$50 million Daugherty gift for Water for Food Institute

jbrehm2, April 20, 2010 | View original publication

$50 million Daugherty gift for Water for Food Institute

The University of Nebraska today (April 20) announced a $50 million founding gift commitment from the Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation to support a global Water for Food Institute. The gift, one of the largest in the University’s history, will create a multi-campus center for research, education and policy analysis relating to use of water for agriculture. Water for food is one of the top priorities identified by the University in its $1.2 billion Campaign for Nebraska announced in October 2009.
Robert B. Daugherty
Robert B. Daugherty | Bio

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NU President James B. Milliken said the gift will allow the University to become a global resource for developing solutions to the challenges of hunger, poverty, agricultural productivity and water management. “By 2050, the world’s population will increase by 40 percent and demand for food—produced with finite amounts of land and water—will double,” Milliken said. “We have the experience and opportunity to build a global center in Nebraska, leveraging the knowledge and resources of the University of Nebraska and other leading institutions to help alleviate human suffering and food insecurity. We have an opportunity and responsibility to use science to help influence policy and law concerning use of water resources. The implications for individuals, families and nations are tremendous. This is an area of fundamental importance for Nebraska and the world.”

Milliken praised the vision and commitment of Robert B. Daugherty, legendary founder of Valmont Industries, who created the most successful irrigation company in the world and remains committed to the efficient and sustainable use of water to feed a growing world population. “Bob Daugherty is a true pioneer and visionary,” Milliken said. “He helped transform production agriculture and he is now a leader in addressing one of the most critical challenges facing the world. He is the reason the Water for Food Institute will exist and it is a vision that he and the University share that will drive our efforts. I could not be more grateful for his confidence in and commitment to the University.”

Daugherty said, “The University of Nebraska is in the right place, at the right time, with the right people to provide global leadership in this important area.” Nebraska sits atop the High Plains Aquifer, has more acres under irrigation than any other state and is one of the leading agriculture states in the U.S. “I have great faith in the University of Nebraska and its ability to make this Institute a place where the best minds come together to find solutions that will improve the quality of life for people around the world through the strategic and responsible use of water,” Daugherty said. “Improving agricultural productivity has been my life’s work. I can’t think of a better investment to sustain that work than this institute.”

The Water for Food Institute will build on the University’s 60-year history of water research, an area in which the University is already recognized as a national leader, with many faculty working in a wide range of disciplines. Those faculty and NU leaders have been collaborating for two years on plans for an institute that focuses on the strategic use of water for food production – plans that Milliken says can leverage the good work at NU’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources to jump start the efforts of the Institute.

“The University plans to create the premier interdisciplinary institute in the world for research, education and policy analysis on water for food, led by renowned scientists and scholars,” Milliken said, adding that the institute would be the home of a leading international conference on water for food –initiated in 2009 and being held again in May. Because of its unique and critically important mission, the institute would also be a natural choice for major external research funding from federal science agencies, industry and private foundations, as well as a sought-after source of academic degrees for leaders in the field, Milliken said.

Mogens Bay, chairman and CEO of Valmont Industries in Omaha and chairman of the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation Board of Trustees, said, “Agriculture today uses 70 percent of the world’s available water. To meet the increasing demand for food and fiber, we need extensive research on how to produce more food with less water. This is the goal of the Institute." He added, “Thanks to Bob Daugherty’s leadership and vision, Nebraska has a window of opportunity to demonstrate leadership in this critical area. We are proud that the Daugherty Foundation can contribute to the development of solutions to these fundamental global issues.”

“This remarkable gift creates an opportunity for the University of Nebraska to make a lasting impact on global poverty and hunger,” said Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “With more than one billion people in the world living in extreme poverty, many as subsistence farmers, the sustainable use of land and water is a critical piece to success. Having been raised on a Nebraska farm, I have seen the abundance that can come from the land when it is well-managed and has adequate water resources.” Raikes has been a key part of discussions leading to the creation of the Institute and has agreed to serve on the advisory board for the Institute.

Clarence Castner, president of the University of Nebraska Foundation, said the gift is one of the largest single gifts the foundation has ever received. “This is a significant gift to the Campaign for Nebraska and it will provide unlimited possibilities in water and policy research in the future,” he said. “We are grateful to the Daugherty Foundation for its generosity and support.” The gift, which is pledged over several years, brings the campaign total to nearly $736 million toward the $1.2 billion goal, according to Castner.