gunderson graduated from South Dakota State University in 2001 with a bachelor's in animal science.

Now, he is the executive vice president at the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation, and at the end of the year will be taking a position with Farmers National Company as the assistant vice president of farm and ranch operations.

Q: What was your reaction to being named one of the "Top 10 Industry Leaders" by Cattle Business Weekly?

A: Truly surprised, extremely humbled and honored. To look at those that received the recognition, and those who have received it in the past, and be named in the same category as them is humbling.

Q: What do you think is the most important issue facing agriculture right now?

A: Regulation on a variety of fronts — regulation tied to land, water, animal use, animal feeding operations, estate planning, transfer of assets to the next generation, antibiotics. Agriculture producers need to be proactive and be involved in the process in developing the regulations.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of working in agriculture?

A: The most rewarding part of working in agriculture is the people. You get to meet new people every day who work hard to do their part to feed the world. They are hardworking, friendly, caring and compassionate individuals who strive daily to make the world a better place than they left it. While it isn't an easy business or industry segment to be in, working together and being proactive make it enjoyable.

Q: What are your plans for your future in agriculture?

A: My plans for my future in agriculture entails being involved in agriculture in a variety of levels and interests — being involved with crop and livestock producers helping them be successful, working with the next generation of land owners to assist them in meeting their goals, assisting organizations who assist youths to be involved in agriculture and giving back of my time and talent to them.