Noting declining per capita income and shifting demographics in rural America, Vilsack acknowledged producers wonder if there is a future for them and their children in farming.
But don't tell that to the estimated 6 million youth participating in 4H. For most, a year of hard work and perseverance culminates at the county or state fair, where only the best receive the coveted Blue Ribbon.
That was the case last week at the Iowa State Fair where one exhibitor showed the Grand Champion Market Steer. Ultimately though, the search for optimal genetics resulted in a hi-tech case of Déjà Vu.
Doc's genetic material came from a bull named Heat Wave. The clone was created by Bovance, a joint-venture between Austin, Texas-based ViaGen and Sioux Center-based Trans Ova Genetics. Trans Ova is owned by David Faber, who also is Tyler's father. Even though both steers are genetically identical, the elder Faber says it is important for people to understand that cloning a past champion is no guarantee of victory. He went on to say, starting with a clone is a good base but 70 percent of winning a 4-H competition is about care, feeding, management, and hard work on the part of the student.
And the administration of Iowa's branch of 4-H would agree. Though officials with the youth group were unaware the winning animal was a clone they did say there had been rumors to that effect. Once Doc was declared 4-H Grand Champion Market Steer the Faber's informed officials about the animal's history. Iowa's 4-H has no rules about cloned animals.
Doc was sold at an auction-style sale held near the conclusion of the Iowa State Fair's run for a record $45,000. Among the winning bidders was David Faber. Faber says he helped purchase the animal to comply with USDA requests to keep meat from cloned animals out of the food supply and to reward Tyler for all his work. In addition, Faber says he wanted to highlight the technology while doing it in an open and transparent manner. He felt that by demonstrating a genetic copy of a past champion was able to compete at the highest level of competition it was visible proof that cloning can be an effective production method.