John Shutske named as new CALS associate dean for agriculture and natural resources extension

John Shutske, a University of Minnesota specialist in agricultural and food system safety, health and security, has been appointed as the new associate dean for agriculture and natural resources extension in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and UW-Extension program director for agricultural and natural resources.

In his new position he will lead statewide educational programs that help Wisconsin farmers and other agricultural enterprises operate in a profitable, environmentally sound and safe manner. He will oversee the efforts of 95 county-based Cooperative Extension agents and 145 statewide Cooperative Extension specialists at UW-Madison, UW-River Falls and UW-Platteville.

Shutske brings considerable experience and expertise in many of the emerging issues that challenge Wisconsin’s food and agricultural industries.

“My research and Extension programs explore and educate to protect worker and public health as agricultural technology and practices change,” Shutske says. “We’ve worked on a range of mechanical, chemical, biological, and animal hazards for many audiences. I am particularly proud of our Extension and research focused on protection of farm families, children, immigrant workers, and other vulnerable audiences.

He has also worked on efforts to protect businesses and consumers from potential food system terrorism threats, and to address such emerging issues as avian influenza, foodborne illnesses, and human pathogens in wastewater.

Shutske’s background will serve him well in his new position, says CALS Dean Molly Jahn.

“We need our strong partnership with Extension more than ever as we tackle the complex challenges facing agriculture today. John’s experience in developing successful, interdisciplinary programs that meld Extension education with research are going to serve us well,” Jahn says.

One of Shutske’s most important roles will be that of a liaison, fostering synergy between CALS, where most statewide Extension specialists are based, and statewide Extension staff, explains Rick Klemme, Interim Dean for Cooperative Extension.

“Linking the CALS specialists with their counterparts at Platteville and River Falls as well as the agricultural agents throughout the state is critical in bringing the research base of the UW System to those involved in agricultural and horticultural industries across the state,” he points out.

The decision to come to Wisconsin was an easy one, Shutske says.

“There’s a special spirit at the University of Wisconsin,” he says. “I saw that spirit up close as I interviewed for this position and had a chance to visit with a dynamic group of people.

“The agricultural, food and natural resource industries are economically and culturally important in Wisconsin, and the partnership between these industries and the university is impressive,” he says.

“I see a strong desire in Wisconsin to continue to be a worldwide leader, working in partnership with agricultural producers, the food, energy, and natural resource industries, and communities as they work with us through critically important changes in the next 20 years,” he adds.

Shutske says his agenda for his first few months in Wisconsin will involve a lot of travel and a lot of listening, Shutske says.

“I need to learn from the experts with whom I will be working. While Minnesota and Wisconsin have similar agricultural and natural resource needs, I know that the specifics of dairy, natural resources, and other industries in Wisconsin will be different. I will need to identify leaders inside and outside the UW and listen.

His agricultural roots run deep. Shutske grew up on a farm in northwest Indiana native and earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural engineering at Purdue University.

“I stay connected to agriculture through my current work, and by watching my parents struggle through and be very successful in navigating through the many changes in production agriculture over these last 30 years.”