Ag unites to support future leaders

Industry groups works to unite agribusiness, production systems and institutions of higher education in common cause to ensure future of food animal production.

With the vision of uniting agribusiness, production systems and institutions of higher education in a common cause to ensure the future of food animal production, an effort called Targeting Excellence was launched in 2013.

Today, that effort continues to expand, with hopes of even further growth ahead.

“As the economies of emerging nations improve and individual incomes increase, the consumption of protein (in the form of food animals) generally increases as well. Both the quantity and efficiency of the production for food derived from animals will need to improve to keep pace. Students trained in production practices, research scientists and veterinarians working together will all play a critical role in helping meet the future demands that will be placed on food animal agriculture,” said Dr. David Funderburke, founder of Targeting Excellence and president of Cape Fear Consulting.

Targeting Excellence events are coordinated to bring professional leaders of agribusinesses, production systems and institutions of higher education together with students for the purpose of building personal relationships, exchanging ideas and improving communications, while raising scholarship funds for students committed to food animal production.

In talking with Feedstuffs, Funderburke said Targeting Excellence largely came out of his frustration that dollars from other scholarship offerings were, in his opinion, inadequate or misdirected. If an agriculture group is raising funds for scholarships, he firmly believes that those dollars should go to students looking to make the industry their career.

The fund-raising events held through Targeting Excellence can be about anything, but to date, Funderburke said they have mostly been about the sporting clays shooting sport. Events for this year have been held, or are planned, in Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin, along with Indiana, is new to the program this year and will host its First Annual Targeting Excellence Sporting Clay Scholarship Classic Sept. 28 at Waunakee Gun Club in Dane, Wis. In addition to the clay shooting activities, Wisconsin state Rep. Keith Ripp will be joining the group as a guest speaker. Ripp owns and operates a large farm and agribusiness enterprise near Dane. He will share his firsthand view of the state of agriculture in Wisconsin, along with the importance of investing in the next generation of agribusiness professionals through scholarships.

Students from the University of Wisconsin's Madison, Platteville and River Falls campuses will be in attendance to assist committee members in hosting the event, to meet and network with industry participants and to learn more about agribusiness career opportunities.

“The supporters of Targeting Excellence recognize that achieving success in life is not a solo act; it takes the emotional, physical, financial and sometimes spiritual support from a cast of others. Students need to know that there are successful people in our industry who are willing and able to be their supporting cast,” Funderburke said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that, by 2020, the demand for college graduates in the agriculture and food industries will be 57,900 jobs per year but that American agricultural colleges will be producing only about 35,400 graduates per year.

Since its founding in 2014, Targeting Excellence has granted more than $420,000 in scholarships to students with a career focus on food animal agriculture. Targeting Excellence awarded a total of $184,000 in scholarships to 81 students in seven states for the 2017-18 school year. These funds were generated at last year’s events and through sponsor support and personal donations. Through its 2017 events, Targeting Excellence has set a goal of raising enough money to fund $225,000 worth of scholarships for the 2018-19 school year.

The group has a part-time employee who handles day-to-day coordination of the program, but other than that, it is completely volunteer based. Funderburke said credit also needs to go to Dr. Terry Coffey, who handles all of the logistics surrounding the scholarship applications and awarding the scholarship dollars.

Targeting Excellence is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. A full list of 2017 sponsors and other details are available on the group’s website at

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