Three from Panhandle Inducted into Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement

Six men standing in group photo
The Nebraska Hall of Agricultural new members are (from left) Tom Field, Tom Hoegemeyer, Loren Taylor, Wes Ullrich, Kelly Heath, David Briggs, Dave Nielsen, and Aaron Berger (not pictured). (Courtesy photo)

Three from Panhandle Inducted into Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement

The Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement recognized two honorees and inducted eight new members during its annual banquet, held on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus on March 22.

Honorees celebrated at the 2024 event were Dr. Chris Calkins, a meat science professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has made significant contributions to the meat industry over his 40-year career, particularly in beef quality research.

Bill Rishel of Lincoln founded Rishel Livestock Services, Inc., with his wife Barb. They established Rishel Angus, a registered herd of Angus cattle. His vision propelled Rishel Angus to prominence, influencing major artificial breeding companies and revolutionizing Angus genetics within the industry.

The night saw new members inducted. New members are nominated by Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement members and then recommended by the Board of Trustees for approval by the NHAA membership. Each individual has made significant contributions to the state’s agricultural industry.

New members from the Panhandle of Nebraska are:

Aaron Berger, Nebraska Extension beef systems extension educator of Kimball, is a multi-county extension educator nationally recognized for his expertise in ranching for profitability, particularly in calculating the unit cost of production. He aids beef producers across the U.S. in improving profitability. Berger leverages current technologies to reach producers globally, including podcasts, webinars and online courses, with exceptional viewer engagement rates, exemplified by his 100 podcasts garnering 144,000 views in 2022. Through Aaron's efforts, cattle producers have gained insights into their true costs, leading to improved profitability and sustainability.

Two men standing astride
Aaron Berger (right) receives a certificate from Mike Boehm, IANR vice chancellor.

David Briggs, CEO of Western Cooperative Company and Sustainable Beef LLC of Alliance, has expanded WESTCO's sales from $23 million to over $170 million, overseeing the acquisition of 30 companies and spearheading the establishment of a $400 million beef packing plant in North Platte. After a two-and-a-half-year process, ground has been broken on the beef packing plant in North Platte. Alongside his professional achievements, Briggs is committed to community welfare, dedicating countless hours to activities benefiting Alliance and the state of Nebraska.

Two men standing astride
David Briggs (right) receives a certificate from Mike Boehm, IANR vice chancellor.

Wes Ullrich, a Mitchell farmer, has served on the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission for nine years. He was appointed by Gov. Dave Heineman and reappointed twice. He has played a crucial role in overseeing the state's dry bean industry and advocating for its growth and sustainability. Ullrich has been actively involved in the U.S. Dry Bean Council from 2013 to 2015, serving on the executive committee as vice chairman and chairman of the International Promotions Committee. He promoted U.S.-grown dry edible beans globally and participated in trade missions. He has also identified research needs and advocated for funding to address them, supporting dry bean researchers at the Panhandle Research, Extension and Education Center. Ullrich facilitated research trials on his farms, demonstrating a commitment to advancing agricultural practices and improving crop quality.

Two men standing astride
Wes Ullrich (right) receives a certificate from Mike Boehm, IANR vice chancellor.

NHAA inducted eight members for the 2024 year. Along with the three members from the Panhandle, were also:

  • Tom Field, Raymond
  • Kelly Heath, Lincoln
  • Tom Hoegemeyer, Lincoln
  • David Nielsen, Lincoln
  • Loren Taylor, Broken Bow

More information on 2024 and previous honorees can be found on the NHAA website.

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