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Scholarship "Bolts" People Together

Written by: Guest   |   October 20, 2021

EMC, Education

By: Mike Schuster, vice president of sales, Laidig Systems, Inc. 
AFIA Board chair 2021-22

The American Feed Industry Association’s (AFIA) membership includes a diverse group of professionals committed to securing a safe, sustainable and stable food supply. My personal involvement with the AFIA began with the Equipment Manufacturers Committee (EMC) back in 1994. The EMC represents the interests of equipment manufacturer members of the AFIA. Their primary focus is to efficiently serve and support the needs of the animal food industry. This includes ensuring regulatory, environmental and safety compliance. 

One of the most exciting and sustaining priorities for this committee is to fund a scholarship program for university grain and feed science students. The EMC scholarship program has grown exponentially in the past few years and currently awards seven annual $3,000 scholarships to educational institutions that have working relationships with the AFIA. 

The EMC has a long and storied history (as I have been told, I wasn’t around in 1952-ha!).

The group was established as the Grain Equipment Machinery Manufacturers Association in 1952 as a lobbying platform during the Korean War, as manufacturers were having a difficult time obtaining steel. Early members of this group also formed a scholarship fund, recognizing it was important to give back to the industry. At that time, Kansas State University was the sole recipient of the annual funding.

However, this group struggled to maintain members throughout the years and experienced many mergers and changes. On three different occasions, terminating the committee was an agenda item. It was the scholarship fund that sustained the group and provided the glue that held the organization together.

In 1987, this group became a part of the AFIA as the Equipment Manufacturing Council and brought with them approximately $30,000 in their scholarship fund. While scholarships were provided annually for the next 20 years, the program experienced no growth. In 2007, the EMC made the commitment to significantly expand the scholarship program by 2017. Fundraising activities began and resulted in positive growth for the fund. 

2013 marked a major milestone for the scholarship program. The EMC partnered with the Institute for Feed Education and Research, a 501(c)3, to further develop and grow the scholarship program. Additionally, the number of $2,500 annual scholarships was expanded from one at Kansas State University to four. Additional scholarships were awarded to North Carolina State University, California State Polytechnic University and the Northern Crops Institute at North Dakota State University.        

The scholarship fund continued to grow and in 2019, two additional $2,500 annual scholarships were awarded to Auburn University and Iowa State University.  Earlier this year, a seventh annual scholarship was established in the name of former AFIA President and CEO Joel Newman at West Virginia University. The scholarship program also increased their annual commitment to all seven institutions from $2,500 per year to $3,000. This increased our yearly investment in education to $21,000 per year.  

Where do we go from here? There are already preliminary discussions to add two more scholarships.

Ask yourself: how can you help secure the future pipeline of talent our industry needs?

Consider attending the annual EMC conference. The conference has top-notch, informative speakers providing insights on industry-related topics and is a wonderful opportunity to network with industry professionals. The proceeds from this event go directly to the scholarship fund. Another option is to contact IFEEDER and contribute directly to this fund. 

Hear from a recent award recipient on how this scholarship has helped her.

Together, we have a bright future. Investing in our next generation of leaders and employees is a fantastic way to contribute.   

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