Nebraska Farm Bureau has selected former Nebraska Director of Agriculture Merlyn Carlson as the 2017 recipient of its highest honor, the Silver Eagle Award. The award will be presented to Carlson on Dec. 5 at the 2017 Nebraska Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Kearney.
Merlyn Carlson and his wife Janice raised their family on their ranch near Lodgepole, where they raised cattle. Carlson has made a tremendous impact on Nebraska agriculture and has held a long list of national positions in agriculture. In 1999, Carlson was appointed Director of Agriculture for the State of Nebraska, where he served as an advocate for Nebraska agriculture, promoting agricultural products in both domestic and foreign markets.
Carlson left his post with the state in 2005 to work alongside then Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns at the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA). He served as an Under Secretary for the Natural Resources Conservation Service from 2005-2007.
“Merlyn presided over the state department during one of the worst droughts in Nebraska history and the mad cow case that resulted in U.S. beef being banned in many countries. He left his mark by increasing value-added agricultural opportunities, improving trade relations, and dealing with weather concerns. While at the USDA he focused on conservation efforts, especially related to crafting the 2007 farm bill,” Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau said Nov. 15.
Carlson has also served on the Board of Governors of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, was chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the National Cattlemen Association, and served on the USDA Animal Disease Committee. He has held key positions in many Nebraska agriculture organizations as well. Some of his past work includes chairmanship of the Nebraska Beef Council and president of the Nebraska Stock Growers Association.
He also worked in the political arena both at the state and national campaign levels, for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, Congresswoman Virginia Smith, Senator Chuck Hagel, and Governors Charles Thone, Kay Orr, and Mike Johanns.
“Merlyn has not just been a friend of agriculture as a tireless advocate, but he is a friend of many who make their living within agriculture. His years of accomplishment make him more than qualified for receiving Nebraska Farm Bureau’s highest honor, the Silver Eagle Award. We thank him for his service to the farmers and ranchers of Nebraska agriculture,” Nelson said.
Today, the Carlson’s are partially retired and living in Sun City West, Arizona.