University of Illinois President Robert Easter was awarded the 2013 Friend of Agriculture Award at the Illinois Commodity Conference held in Normal, IL, on Nov. 26.

“It’s always great to see someone with such passion about livestock production at the helm of one of Illinois’ most prestigious agriculture research facilities,” says Dereke Dunkirk, president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association. “His experience and contributions to the industry – particularly with livestock feeding – will make an impact on how farmers produce livestock for years to come. Congratulations on receiving this distinguished award.”

“Easter is a strong leader and highly respected among his faculty and peers on campus, across the nation and around the world,” says Doug Scheider, president of the Illinois Milk Producers Association. “We hope this award will show him just how much we appreciate his efforts.”

Before becoming University of Illinois president in July 2012, Easter spent his entire nearly 40-year career as a senior administrator and faculty member on the university’s Urbana-Champaign campus, where he earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. His teaching has been recognized by the Midwest Section of the American Society of Animal Science and at the departmental and college levels.

In 1992, Easter received the American Feed Industry Association Award in Nonruminant Nutrition Research from the American Society of Animal Science.

In 1994, the University Of Illinois College Of Agriculture awarded Easter with the prestigious Paul A. Funk Award for contributions to Illinois agriculture.

Easter also is considered an expert in livestock feeding. He has co-authored a book on livestock production and has written more than 90 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters and numerous papers for conferences and industry publications. Additionally, he has spoken to audiences in the United States and 30 foreign countries on livestock feeding.

“A leading voice for livestock production and feeding for over 30 years, Easter continues to support policies and production that help benefit each of our commodity groups,” says Bill Raben, Illinois Soybean Association chairman.

“This is a well-earned, multi-industry award.” “As a former member of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) under President George W. Bush,” says Paul Taylor, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, “It’s safe to say Easter has a clear picture of the challenges growers face and consistently supports policies, research and education efforts that help diminish these challenges. Easter is more than deserving of this award. We congratulate him on this honor.”

Easter was reared on a grain and livestock farm in southwest Texas. Today, in addition to acting as University of Illinois president, he operates a small grain farm in central Illinois. Easter also is a retired officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he served for 20 years.

The Friend of Agriculture Award is presented by the Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Milk Producers Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Wheat Association. The award is given each year to individuals who have contributed significantly to improving agriculture in Illinois. Nominees are submitted by each of the sponsoring commodity groups and selected by representatives of the groups.