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Ron Smith awarded TPPA’s most prestigious honor

Farm Press Senior Content Director Ron Smith, center, is awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. He is pictured with TPPA outgoing President Gary Schwarzlose, left, and TPPA founder and Chairman of the Board Ray Smith, right.
“Ron has done more, from a media standpoint, for Texas agriculture than anybody I’ve ever met," says TPPA founder and Board Chairman Ray Smith.

The Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented to Farm Press Senior Content Director Ron Smith by the Texas Plant Protection Association (TPPA) at its annual conference at Bryan, Texas.

The award is the association’s most prestigious, says Dr. Ron Lacewell, TPPA member and Texas A&M AgriLife assistant vice chancellor for federal relations at College Station. “The awards committee identified Ron for the 2017 Borlaug award based on his strong long-term contribution to agriculture. He is a major supporter of TPPA and participates in the annual meetings. The payoff to Ron and to the association was his awareness at our meetings of major opportunities or challenges related to agriculture and developing articles on those topics for Southwest Farm Press.”

The award is named for Dr. Norman Borlaug, the agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate who has been called “Father of the Green Revolution,” “Agriculture’s Greatest Spokesperson,” and “The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives.” Borlaug completed his career as a member of the Texas A&M University staff, serving as a distinguished professor of international agriculture.

Smith says he cherishes the 10 minutes he had with Borlaug at his 95th birthday celebration, just prior to his passing in Dallas, Texas. “Dr. Borlaug is probably as close as anybody I’ve ever known to being a true hero, and to have my name associated with his is beyond imagination.”

See video, Texas Christmas poem highlight of TPPA awards luncheon,

For 39 years, Smith has been covering agriculture throughout the U.S. on behalf of Farm Press, beginning in 1978 as associate editor of Southeast Farm Press, a position he held until 1989 when he became editor of Southern Turf Management, then a Farm Press Publication. In 1999, he became editor of Southwest Farm Press, writing about agriculture and the people of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico for the past 18 years. In November 2017, Smith was promoted to senior content director for all four Farm Press publications. He has been an active TPPA member since 2007, also earning the association’s Ag Communication Award in 2013, for outstanding communications for Texas agriculture and TPPA.


“Ron’s character and trustworthiness allow many farmers and ranchers to open the gate and allow him to ask tough questions about issues affecting U.S. agricultural producers,” says Blair Fannin TPPA member and media relations and public affairs staffer for Texas A&M AgriLife Communications. “This kind information is hard to come by in today’s media landscape, as many major national media outlets have scant coverage of farm and ranch news. Ron has demonstrated, through more than 30 years of reporting for Farm Press, that he is an information source of distinction for the U.S. farmer.”

TPPA founder and Board Chairman Ray Smith says “Ron has done more, from a media standpoint, for Texas agriculture than anybody I’ve ever met. He is a guy who’s going to be very hard to follow because his footprint is all over Texas. He not only just covered large topics, he also covered the smaller subjects: small farmers, large farmers, different interests all over Texas, from the Rio Grande Valley to Amarillo to Beaumont, and he is very deserving of this award.”

The theme of the two-day conference was, “Weathering Uncertainties in Texas Agriculture through Science, Technology, and Policy.” More than 300 people attended the sessions, led by about 50 agricultural industry, Texas AgriLife Extension, and Texas AgriLife Research professionals.

See TPPA photo gallery, TPPA hosts annual conference, awards Ron Smith its most prestigious award


For the 15th year, the TPPA also honored other outstanding members who have made a special contribution to the association, the conference, to their profession, and to Texas agriculture. “This is a special time to acknowledge the folks who have been contributing to TPPA,” Lacewell said. Among the awards were:

• Graduate Student Award: Brady Arthur, Ralls, Texas, who works with Dr. Gaylon Morgan, Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

• PhD Award: Dr. John Gordy, Fort Bend County Extension agent, who works with Dr. Michael Brewer, Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

• Industry Award, Tony Driver, Syngenta.

• Ray Smith Leadership Award, Dr. Travis Miller, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Dr. Ron Lacewell, Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

• Industry Award, Tony Driver, TPPA secretary, Syngenta.

• Consultant Award, Ronnie Phillips.

•Academic/Agency Award, Dr. Betsy Pierson, association past president and associate professor of horticultural sciences at Texas A&M. 

More than 40 posters were on display in the poster competition, 23 from PhD students, and 13 in the Masters section. Six posters were from industry, staff, a county agent, and a visiting scholar from Brazil.

Winners in the Masters category were:

• Sadie Church, Texas A&M University, first place, winning $150 for her poster, Monitoring Nitrogen Status in grain Sorghum under Contrasting Fertilizer Management.

• Zane Jenkins, West Texas A&M University, second place, winner of $100 for Effects of Planting Date and Hybrid on Infestation Level of Sugarcane Aphids and Drought Tolerance in Dryland Grain Sorghum.

• Aislinn Walton, West Texas A&M University, third place, $75 prize, for Quantification of Water and Nutrient Use by Invasive Weed Species in Limited Irrigated Corn Production Systems to Optimize Water Use Efficiencies and Economic Returns.

See TPPA poster contest offers unique opportunity to ag students.

Winners in the PhD category were:

• Pramod Pokhrel, Texas A&M University, first place, for Agronomic Performance of Newly Developed Lignocellulosic Bioenergy Crops in Texas.

• Seth Abugo, Texas A&M University, second place, for Assessing the Impact of Flooding on Germination and Growth of Rice Weeds.

• M. Bhandari, Texas A&M University, third place for Assessing Wheat Foliar Disease Severity Using Ground- and Aerial-based Remote Sensing Systems.

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