Dr. Mark Boggess has held the position of director of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) near Clay Center, Neb. for the last eight months, taking the helm from former director Dr. John Pollak.
Dr. Mark Boggess has held the position of director of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) near Clay Center, Neb. for the last eight months, taking the helm from former director Dr. John Pollak.

By Rita Brhel


Dr. Mark Boggess quietly filled the role of director for the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) near Clay Center, Neb. last summer after longtime director Dr. John Pollak retired from the position to take on other leadership roles in the animal industry.

Boggess is a native of rural Villisca, Iowa, located about an hour east of Nebraska City. 

He grew up showing beef cattle, pigs, and sheep at the county fair. Graduating high school, Boggess attended Iowa State University and came back home in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science.

“All I was ever going to do was farm,” says the new director of the “I didn’t ever want to do anything else.”

But not even dreams that big could derail the 1980s farm crisis.

Boggess found himself going to school again—this time to Cornell University to get his master’s degree and then back to Iowa State for his doctorate in animal breeding and genetics.

He began his career as an Extension beef and swine specialist with the University of Idaho, later taking a position with the Independent Meat Company in Twin Falls, Idaho, where he helped develop a large regional pork marketing cooperative and a branded line of natural pork products. From there, Boggess became the Director of Animal Science with the National Pork Board in Des Moines. 

He was then able to get his foot in the door at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (ARS) as National Program Leader for the Food Animal Production program. Boggess eventually added the Pasture, Forages, and Rangeland Systems program to his responsibilities. Between both programs, he oversaw approximately 100 scientists and nearly $100 million in research funding for ARS.

His next stop was Center Director of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis.—the dairy equivalent of USMARC. 

After four years, the USMARC Center Director position opened when former director Dr. John Pollak retired from ARS, transitioning to lead the Nebraska Integrated Beef Systems Initiative with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Boggess knew Pollak from Cornell when Boggess was a student and Pollak a professor.

“He has always been a mentor to me,” Boggess says.

Boggess officially filled the USMARC Center Director position on June 10, finding himself back on the farm—though undoubtedly a bit bigger than where he grew up back in Iowa: USMARC sits on more than 34,000 acres of mostly pasture and cares for more than 30,000 head of livestock between its three species: beef cattle, swine, and sheep.

“This is a pinnacle position for me,” he says.

Coming into the position of Center Director with his vast professional experience within the food animal agricultural industry and ARS itself has given Boggess a clear vision for USMARC. 

“We are the biggest research location of its kind in the world, and we are standing on the shoulders of the giants that came before us,” he says. “We are going to honor our extraordinary legacy and continue to be one of the biggest contributors to impactful food animal agriculture research in the world.”

Food animal agriculture has a solid future and is here to stay, Boggess explains, but livestock production systems must become more efficient in order to do so. The reality is that animal agriculture, as a whole, is evolving in order to meet the rapidly growing food demands of an exponentially increasing global population. That’s what the focus of USMARC’s research will continue to be moving forward, Boggess concluded.

“All of science is now showing absolutely, conclusively that we cannot feed 10 billion souls on this planet without animal agriculture,” he says. “So the issue now is, how do we best do that? Further, how do we best utilize the resources we have available to us as producers in a sustainable system, while providing safe and nutritious meat animal products?”