BROOKINGS, S.D. — Turner Enterprises, Inc. and Turner Ranches announced today [July 1, 2021] the launch of the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, Inc. (“Institute”). The Institute is a 501(c)(3) public charity and agricultural research organization formed by Ted Turner, whose history of sustainable ranching and animal production, natural resource conservation, and imperiled species restoration spans over three decades. Turner currently owns 14 ranches in the U.S. (and a herd of approximately 45,000 American plains bison) that practice ranching in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner while promoting the conservation of native species and habitats.
The Institute’s mission is to research, develop, practice, and disseminate sustainable strategies and techniques for conserving ecosystems, agriculture, and rural communities.
“Our company’s passion for the environment, conservation and sustainable practices continues to drive our mission of innovatively managing our lands to unite economic viability with ecological sustainability,” said Ted Turner.
Five Turner ranches are in the Sandhills region of western Nebraska, encompassing approximately 445,000 acres of North American Great Plains mixed grass prairie. Turner is contributing the McGinley Ranch, located in the northern Sandhills region, and all its operations to the Institute. McGinley Ranch straddles the border between Nebraska and South Dakota and is comprised of 79,292 contiguous acres of native rangeland. It is contemplated that the remaining four ranches in the Sandhills area (collectively, the “Sandhills Ranches”) may be transferred to the Institute in the future.
Although the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture could potentially qualify for property tax exemption under the current law in Nebraska and South Dakota, the Institute has no intention of applying for that exemption.
“I believe that local property taxes provide essential support for services on which our ranches and communities depend. The Institute will continue to pay its share of taxes to support the local communities,” added Turner.
The Institute will conduct research in conjunction with land-grant colleges and universities, as well as non-land grant colleges of agriculture. The Institute is working with South Dakota State University (SDSU) and its Center of Excellence for Bison Studies to establish a formal research agreement which could include the fiscal and physical sharing of faculty, staff, office and laboratory space, graduate students, teaching and extension, publication, academic and research advisory roles, and field stations for undergraduate and graduate studies. Additionally, the Institute anticipates regular research collaborations with other land grant institutions.
“SDSU and the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies are very excited about partnering with the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture. This partnership is an important catalyst to new research and educational opportunities focused on bison and rangelands,” added Kristi Cammack, Professor of Animal Science at SDSU and the Director for the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, Inc.?
- The Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, Inc. (“Institute”) – an agricultural research organization (ARO), is a Nebraska nonprofit corporation operated exclusively for charitable, scientific, and educational purposes, within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
What is an ARO?
- An ARO is a type of public charity that is directly engaged in the continuous active conduct of agricultural research in conjunction with a land grant university.
Define ecoagriculture. Is it a new area of study?
- Ecoagriculture is an emerging area of scientific study regarding how sustainable agriculture and ranching can be conducted across diverse landscapes while maintaining ecosystem integrity and contributing towards solutions for local and global issues, i.e., biodiversity, climate change, native species and habitat loss, environmental contamination, water depletion, food production, etc.
What is the mission of the Institute?
- The mission of the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture is to research, practice, and disseminate sustainable strategies and techniques for conserving ecosystems, agriculture, biodiversity, and rural communities, across all Nebraska properties.
What university or universities do you plan to work with?
- The Institute builds off an existing collaborative ecological and agricultural research relationship between Turner Ranches and South Dakota State University, which recently completed the development of a Center of Excellence for Bison Studies. Additionally, we anticipate regular research collaborations with other land grant institutions.
What research has Turner Ranches done in the past?
- Turner Ranches continues to be involved in diverse areas of research concerning animal and environmental sciences. Bison production, finishing, welfare, physiology, and ecology have been areas of research interest. Our research has also focused on issues in restoration ecology and imperiled species conservation. Wildlife and bison diseases have been investigated, as has climate change, ecosystem services, and landscape ecology. With the creation of the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, the tradition of research in these areas will continue and thrive with the Institute’s focus on complex ecoagriculture issues.
What do you hope to achieve with the creation of the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture?
- By implementing, testing, and sharing our land management philosophy we want to demonstrate how ranching operations can meet economic and production objectives while protecting and enhancing natural resources and conservation values of large landscapes. Ultimately, through research and innovation we want to deliver outcomes that support humankind, such as sustainable food production, thriving rural communities, ecosystem services, native biodiversity, and a healthy environment.
Being a nonprofit organization, will the Institute be exempt from paying Nebraska property taxes?
- We recognize the importance of property taxes to local governments, and do not plan to apply for exemption from property taxes for these Nebraska and South Dakota properties.
How many Turner ranches are in Nebraska?
- There are five ranches in Nebraska totaling 445,000 acres — Deer Creek Ranch, Fawn Lake Ranch, McGinley Ranch, Spikebox Ranch, and Blue Creek Ranch.
What do the ranches do?
- All the Turner ranches are innovatively managed to unite economic viability with ecological sustainability. They operate as working businesses, relying on bison and other wildlife, hunting and fishing, and ecotourism as principal enterprises. In addition, Turner ranches support many environmental projects including water resource and timber management, and the reintroduction of native species to the land. We expect to continue with this approach to managing our lands under the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, Inc.
How engaged are you within your communities?
- We are dedicated to serving the communities in which we live and work. With a shared commitment to stewardship, we feel strongly that as human beings, we have an unequivocal responsibility to care for our fragile planet, its wildlife, and most of all, each other. We aim to further demonstrate our philanthropic values across all Turner properties and neighboring communities through various environmental, educational, and social initiatives, including our Turner Community Youth Development Initiative which provides development and leadership opportunities for youth through conservation-focused projects and programs in rural communities.
— SDSU CAFES