by Jan Jorgensen

Rich DegnerFrom humble beginnings, the pork industry has grown over the decades into a progressive, successful contender that’s competing for protein sales both domestically and abroad. The entire pork chain has played a role, from producers to retailers, and from foodservice operators to today’s bloggers.

State pork association leaders have been trailblazers as well, including Rich Degner, the recipient of the Pork Checkoff’s 2017 Distinguished Service Award. Degner is the former chief executive officer of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“Rich has provided extraordinary leadership to the pork industry,” said Jan Archer, president of the National Pork Board and a pork producer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. “Through the years, he worked tirelessly for the advancement of pork producers and the industry in Iowa and across the United States.”

Degner learned the value of hard work on his family’s farm in northwest Iowa. The 1972 Iowa State University grad taught vo-ag before joining the Iowa Pork Producers Association in 1980 under the mentorship of Mike Telford and Don Gingerich.

Over the next 35 years, Degner served in many roles, including as CEO for 17 years. In 1981, he helped create the Iowa Pork Tent at the Iowa State Fair. Its small beginnings have blossomed into a cornerstone of the fair and Iowa’s pork industry. Degner also played a key role in expanding pork export markets, leading producers on more than 50 trade missions to over 20 countries.

pork chops al pastor with chipotle marinadeDuring the 1980s farm crisis, he helped develop financial management tools for those facing foreclosure. Always a pioneer, his leadership of the Iowa Pork Producers Association helped producers comply with new regulations while modernizing their farms and propelling them into the future.

This visionary deserves special thanks for his years of service and for being an architect of today’s pork industry successes.