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Northeast Iowans asked to support Dairy Center, NICC efforts through Campaign for Excellence

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 04/25/2013 7:05 PM

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CALMAR, Iowa —Iowa's Dairy Center educates students, producers and consumers, and partnering with businesses and communities has been vital to its success, said Liang Chee Wee, president of Northeast Iowa Community College.

The Dairy Center was built 13 years ago as a partnership between dairy producers, NICC and Iowa State University, and that bond continues today, Wee said. At the start NICC offered just ag business and dairy courses. Today, 26 agricultural programs are taught by top-notch faculty in state-of-the-art facilities.

"There are needs out there, and as a community college, we are built by and for the community, and we respond," Wee said.

NICC and the Northeast Iowa Community-Based Dairy Foundation are embarking on a Campaign for Excellence that will allow them to do even more, Wee said.

Construction will begin this month on a $1.7 million expansion to the Dairy Center that includes facility updates and two Lely robotic milkers. The improvements will demonstrate how technology can lower labor costs, increase milk production and improve quality of life, Wee said.

One dairy cow generates $23,445 in total economic impact, said Gary Kregel, president of the Northeast Iowa Community-Based Dairy Foundation and a Guttenberg dairy farmer.

"We are inviting people to join us in continuing this community vitality," Wee said. "Every year NICC's impact in northeast Iowa is $215 million. That is huge."

Wee said the campaign will inspire stewardship and make opportunities available to young people.

"This is a way for people to partner with us to make ag an important part of our heritage," Wee said. "This place has helped to grow the economy and people and allows us to make a difference every single day."

"We're all in this together," Kregel said. "I'm a dairyman, but I'm also a corn grower. If we don't have livestock to feed the corn to, we're all in trouble. NICC is preparing young people for what will be an exciting time going forward."

The event in Iowa's Dairy Center at Calmar was cooperatively sponsored by the NICC Foundation and the Dairy Foundation to raise awareness of the need for funding for new NICC signature agriculture programs. The programs focus on dairy robotics, beef science and veterinary science, all of which are important to Iowa's economy, Wee said.

Donors who choose to give $2,500 or more to the new Dairy Center robotics program will be recognized through the Dairy Foundation at the robotics barn.

To learn more about giving to the Campaign for Excellence contact Megan Kregel, Dairy Center coordinator, at 563-534-9957, ext. 107.