Three years in the making and the bison industry chartered its very own Center of Excellence (COE) for Bison Studies in September 2020.
The Center was formed as a partnership among South Dakota State University, the National Bison Association, and the National Buffalo Foundation. The Center of Excellence for Bison Studies is headquartered at SDSU’s West River Research and Extension facility in Rapid City.
“This is really important for the development of the bison industry. We haven’t had the resources out there to help us, most of the knowledge we have comes from someone trying something and it works or it doesn’t, and then telling others at a conference,” said Dave Carter executive director of the National Bison Association.
The COE will give the bison industry scientific and academic focus on the areas which will help build the business.
After the COE was chartered a family foundation stepped forward along with the National Buffalo Foundation with commitments of around $400,000 to begin research projects.
“We sent out our first batch of request letters of intent for projects to focus on and we were really thrilled we got 36 letters of intent from all over the country,” Carter said.
The COE has sorted the letters and 16 writers have been invited to submit full proposals by this month March.
Carter said the proposals were divided into five categories, bison health, genetics, bison in the environment, stimulating production in native bison herds, meat quality, and marketing, all important priorities for the bison business.
The COE had another big lift at the National Bison Association Winter Conference held on Feb. 20-21 in Rapid City.
“An anonymous donor offered to match up to $50,000 in new donations in support of the Center. Immediately after that announcement, John Flocchini of the Durham Ranch in Wyoming announced that the ranch would match the $50,000 commitment and would pledge an additional $50,000 as a new challenge grant,” Carter said.
The donations didn’t stop with the two contributors. Conference participants stepped up with pledges of $23,000 toward that second $50,000 challenge.
“The commitment made by the bison community will go a long way to supporting the type of research and outreach that will benefit everyone in our business and the customers who rely on us for high quality, nutritious products,” said Dr. Kristi Cammack, COE director at SDSU.
The next $27,000 in pledges will continue to be matched by the Durham Ranch. Those pledges can be submitted to the National Buffalo Foundation, a public 501(c)(3) organization www.nationalbuffalofoundation.org/donate/
The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill authorized the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture to recognize centers of excellence in research, extension, and education in the food and agricultural sciences. The Center of Excellence for Bison Studies is coordinated through SDSU but will include active participation by researchers and extension officials from other land grant universities, including 1994 tribal land-grant colleges and universities.