Montana State University

First million raised for Montana Plant Sciences Chair; First chair in the history of MSU's College of Agriculture comes to life

October 26, 2013 -- MSU Alumni Foundation

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Funded entirely by Montana producer dollars, the first $1 million has been raised toward the new Montana Plant Sciences Chair in the Montana State University College of Agriculture. When the fundraising is complete, it will be the first chair established in the history of the College of Ag at MSU.

Driven by a partnership between the Montana Grains Foundation, MSU President Waded Cruzado and the MSU Alumni Foundation, this chair is unique in its organization.

“We were so impressed by the passion of Montana producers to make the Montana Plant Sciences Chair come to life,” said Cruzado. “Research is vital to producers and is of exceptional merit at Montana State – it made for a natural partnership.”  

Dale Schuler, president of the Montana Grains Foundation, said the partnership represents how passionate producers are about their future.

“Raising these funds is no minor effort,” explained Schuler. “While we were somewhat daunted by the task, we knew from the beginning that this chair must be created. MSU is the primary “R&D” arm for Montana farmers.”

Schuler pointed to shrinking federal and state funding making private donor support increasingly important.

“Research is more important than ever before as the world continues to grow in population and our food supply shrinks,” he said. “As producers, it is a necessity to explore new and innovative solutions.”

It was nearly two years ago that Cruzado, speaking at the Montana Grain Growers Convention in Great Falls, voiced her commitment to establishing the Montana Plant Sciences Chair with funding from university and private support. With the first million secured, producers are well on their way to achieving the $5 million endowment goal by 2018, and one step closer to increasing yields.

Higher yields and higher quality crops for farmers mean greater stability for implement dealers, loan officers, dentists and grocers, to name just a few. Montana is the highest quality wheat producer in the nation. Yet threats by the yield-ravaging wheat stem sawfly and constant drought issues continue to plague producers who, thanks to recent prices per bushel, last year cut a record $1.7 billion wheat crop. This year’s crop boasts similar projections, but new issues such as the orange wheat blossom midge demand a full court press.

Schuler said that while the wheat stem sawfly is still the most critical challenge for Montana grain growers, it was important to design the Montana Plant Sciences Chair with flexibility. “We are forming an advisory council, with producer representatives who are leaders in their field,” he said. “The council will continually evaluate the ‘greatest need’ for Montana’s crops industry and the chair will be expected to focus on that need.” In addition, the advisory council and the College of Ag will report back research developments to growers.

“The leadership behind this initiative took a thoughtful and expert approach that was focused on serving the crops industry,” said Michael Stevenson, president and CEO of the MSU Alumni Foundation. “We are moving quickly toward our next benchmark and are looking forward to visiting with folks across Montana. Research changes economies, and this chair will be critical to attracting top faculty and students to help advance Montana.”

Stevenson added that leaders such as Schuler and Lochiel Edwards, also on the Montana Grains Foundation, were key to moving the initiative forward.

Research is a cornerstone of MSU, a land grant institution founded in 1893. In fact, MSU is among the nation’s top tier of research universities, as recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The foundation has ranked MSU as one of 108 universities with “very high research activity” out of more than 4,300 nationwide.

Located in Bozeman, MSU celebrated record enrollment this fall with 15,294 students.

For more information about the Montana Plant Sciences Chair, please contact Lori Cox, director of business development for MSUAF, at (406) 994-4595 or lori.cox@msuaf.org.

Contact: Lori Cox, MSU Alumni Foundation, (208) 994-8645, or Dale Schuler, Montana Grains Foundation, (406) 788-7323