John M. Agrey Award
In his more than 30-year career with the North Dakota Wheat Commission, Neal Fisher has professed the belief that North Dakota's highly visible capacity for producing agricultural commodities and energy is of limited value if those commodities can't be efficiently and effectively transported to consumers domestically and abroad. As a marketing specialist with the commission, Fisher prepared and submitted rail freight rate cases to the Interstate Commerce Commission, arguing on behalf of producers in the state for rates that would make North Dakota commodities more competitive in markets around the world. He also played a role in opening shipments to the Pacific Northwest which was a gateway to tremendous market development in the Far East, now some of the most significant markets for North Dakota wheat.
As administrator of the Wheat Commission, Fisher has been a strong voice for transportation infrastructure needs across the state and region. He also implements producer-funded programs to increase the worldwide use of North Dakota wheat. Fisher coordinates Wheat Commission policy positions and actions on export market development, research, trade policy, transportation and other issues affecting the global competitiveness of North Dakota wheat producers.
His work for the Commission takes him around the world via U.S. Wheat Associates and the Cooperator Programs of USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service. His presentations on hard red spring and durum wheat include supply and demand analysis and highlight the economic and quality advantages of high performance wheat in foreign and domestic customer applications.
Fisher serves on the Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington, D.C., serving at the pleasure of the President and the Agriculture Secretary. He is a member of the Trade Policy Committee of the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates, the NDSU Research Foundation Board of Directors, and previously served on the State Board of Research and Education. He has served as chair of the UGPTI advisory council since 2006 providing guidance and leadership for the Institute's programs and initiatives.
Fisher joined the Wheat Commission as marketing specialist in 1978, became deputy administrator in 1983, and was appointed administrator in 1998. Fisher is a graduate of North Dakota State University, where he earned master's and bachelor's degrees in agricultural economics. He continues his interest in the family farming and ranching enterprise near Tappen, N.D, now where his son Josh is the principal owner/operator. Fisher and his wife Deborah have two grown children and a daughter at home.