As a couple, Rich and Nancy Degner have had a major impact on Iowa agriculture through their efforts to build and sustain a stronger livestock industry in the state. For 35 years Rich worked for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the last 17 as CEO. Nancy was on the Iowa Beef Industry Council staff for 40 years, the last 12 as executive director. Together, they devoted nearly 75 years of service to swine and cattle producers. Both retired last September.
Recognized for their leadership, Rich and Nancy are being honored with the Iowa Master Farmer Exceptional Service Award. The award goes to individuals who are not farmers, but who have devoted their career to helping farmers.
Rich helped guide the Iowa swine industry through major changes. He was instrumental in developing a voluntary program providing needed funds to expand swine industry programs not covered by the mandatory check-off. He was part of a team that started the popular Pork Tent at the Iowa State Fair.
Helping start the foreign market program with the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Rich helped connect Iowa’s pork industry with major meat-importing companies around the world. He traveled with Iowa producers to those countries to put a face on Iowa’s pork industry. He helped establish a strong funding program that helps direct research at Iowa State University.
In her role with the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Nancy was responsible for overseeing all promotions, education and research programs with special emphasis on beef nutrition, selection and preparation, public relations, food safety, and consumer education. She is well respected by people in the food and nutrition community for her accurate and timely information.
Nationally, she served on National Cattlemen’s Beef Association committees, coordinated the Beef Issue Response Team and represented commodity groups on the Iowa Nutrition Network. She played a major role in developing the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.
“Both Rich and Nancy helped build a strong partnership between their organizations and Iowa State University,” says Maynard Hogberg, professor emeritus and retired head of ISU’s Animal Science Department.
“As strong believers in the land-grant mission of ISU, they further enhanced Iowa’s swine and beef industries.
Both Nancy and Rich served on committees and boards at ISU. They are always willing to help. Both are highly respected within the state and nationally.”
Rich grew up on a farm near Le Mars, Nancy on a farm near Boone. Both are ISU grads; Rich majored in ag education, and Nancy majored in food science and home economics education. They met while students there. They married in 1973 and have one grown son, Christopher.
Nancy worked at a wholesale meat company, and then taught home economics and food classes. Rich taught vo-ag before obtaining a master’s in ag education at ISU.
They both wound up heading two of Iowa’s leading farm organizations. “Their contributions to Iowa agriculture are indeed exceptional,” sums up Hogberg.