Roger Gerrits, who served in research and administrative positions for 35 years at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md., on Tuesday was inducted into the National Pork Producers Council Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions to the U.S. pork industry. Only the third non-farmer in the Hall of Fame, Gerrits was inducted at NPPC’s annual meeting.

Photo: Roger Gerrits, NPPC Hall of Fame inductee

Under Gerrits’ leadership, USDA advanced research in animal physiology, genetics and reproduction, including estrous synchronization, frozen semen and embryos in swine; and developed the first effective method for sex pre-selection of livestock and humans, the first transgenic swine and the first genetic linkage maps for cattle, sheep, swine and poultry. He helped establish the National Animal Germplasm Program, the nation’s primary program for conservation of genetic resources for the livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries.

Gerrits, who grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm near Green Bay, Wis., was instrumental in creating the national swine identification program and programs for controlling and eradicating from the U.S. swine herd trichinosis, toxoplasmosis and psuedorabies. He also worked on the safety of animal health products used in livestock production, including microbials, hormones and sulfas.

In the mid-1960s, he worked with the pork industry to establish the National Pork Producers Council, outlining the scientific and economic benefits of such an organization.

The author or co-author of more than 100 scientific and technical papers and publications on animal agriculture and the recipient of numerous awards and honors, Gerrits received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and master’s and doctoral degrees in animal physiology and genetics from the University of Minnesota, where he did his dissertation on artificial insemination and estrus synchronization in pigs. After service in the U.S. Air Force, he began his career at USDA in 1963, retiring in 1998.

“Roger was, and remains, a valuable ally for the U.S. pork industry,” said NPPC President Doug Wolf, a pork producer from Lancaster, Wis. “His research, leadership and vision for an improved swine industry has been invaluable. NPPC is pleased to induct him into its Hall of Fame.”