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CALS to honor four industry leaders

Bradley Biddick of Livingston, Robert Pofahl of Middleton, Mark Riechers of Darlington and Douglas Wilson of Shawano will receive Honorary Recognition awards Oct. 25 from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The awards will be presented at a banquet in the Memorial Union on the UW-Madison campus.

Entrepreneurial seedsman Bradley Biddick created Rural Route 1 Popcorn and heads Biddick Incorported and Trelay Seeds. He”s also a longtime advocate for family owned seed companies and a staunch backer of UW-Madison crop improvement work. He and his wife, Peggy, have supported education and outreach programs throughout southwest Wisconsin.

Agricultural engineer Robert Pofahl helps develop livestock facilities that minimize the impact on the environment, but are affordable to the farmer. He applies his unique combination of skills and knowledge to devise solutions that enable farm clients to continue to build their businesses while complying with regulations and being good stewards of the land.

Cattleman Mark Riechers has been a strong backer of UW-Madison research related to cattle production and to environmental protection. He is an active participant in the Wisconsin Discovery Farms program and other efforts. He is also a leader in Wisconsin”s beef industry.

Douglas Wilson is a longtime leader in Wisconsin”s dairy cattle improvement industry. He is an innovator in developing new products and services and has been a key player in efforts to strengthen the industry”s international footprint. He was also a guiding force in the effort to improve health care access and coverage for Wisconsin farm families.

Honorary Recognition is the highest honor bestowed by the college. It recognizes people who have made outstanding contributions toward the development of agriculture, protection of natural resources, and improvement of rural living. Since 1909, the college has honored nearly 500 people with these awards.

The Distinguished Service Award, established in 1994, is given to individuals within CALS to recognize outstanding service to the university and beyond.

The banquet will be held at the Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The reception to meet past and current honorees begins at 5:30, with dinner at 6:30. For reservations, please call CALS Outreach Services, (608) 263-1672. Parking is available in Lot 6 under Helen C. White Library on Park Street across from the Union, and at the Lake Street ramp.


Gourmet popcorn aficionados might not know Bradley Biddick, but they know his popcorn. From old-fashioned gourmet popping corn to new favorites like deluxe caramel pecan, Biddick”s Rural Route 1 products are devoured across the country.

Biddick”s success with Rural Route 1 is no surprise to his friends and colleagues. Biddick has long had a reputation as a Wisconsin agribusiness pioneer and entrepreneur. “He is a leader in the Wisconsin seed industry, creating new companies, business models and products,” says Bill Tracy, CALS professor of agronomy.

Along with Rural Route 1, Biddick heads Biddick Incorporated, Trelay Seeds and the charitable Elmer G. Biddick Foundation. A 1969 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison”s Meat and Animal Science program, he has had a longstanding relationship with the university.

In the 1980s, Biddick worked with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the Wisconsin Crop Improvement Association to facilitate the release of pea and sweet corn cultivars. He played a crucial role in managing the intellectual property rights and employed his consensus-building skills to enhance relations between WARF and WCIA.

“Brad brought all parties to the table, and created a solution that was positive for everyone,” says Tracy.

Biddick is a consummate collaborator. In 1989, he and five other seedsmen formed the Independent Professional Seedsmen Association to advocate for family-owned seed companies to better take advantage of economies of scale.

Biddick also advocates for education. He and his wife, Peggy, fund various scholarships and outreach programs at the UW-Platteville, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College and in Iowa and Grant county communities.

Robert Pofahl has built a highly regarded engineering firm that helps farmers develop livestock facilities that minimize the impact on the environment, but yet are affordable.

“It is the combination of his early agriculture background and strong engineering training and practical sense that has made Bob one of the leaders in solving environmental problems as they relate to agriculture, says James Converse, UW-Madison Professor Emeritus of Biological Systems Engineering.

Pofahl”s various roles lend him a unique perspective in the field. As the current president of Middleton”s Chamber of Commerce, he understands development and growth needs; as an agricultural engineer with a strong background in soil and groundwater remediation, he grasps the complexity of managing farm wastes and by-products.

“While Bob and I worked with the same clients from different perspectives,” says Gail Lisse of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, “I always appreciated the fact that the common goal that brought us together was to provide the best possible solutions which would enable clients to continue to grow and conduct their business, while complying with rules, laws, and at the same time, minimize impacts to the environment and natural resources.”

Pofahl invests considerable time at CALS, his alma mater, guest lecturing to the next generation of agricultural engineers. Seven of the ten salaried engineers at his firm are CALS graduates, and he also employs undergraduate engineering students part time.

Mark Riechers is known as a dedicated cattleman with a passion for collaboration. Owner and manager of Riechers Beef Farm since 1975, he is an avid supporter of solid scientific research and environmentally friendly farm practices. He”s been participating in state and university research studies for almost three decades.

“Mark has been a true leader for the livestock industry and agriculture in general with a focus on sound environmental farming and conservation practices,” says Robert Cropp, professor emeritus and former director of the UW Center for Cooperatives.

Through his participation in the university”s Discovery Farms Program, Mark has helped improve understanding between agricultural operations and water quality. Through the Discovery Farms initiative, researchers monitor weather and rain events, as well as soil conditions and sample agricultural run-off on Wisconsin farms.

Data from the Riechers farm has been instrumental in the Discovery Farms” ability to develop educational programs and additional research projects, says Dennis Frame, co-director of the program. “Without his support,” says Frame, “the UW-Discovery Farms Program would never have been as successful.”

The many university students and international visitors who have experienced Riechers” farm first-hand undoubtedly appreciate his outstanding support for educational collaboration. Presently, Riechers is involved in aquaculture research with a UW-Madison scientist studying if hormonal implants in cattle affect the watershed through manure run-off.

Active involvement is important to Riechers. He is a strong supporter of Farm Bureau young farmer and FFA programs, and has held many influential posts. He has served six years on the Wisconsin Beef Council, including two as president. He was also appointed by USDA Secretaries Veneman and Johanns to the national Cattlemen”s Beef Board. Riechers has been a long-time advocate for the interest of the state”s beef cattle industry.
In Wisconsin, Governors Thompson and Doyle both selected Riechers to serve on the
Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab Board for seven years, also serving as chair of that board. An emeritus CALS Board of Visitors member, Riechers continues to serve the university community.

Wilson is known for his ambitious approaches to hefty problems. At a time when larger cows meant better cows, Wilson-currently the CEO of Cooperative Resources International and Genex Cooperative-pushed for something new: efficient cows. And it worked.

“He has always been an innovator,” says State Representative Gary Tauchen. “Doug developed a computer-generated model for type that allowed the cow herself to tell us what she should look like in order to extend her productive life.”

Wilson also led the push to improve health care access for farm families in northeastern Wisconsin. The result was the Farmer”s Health Cooperative, that was organized by the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives (a group formerly headed by Wilson) and enacted in April

“Doug was the guiding force in the establishment of a pioneering program which provided direct nursing and healthcare services to area farm families,” says Rod Nilsestuen, Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “This program, which simply would not exist had not Doug Wilson taken it upon himself to make it happen, is now being held up as a successful model for improving farm families” access to health care.”

Wilson was also a key player in the development of an exclusive advisory partnership between Cooperative Resources International (CRI) and Indian Immunologicals Limited (ILL) a subsidiary of India”s National Dairy Development Board. The joint venture, IndiaGen, advises Indian dairy farmers on issues ranging from artificial insemination to herd management. This cooperative-to- cooperative arrangement will benefit both Indian and American dairy producers for many years to come, says Nilsestuen.