The National Pork Board honored the former chief executive officer of the Iowa Pork Producers Association during the National Pork Industry Forum in Atlanta last week.
Rich Degner received the Distinguished Service Award on March 2. The award is given to an outstanding leader to recognize his or her lifelong contribution to the pork industry.
“Rich has provided extraordinary leadership to the pork industry,” said National Pork Board President Jan Archer, a pork producer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. “Through the years, he worked tirelessly for the advancement of pork producers, as well as for the industry in Iowa and across the United States.”
The National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council also presented Degner with the inaugural Paulson-Whitmore State Executive Award, which was developed cooperatively by the Pork Board and NPPC. The award recognizes the outstanding leadership and commitment of state pork executives and was named after two top leaders—Don Paulson, past Minnesota state pork executive, and Rex Whitmore, past Wisconsin state pork executive.
“Rich has dedicated his life to the U.S. pork industry, and the Iowa pork industry grew and prospered under his strong leadership,” said NPPC CEO Neil Dierks. “Like so many of our industry leaders, Rich focused on the producers and their success and on adding value to their product. NPPC is pleased, along with the National Pork Board, to present Rich with this well-deserved award.”
Degner learned the value of hard work on his family’s farm in northwest Iowa. Following graduation from Iowa State University in 1972, he taught vocational ag in Iowa, first in Rock Valley and later in Ankeny. He joined the Iowa Pork Producers Association in 1980 under the mentorship of Mike Telford and the late Don Gingerich.
Over the next 35 years, Degner served in many roles at IPPA, including CEO for the final 17 years until his retirement in 2015. In 1981, He helped create the Iowa Pork Tent at the Iowa State Fair. From its small beginnings, the Iowa Pork Tent is now a cornerstone of the fair and Iowa’s pork industry. Degner also played a key role in expanding pork export markets, leading producers on more than 50 trade missions to over 20 countries, including 30 to Japan.
During the farm crisis in the 1980s, he helped develop financial management tools for pig farmers who were facing foreclosure. He also led the Iowa Pork Producers Association in guiding producers to be in compliance with new regulations while modernizing their farms and propelling them into the future.
Degner and his wife, Nancy, reside in Ankeny.