College Sponsored Conferences and Symposia

The University and the College have a long history of sponsoring public lectures, symposia, and other events.  Several of these are described below.

Sixth Annual Grassroots Conference – 1963

In the 1950s and 60s the Social Science Department and the Wisconsin Center for Education in Politics sponsored a series of public events called the “Grass Roots Political Conference.  The department chair, Dr. Charles Graham was the organizer and director.  The sixth of these conferences held on the River Falls campus on February 6 and 7, 1963 addressed the topic of “Politics and the Farm Dilemma,” focusing exclusively on U.S. farm policy.  Speakers included Lauren Soth, Editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune; Percy Hardiman of Hartland, WI, President of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation; Philip Seep of Eau Claire, State Manager of the Wisconsin Farmers Union.  A third farm leader, Oren Lee Staley, President of the National Farmers Organization, was scheduled to participate, but his private plane was forced to return to Corning, Iowa because of bad weather.

The concluding session featured a debate between two Wisconsin state senators, Walter G. Hollander, a Republican from Rosendale and Carl W. Thompson, a Democrat from Stoughton. The Republican Hollander made the point that after two years of the Kennedy administration’s “New Frontier”, the Midwest dairy farmers were receiving the lowest average milk prices since 1955.

There seem to be two accounts regarding Staley’s failure to appear at the 6th  Grassroots conference.  The first, which was the official explanation, was that his plane was forced to return to base in IA as a result of weather.  The second was that he mistakenly mistook River Falls, WI for Black River Falls, WI and actually flew into the later.  If the second account is true it provides added evidence of the “Lake Wobegon Effect” said to afflict River Falls, which has been frequently confused with Black River Falls, Fall River, and Thief River Falls.

Staley’s appearance was rescheduled at the request of NFO members from the River Falls area.  On April 2, 1963 Staley delivered a lecture entitled “Who Speaks for the Farmer”.

Conference for Professional Agricultural Workers – 1963

The 15th annual conference for professional agricultural workers was held on the WSU campus in November.  The theme of the conference was “Improving Public Relations and Communications in Agriculture”, and was directed by WSU soils professor John Foss.  Speakers included Dr. E.H. Kleinpell, President of the University, Dean R. Kittle, Assistant to the President of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and Robert Krueger, Director of the audio-visual department at WSU.

Farm Institute – 1964

Feeding and management of dairy cattle was the featured topic at the Farm Institute held at the college farm auditorium on Feb. 19.  The program was sponsored by the River Falls Chamber of Commerce, and featured Jim Crowley, extension dairyman and Orrin Berge, extension agricultural engineer.  The following topics were discussed: the importance of high quality roughages, hay-haylage, green silage, and farm machinery use and care.  Bernard Drewske, Pierce County Agricultural Extension agent coordinated the event.

Annual Conference for Agricultural Workers – 1965

The 1965 conference focused on “Agricultural Credit in Action”, and was held on January 30 in the theater in the Chalmer-Davee Library.  The speakers were Glenn Gerhardt, Assistant Vice President of the Federal Intermediate Bank of St. Paul; Richard Harder, Agricultural Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Richard V. Alexander, Associate Regional Manager of the Federal Land Bank of Wisconsin; and R. Vern Elefson, Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics, Wisconsin State University of River Falls.

17th Annual Grassroots Politics Conference – 1974

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson spoke on the nation’s energy supply.  Nelson, who was a native of nearby Clear Lake, WI, and later to become know as the founder of “Earth Day”, spoke in support of legislation on solar and geothermal energy that had been recently passed in the U.S. Congress.  He felt that much more should be done in the areas of coal gasification and liquefaction of fuels.  He expressed his disdain for “the seven large oil companies that “exist as a classic monolithic situation that is driving out competition and gouging the consumer.  No country can permit a resource that is as vital as oil to be solely controlled by private sources with no information available to the government.”

He added that resource conservation is also an important part of the related energy and big business problem.  “However”, he warned, “our nation’s energy problem is not nearly as serious a problem as the world wide shortage of protein, metals and fiber.”

When questioned about the present dairy program, Nelson responded, “The dairy program is a disaster.  We are driving dairy farmers down.  By 1980 or 1985 there will be a deficit of dairy products.  We should have a 90 percent parity floor as a sort of minimum wage for farmers.”

US Senator Gaylord Nelson

US Senator Gaylord Nelson

Alumni Speaker, Tom Ronnigen – 1974

Dr. Thomas Ronnigen, Associate Administrator of the Cooperative States Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., addressed students, faculty and guests at UWRF on Thursday, Nov. 7. Ronnigen is a graduate of UW-River Falls and a native of Hammond, WI. He was on campus during the week as a Centennial Visiting Professor commemorating the University’s 100th anniversary and 73 years of education in agriculture at UWRF.

Ronnigen spoke on various subjects during the week. He noted that “The vast, brooding, secretive Soviet Union makes capitalistic raids on our wheat stocks without advance warning.  Scarcity, replacing surplus, accentuated by poor weather and disease, have driven food prices upwards. Rising oil prices translate into added pressures on agriculture to produce more for export to help our balance of payments, thus keeping the value of our dollars from eroding even faster. Higher oil prices also add to fuel and fertilizer costs, which further threaten the farmers’ ever-precarious profit margins.”

He expressed optimism about the World Food Congress, which was then currently underway in Rome, suggesting that it would offer solutions for our agricultural problems.

He also predicted that over the next several years the U.S. housewife will be using more meat extenders and the nation as well as other parts of the world will rely more on plant proteins, especially soybeans, as partial replacements for meat.

Ronnigen  later spoke on Thursday to the 15 members of the College of Agriculture Advisory Council at its semi-annual fall meeting.  Referring to himself as a “milk stool drop-out”, he told the Council that the USDA had undergone more philosophical changes in the past five years than in all of its previous history, largely due to pressures on the U.S. food supply.  He suggested that the U.S. will no longer be able to give food surpluses away.  “The current Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, is clearly market oriented, and advocates selling food and grain to the highest bidders.  On the other hand, Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, believes that surplus U.S. food should be used in cementing this nation’s political positions in certain areas of the world.  Agriculture will play a more vital roll in diplomacy and in our relationships with other nations.”

He also stated that agriculture in general needs a public relations face-lift. “The public needs to know the real story of our successes and our problems.”

College of Agriculture Visiting Professor – 1975

Internationally known food production specialist, Dr. T.J. Cunha was selected as a  Visiting Professor at the UWRF. He was on campus for three days from October 28-30, and  addressed the topic of “The World Food Problem and What Can Be Done About It”. He  also spoke on “The Future of Animal Industries to the Year 2000”.

Cunha was the Dean of the College of Agriculture at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. During his career he was instrumental in organizing the First (1963) and Second (1968) World Conferences on Animal Production.

First Food Science Symposium – 1976

Dr. James C. Dollahon, Dean of the College of Agriculture, opened the program, which was co-sponsored by the Department of Animal and Food Science and the Food Science Club.  Dr. Theodore (Ted) Labuza, Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota was the keynote speaker.  Labuza discussed the philosophy of nutrition.  Labuza, who received his PHD from MIT in 1965, is the author of more than 90 articles and four books on nutrition and consumer interests.  His most recent book, “The Nutrition Crisis”, was the principle text used in the new UW-River Falls course on human nutrition.  The food industry’s role in nutrition was elaborated by Dr. Ronald Simpson, nutrition scientist with the Pillsbury Company, Minneapolis.  Tony Duran, microbiologist with the Minneapolis Center for Microbiological Investigations of the Food and Drug Administration gave an overview of microorganisms of significance in foods.  The symposium concluded with a presentation on the effects of processing on the nutritional quality of foods by Dr. Daryl Lund, Professor of Food Science at UW-Madison.

Ted Labuza

Ted Labuza

Daryl Lund

Daryl Lund

Food and Farm Forum – 1976

A food and farm forum was held at UWRF on Wednesday, Oct 19. Alvin Baldus, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, and Fred Richmond, a U.S. Representative from Brooklyn N.Y, were both members of the House Agriculture Committee, and were the featured speakers. Baldus represented a rural area covering about 30,000 square miles in Western WI. Richmond was from an urban, multi-ethnic area covering only 9 square miles.

Both agreed that there was a need for increased efficiency and less waste in the exchange of food between the farmer and the consumer. Both felt that the “middle man” was receiving too much of the return on crop investments.

Alvin Baldus

Alvin Baldus

Fred Richmond

Fred Richmond

Although both agreed that wheat and grain export sales were good for the farmer and the national economy, Baldus criticized the first Russian wheat transactions, labeling them as “steals”.  He said that grain deals should be done openly, with all those concerned participating in the decision-making.

When questioned by students in the audience about the availability of long-term farm loans, the congressmen agreed that federal money should be more readily accessible to the young farmer.  Baldus suggested that raising the interest rate from 5 to 7 percent might allow more eligible farmers to receive loans.

Richmond expressed his interest in following London’s lead in establishing green belts around U.S. metropolitan areas to provide produce to urban dwellers.

The forum was sponsored by the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture with support from the Student Senate.

Food Forum – 1978

The nationally syndicated consumer columnist, Sydney Margollus, was the keynote speaker at UW-River Falls during a conference on “Food and the Consumer Dollar”  Margollus, whose weekly column regularly appeared in the St Paul Pioneer Press, attempted to dispel what he referred to as a prevailing myth that the U.S. has the most efficient food marketing system in the world. What we really have, said the speaker, is the most elaborate and sometimes costliest system where complicated processing, packaging and advertising compete for more and more of the consumer dollar. The iconoclastic writer also added that we pay extra for the proliferation of consumer products as evidenced by nearly 15,000 products sold in supermarkets today.

He further stated that “Retailers who say that they are not responsible for high food costs is like saying that the streams of water coming from the sky are not caused by rain”.

In addition to Mr. Margollus, there were four other participants in the forum: Ronald Hendrickson, a USDA official; Channing Lushbough, Vice President of Kraft Foods; Kathleen Sheekey, Information Director for the Consumer Federation of America; and John Ley, a Michigan farmer representing the American Agriculture Movement (AAM). Mr. Ley was a last minute addition to the roster of speakers, volunteering to replace the still elusive Oren Lee Staley of the National Farmers Organization, who failed to show up.

Much of the conference focused on the high cost of food, and the low prices paid to farmers. Discussion was lively, and there was plenty of finger pointing.  For example, Mr. Margollus attacked food companies for the “pervasive influence of television advertising and very poor pre-market testing”. Sheekey was also critical of the food industry terming food in the U.S. as “the most over-processed, over-packaged, and over-advertised in the world” Mr. Hendrickson, Special Assistant for Marketing Services with the USDA, denied that government regulations were responsible for high costs, but noted that “at every step of the way there will be someone who will try to cut corners and too often they get away with it”  Therefore the government must be there to protect the interests of individual consumers.

John Ley of the American Agriculture Movement urged farmers to cut production by 50 percent “to get prices back up there where they belong.”  He also had a word of warning from the AAM, a new comer among farmer organizations, having been organized only one year before.  “I just hope that the AAM can continue without being violent, but when a farmer plants 100 percent of his acreage, knowing others are cutting back in a effort to raise parity, it borders on premeditative murder”.  When asked by a local dairy farmer how the AAM could expect milk producers to cut production by 50 percent, Ley opined with obvious levity that “perhaps they could milk only two teats”.
The food industry viewpoints were given by Dr. Channing H. Lushbough, VP of Quality Assurance with Kraft, Inc, stating that his company’s long-term interests do not clash with those of the American farmer.  “We depend directly on each other.”  But he also indicated that Kraft’s position was that the farmer has not been fully rewarded for his labor, noting that between 1953 and 1973, the farmer’s total production costs had tripled.

The conference concluded with a panel of local people questioning the conference speakers. Members of the panel were State Senator Michelle Radosovich (D-Hudson), Duane Paulson, a River Falls area farmer; Carol Arkwright, consumer affairs reporter for WCCO-TV, and Vern Elefson, chairman of the UWRF Agricultural Economics Department. Elefson caused a bit of a stir when he asked the speakers “if the processors have no conflict with the farmers, and the consumers have no conflict with farmers, and the government has no conflict with farmers as you say, then where is the conflict, and why are farmers saying that they they have difficulties with marketing”? A subsequent statement from Mr. Hendrickson drew criticism from the audience and other panel members when he stated, “I don’t believe that farmers are so bad off.  I’ve never met a farmer who will admit prosperity no matter what the price is for his products.” All the while the conference was going on demonstrators from the American Agriculture Movement were present and carrying placards outside of North Hall protesting low farm prices.  Apparently if Mr. Staley, the scheduled speaker from the NFO had appeared as expected, the AAM was to have Mr. Ley speaking outside on the North Hall steps while Staley was speaking inside.

The forum was sponsored by the College of Agriculture with financial support from the UWRF Student Senate.

Food Forum – 1979

The topic of the April 1979 forum was “The World Food Problem – Seeking to Survive” featuring seven participants who had worked closely with various aspects of the problem and who were well known in their fields.

Don Paarlberg, Agricultural Economist from Purdue University, presented a lecture on  “The Agricultural Endowment”. Paarlberg had previously held appointments with three U.S. Presidents, Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford, and he was the principal economic adviser to four secretaries of agriculture. He also held the post of Coordinator of the Food for Peace Program.

Brenda Husson, represented a church based hunger relief agency “Bread for the World”. She spoke on “Humanitarianism: Why Charity is No Longer Enough”.

Justin Blackwelder, director and founder of the Population Crisis Committee as well as the president of the Environmental Fund and Director of the Atlantic Council of the United States, spoke on “The Population Problem – Theirs and Ours”.

Peter Rogers was a Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Engineering at Harvard and a member of the Water Resources and Environmental Management Committee of the American Geophysical Union. Rogers spoke on “Energy and Technological Resources – Will they Limit the Food Supply”. Gordon was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in 1973.

On the second day of the conference, a panel of three experts interacted with the main speakers and the audience. The panel consisted of Abidur Rahman, Economic Minister of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Loyd Bailor, from the Embassy of Sierra Leone, and John H. Sullivan, Assistant Minister for Asia with The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

A Lecture Series in Contemporary Nutrition – 1982

The 1982 conference consisted of a series of four lectures held during the second half of April.

April 15 – Dr. Alfred E. Harper, Chairman of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, presented a lecture on  “National Nutrition Policy and Dietary Guidelines for the Public”.

Alfred Harper

Alfred Harper

April 22 – Dr. James Scala, Vice President for Science and Technology, The Shaklee Corporation, San Francisco.  “Dietary Trends – Hedonism vs. Nutrition”.  During the evening Dr. Scala gave a second lecture on “Nutrition in Preventive Medicine”.

April 26 – Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, Professor Emeritus and founder of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University School of Public Health.  “Contemporary Nutrition”.  At the time Dr. Stare was well-known for his leadership in nutrition communications as a radio journalist and a syndicated newspaper columnist.

Fred Stare

Fred Stare

Trends in Food Science – 1983

The Food Science Club sponsored this symposium featuring three speakers from this region.

Mr. Fritz Friday, President of Friday Canning Company in New Richmond discussed “Future Changes in Manufacturing”

Dr. Susan Harlander from the University of Minnesota spoke on Genetic Engineering.

Dr. Owen Fennema, Chair of the Food Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison delivered a lecture on “The Food Industry in the Year 2000”.

After dinner at Rodli Commons, Dr. Fennema led an open discussion for all participants and attendees.

The 1983 symposium is believed to have been the last of the series of public programs on food and agriculture which began in the early 1960s.  The programs described above were planned and coordinated by numerous individuals and university departments over at least a 20 year period.  These program served the campus and the community well by bringing national and international experts to UWRF.  In many cases, students and townspeople were not only able to attend excellent and informative lectures, but they were frequently able to directly interact on an informal basis with many of the speakers.

Several of these conferences were supported financially by the UWRF students through grants from the Student Senate.

Food Microbiology Symposium – 1978 to 2008

Beginning in 1978, the College launched the annual Food Microbiology Symposium under the dedicated and energetic leadership of Dr. Purnendu Vasavada.  These conferences, held over a period of 30 years, brought dozens of leading experts in their fields and hundreds of participants from all over the world to River Falls.

Dr. Purnendu Vasavada

Dr. Purnendu Vasavada

The symposia with the more comprehensive official title, “Current Concepts in Foodborne Pathogens and Rapid Methods in Food Microbiology,” were designed to provide continuing education opportunities for food industry professionals on contemporary issues and topics in food safety and microbiology, foodborne illness outbreaks, emerging pathogens, and detection and characterization of toxins.  The symposia programs featured invited local and international experts in these fields to discuss the latest developments in rapid detection of foodborne pathogens, regulatory and industry trends, predictive microbiology and validation of laboratory methods, as well as implementation of food safety systems such as HACCP.  The progtrams also featured a hands-on workshop consisting of demonstrations and discussions of various tests, instruments and available kits for detection and characterization of foodborne organisms, for the assessment of food quality and shelf-life and for rapid hygiene monitoring in food processing facilities. The conferences also included technical poster sessions designed to disseminate research by graduate students, industry delegates and others in food safety and microbiology, particularly rapid methods and automation in food microbiology.

From its inception as a regional dinner meeting and mini workshop, this symposium and workshop grew rapidly in scope, and stature as evidenced by over 110 attendees at one of the final programs, representing large and small food companies, regulatory agencies and academia. This popular program was singularly responsible for attracting participants from all over the United States and Canada that otherwise would not have come to our campus. “This workshop brings a lot of visibility to the campus and community” said Dr. Stephen C. Ridley, Professor of Food Science and Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “As a result of this conference, there are people on literally every continent of the world who have heard of or have been to River Falls.” said Ridley. Charlene Wolf–Hall, a delegate from North Dakota said, “The most beneficial part of this symposium is the exposure to new methodology.”

The success of the programs was clearly attributed to the speakers and workshop leaders. The list of invited speakers at the UWRF Food Microbiology Symposium and Workshop reads like Who is Who in Food Microbiology, particularly in relatively new field of Rapid Methods and Automation. Distinguished speakers participating in symposium programs include the following.

Frank Busta, University of Minnesota
Mike Doyle, University of Georgia
Michael Cirigliano, Lipton, Inc.
Daniel Y.C. Fung Kansas State University
Peter McClure
John O’Brien
Bruce Tompkins
Bill Sperber, Pillsbury Company
James Jay, Wayne State University
Nelson Cox, USDA
D.A.A. Mossel. University of Utrecht, Netherlands
B. Swaminathan
Roy Betts
Kathryn Swanson, Pillsbury Co.
Harold Leninger, FDA
Paul Hall, Kraft
Don Zink
Vinay Chowdhari
Ann Marie McNamara, FDA
Tony Sharp
Norman Stearn, USDA
Martin Cole
Will Hueston
Mansel Griffiths, University of Guelph, Canada
Dane Bernard
Lt. Col. Less Huck
Robert E. Brackett
Prof. Upali Sanarjeeva- Sri Lanka
Dr. Geraldine Duffy- Ireland
Prof. Tibor Deak- Hungary
Prof. Peter Raspor, Slovenia
Dr. John O’Brien – Ireland
Tadgh O’Sullivan – Netherlands
Dr. Joseph Odemuru – Canada
Dr. Sanjeev Anand- India
Dr. Julian Cox- Australia
Dr. Rosemary Wyeth- New Zealand
Dr. Andrew Hudson- New Zealand
Dr. Pierre Colin- France
Dr. Cecil Lehalac- France
Dr. Jaqueline Rocourt- Switzerland
Prof. Olav Rusof- Norway
Prof. Auli Haikara- Finland
Eva d’Hase- Belgium
Leon Gorris- Netherlands
Dr. Ron Hull- Australia
Dr. Benjamin Remirez Wong- Mexico
Haiyan Wang- Canada
Jean D’Oust-Canada
Jackie O’Dwayer- U.K.
Peter Smith – U.K.
Dr. P.D. Patel- U.K.

The symposium received considerable attention during a Salmonella outbreak in the 1990’s involving a food company in the Midwest. When several national media outlets were attempting to contact Salmonella specialists for commentary, the reporters learned that many of the specialists they were trying to contact were at the River Falls conference.

The symposium was also designated as a CASE Media Fellowship site where practicing journalists from the print and electronic media interacted with scientists and regulatory officials involved in food safety and microbiology.

The list of commercial companies participating in the Rapid Methods Workshops follows.

path-Oxoid, Ogdensberg NY
Difco Laboratories, Detroit, MI
Becton Dickinson, Baltimore, MD
BD Biosciences, Sparks, MD
Biotech International, Bethesda, MD
EM Science (Merck)
GEM Biomedical Inc.,
Dynal, Inc.
Biosys, Inc., Ann Arbor
Chemunex, Inc.
bioMriieux–Vitek systems. Hazelwood, MO
Spiral Biotech, Inc. Bethesda, MD.
Spiral systems
Romer labs, union, NJ
Tecra Diagnostics, Sydney, Australia
Alaska Diagnostics
Foss, Inc. Minneapolis, MN
Zylux Corp., Maryville, TN
Organon –Teknika BRI- Rockville, MD – Durham,  NC.
3 M Co., Minneapolis, Mn.
Perkin Elmer, INC., Norwalk, CT.
Integrated Biosolutions, Inc., Monmouth Junction, NJ
International BioProduct Unis, Redmond, WA.
BioControl,  Inc., Bothell, WA
Gene Trak systems, Framingham, MA.
Neogen, Inc., Lansing, MI
Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA
Diffscham, Germany
Raven Biological Instruments, Inc. Omaham, NE.
Radiometer America (Malthus system), Westlake , Ohio
Idexx , Westbrook, ME
Bactometer, Inc.
Biotrace, Inc.
Promega, Inc.,
DuPont Qualicon
R Biopharm Laboratories
Charm Inc.
Nelson Jameson, Inc.
Perkin- Elemer-Cetus
R- Biopharm
Strategic Diagnostics
Detex Corp.
Rochelle Scientific
CEM corporation
Remel Microbiological products
PE Applied Biosystems
Millipore Corp
New Horizon Diagnostics
Pall Life Sciences
Contamination Sciences


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