Merlyn Carlson, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources and Environment, was named the Livestock Leader of the Year by Colorado State University’s Department of Animal Sciences on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the National Western Stock Show. The award is given annually at the National Western on Colorado State University Agricultural Outreach Day to recognize people who have made outstanding contributions to the state’s livestock industry.
Carlson oversees the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and he is a strong proponent of ensuring that local leadership has a voice in natural resources management. Prior to his appointment to USDA, Carlson was director of Agriculture in Nebraska.
"Merlyn is a stanch advocate for preserving our natural resources, including encouraging agriculturalists to enhance water management, preserve wildlife habitat, incorporate effective grazing systems and control erosion," said Bill Wailes, head of the Department of Animal Sciences. "In addition, Merlyn campaigns to allow natural resources management to remain in the hands of the landowners and local experts who best understand the environment in their own areas."
Carlson is a Colorado State University graduate of the class of 1957. He received a degree in agriculture with an animal science major. Carlson was the recipient of the Colorado State University Honor Alumni Award.
Carlson’s leadership in various capacities has made a significant impact on the livestock industry across the nation. He has served on the governing boards of the National Cattlemen’s Association, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Laboratory, and an advisory board for the animal sciences department at Colorado State University. He also has served on the U.S. Meat Export Federation and on the National Beef Board.
In addition, Carlson has been involved in the national campaigns of former Presidents George Bush, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. In addition, he has played key campaign roles in the elections of Nebraska’s U. S. Sen. Chuck Hagel and Nebraska Governors Charles Thone, Kay Orr and Mike Johanns.
While serving as the director of Agriculture in the state of Nebraska, Carlson advocated for agriculture across the states and abroad, promoting products in domestic and foreign markets.
Carlson farms and ranches in Nebraska, where his cow-calf, feeding and farming operation includes extensive modifications for conservation such as more than 100 miles of terracing, additional erosion control measures and enhanced irrigation efficiency. Carlson and his wife, Janice, have two daughters.
Among numerous notable recognitions, Carlson has been inducted into the Northern International Livestock Expo Hall of Fame. He has been recognized with the Nebraska Hall of Ag Achievement Award, the Aksarben Ag Achievement Award and named Man-of-the-Year by the Record Stockman.
The Livestock Leader award was presented during the annual College of Agricultural Sciences social Saturday afternoon. The social is in conjunction with Colorado State University Agricultural Outreach Day at the National Western Stock Show.