Five individuals, including several Illinois farmers recognized for their outstanding service to agriculture, were named recipients of the inaugural Abraham Lincoln National Agricultural Awards at the Farm Progress Show Tuesday in Decatur.
Award recipients are John Block, an Illinois farmer and former U.S. ag secretary; Leon Corzine, an Assumption farmer and former chairman of the National Corn Growers Association; Jim Evans, a University of Illinois agricultural communications professor emeritus; and Congressman J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; and John Huston, executive vice president emeritus of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).
Recipients were awarded bronze statues of Lincoln kneeling beside a corn plant by WGN farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson during his noon show on Aug. 28 at the Farm Progress Show.
The awards were created by Decatur's Lincoln Heritage Committee to reflect the impact of the 16th president on agriculture. Illinois' most famous citizen established the United States Department of Agriculture and land-grant colleges.
A list of the five program award categories, and the agricultural achievements of the award recipients, follow:
John Block – Agriculturalist Award
Block was recognized for his pressure on President Reagan to end the Russian Grain Embargo, advocacy for development of the Conservation Reserve Program as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, creation of a strategy to introduce agricultural literacy into public schools, and policies to help agriculture recover from the early 1980's recession that have become the foundation for current U.S. agricultural policy.
Leon Corzine – Technology Award
Corzine was recognized for his national involvement to promote and adopt biotechnology in agriculture, advocacy for a governmental standard for the use of renewable fuels which led to aggressive market demand for ethanol, plus additional technological developments in grain storage, in export shipping containers, as well has his leadership for new locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
Jim Evans – Education Award
Evans established the Agricultural Communications Department at the University of Illinois in 1962, which has graduated over 1,000 students into governmental, corporate, and mass media communications careers. He initiated the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, the Ag Communications Documentation Center, and was involved in two international programs which focused on ag communications and information sharing.
U.S. Congressman J. Dennis Hastert – Legislative Award
Hastert was cited for his efforts to open both international and regional trade opportunities to farmers, his strong advocacy for renewable fuels initiatives, his leading support for the renovation of locks and dams on the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, and numerous other legislative initiatives seen to benefit agriculture and rural America.
John Huston – Agribusiness Award
Huston, formerly the president of the National Livestock and Meat Board, was instrumental in convincing cattlemen to adopt a national check-off referendum for beef. Since his retirement as executive vice president of the NCBA in 1999, Huston has remained active nationally and internationally in his advocacy for beef.
Judges for the awards were Orion Samuelson, WGN Radio; Willie Vogt, corporate editorial director, Farm Progress Companies; Robert Easter, dean of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences; and Tom Dorr, undersecretary of rural development, USDA.
The Abraham Lincoln National Awards will be awarded again at the 2009 Farm Progress Show in Decatur to honor Lincoln's bicentennial birthday. The Lincoln statues were crafted by renowned Lincoln sculptor John McClarey of Decatur.