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February 5, 2024
Three of this year’s inductees to the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame — Fred Bourland, Mark Cochran and Charles Looney — have connections to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“The selection of these three into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame truly attests to the quality and national impact of the people we have working for the Division of Agriculture on behalf of Arkansas’ agriculture industry," said Deacue Fields, vice president-agriculture and head of the Division of Agriculture. “There is no greater honor — not only for these men, but also for those of us who work with them.”
Bourland is a legend in the cotton industry. Bourland grew up on a farm in northeastern Arkansas and went to the University of Arkansas to escape. It didn’t work.
With a Ph.D. in hand in 1978, Bourland went to work as an assistant professor and cotton breeder at Mississippi State University. In 1988, he came back to Arkansas as a professor to breed cotton varieties and teach at the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. In 1997, Bourland moved to Keiser – roughly 10 miles from his family’s Mississippi County farm – to continue his cotton breeding and research program while serving as director for the Northeast Research and Extension Center. In 2016, he stepped down as director and now focuses on cotton variety development.
His honors include the 2000 Genetics Research Award from the National Cotton Council, the 2010 International Cotton Researcher of the Year from the International Cotton Advisory Committee and the 2015 Cotton Research and Promotion Program Hall of Fame from the Cotton Board and Cotton, Inc., among others.
Cochran spent 40 years working to improve the productivity and profitability of Arkansas farmers and ranchers as a faculty member at the University of Arkansas, including 10 years as vice president of agriculture for the UA System and head of the U of A System Division of Agriculture. He retired in 2021.
Cochran served as chairman of the national Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, from which he earned the President’s Award. One of the most significant accomplishments of Cochran’s career was the creation of the COTMAN program, a computer-based cotton production guide widely used by farmers to help manage costs and improve yield efficiency.
Cochran also led efforts to obtain funding for the construction of the Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences in Fayetteville, the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center in Harrisburg and the expansion of the highly successful Arkansas Discovery Farms program, which now encompasses 13 farms and delivers scientific analysis to help determine the effectiveness of on-farm conservation practices.
Cochran came to Arkansas in 1982 to start his teaching career after earning his master’s and Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Michigan State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University.
Cattle have been a large part of Looney’s life since he was a young boy in Camden. He is recognized internationally as an expert in cattle genetics and reproductive technologies. He spent 35 years in the industry in Texas before returning to his home state in 2018 as professor of cattle genetics improvement for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. His expertise centers on embryo transfer, in-vitro fertilization, tissue banking for cloning, timed breeding and on-the-farm use of these technologies to improve beef cattle genetics.
Looney has graduate degrees from the University of Arkansas and Louisiana State University. He founded two cattle genetics companies in Texas, OvaGenix and Ultimate Genetics, after serving as a scientist and consultant in the field for several years. While he was working for Granada Biosciences, Looney was on the team that produced the first embryo-derived bovine clones. His work at Ultimate Genetics included the world’s first transgenic cloned calves and the first cloned bull.
Looney earned the President’s Award for Outstanding Service from the American Embryo Transfer Association in 2019 and an Award of Distinction from the University of Arkansas in 2014. The Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association presented him with its Producer Education Award in 2022.
“What an amazing group of farmers and those who help our farmers make agriculture Arkansas’ No. 1 business sector,” said Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame Chair Debbie Moreland of Roland. “Agriculture is such a critical cultural and economic part of Arkansas. It is what binds so much of our state together."
“These we will induct have made a national impact on rice, soybeans, cattle and cotton and have helped steer the academic and research efforts that underpin Arkansas agriculture."
“I say this often to my friends, and it bears repeating; agriculture is one of the great success stories of our state. The Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame is pleased to bring recognition to these individuals who have impacted our state’s largest industry in such a positive way.”
Class XXXVI induction ceremonies are set for 11:30 a.m. March 1 at the Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree Hotel in Little Rock. Contact Cindra Jones at 501-228-1609 for ticket information or click here to purchase tickets online.
Source: University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
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