Don Hutchens, who recently concluded a long career as executive director of the Nebraska Corn Board, was named the 2014 recipient of the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s (USMEF) Distinguished Service Award.
Established in 1991, the Distinguished Service Award is given to an individual in the red meat industry who exemplifies the exceptional dedication and outstanding capabilities responsible for the federation’s success. It was presented Nov. 6 at the USMEF Strategic Planning Conference in Arlington, Virg.
Hutchens joined the Nebraska Corn Board, a longtime USMEF member organization, in 1987. But his interest in global agricultural trade goes back even further.
“I first became very aware of the impact of international trade in the early 1970s, when I had just returned to the farm from college, and just as the Russians began buying large amounts of U.S. wheat,” Hutchens said.
“The impact on the marketplace was very evident, and it made me realize even in the 1970s and 80s, that the U.S. represented such a small portion of the world’s population and there was no way we could consume everything we produced,” he said.
At that time, his family farm had only a small cow/calf operation. But Hutchens realized that he had to add value to the corn he was growing, so he began feeding hogs.
“That value-added lesson I learned early on—it’s a big reason why I’ve always been a strong advocate of USMEF,” he explained.
“Meat exports allow those in the grain industry to put a higher value on the commodity we produce and it’s a win-win for both the grain industry and the livestock industry.”
Hutchens spent two years with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, including a portion of that time as the agency’s director, before assuming the helm of the Nebraska Corn Board, where he quickly became active in USMEF.
USMEF Chairman Mark Jagels, who represented the Nebraska Corn Board on the USMEF Executive Committee, says Hutchens’ involvement with USMEF definitely benefitted him and his fellow corn board members.
Hutchens is married to the former Donna Kuenning of Imperial.