The National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB) honored Jerry Messer as the 2017 recipient of the Richard E. Lyng Award for his contributions and distinguished service to dairy promotion.

Messer, a dairy farmer from Richardton, N.D., was recognized at the Joint NDB/National Milk Producers Federation/United Dairy Industry Association Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., said Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc. (DMI).

The award is named for former USDA Secretary Richard E. Lyng, who played a critical role in implementing policies that led to the establishment of the NDB more than 30 years ago. The Lyng Award honors leaders who have made a significant contribution to dairy promotion that benefits the entire industry.

“When you consider the qualities of leadership, including honesty, dedication, passion, foresight, strategic thinking and humility, Jerry demonstrates them all,” said Amber Horn-Leiterman, Wisconsin dairy farmer and chair of NDB.

Messer serves as chair of Midwest Dairy Association’s North Dakota Division Board and the North Dakota Dairy Promotion Commission, roles he’s held for 25 years. Messer also served on Midwest Dairy’s corporate board, holding the position of chairman from 2008-2017. Nationally, he’s been a member of the United Dairy Industry Association (UDIA) and DMI boards and held national leadership positions as DMI treasurer and UDIA 2nd vice chairman, DMI said.

Since 2012, Messer has been chairman of the National Dairy Council. In this role, he’s served as a public face for youth wellness and the dairy checkoff’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program, an in-school initiative that promotes healthy eating and physical activity. Fuel Up to Play 60 was created in partnership with the National Football League and in collaboration with USDA, DMI said.

“According to Jerry, any idea that is good for today’s youth will also be good for dairy,” Horn-Leiterman said.

As part of the Richard E. Lyng Award, the NDB will contribute a $2,500 scholarship in Messer’s name to North Dakota State University’s Animal Sciences Department.

For more information about the dairy checkoff, visit