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WIU alumnus Bryon Kirwan
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WIU Alumnus Promoted to National Agriculture Position

December 7, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University Agriculture alumnus Bryon Kirwan considers it a source of personal pride to give back to his alma mater and its School of Agriculture, including helping with research at the Allison Organic Research and Demonstration Farm.

The 1980 graduate was recently named a national economist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). He had been serving as the state economist in Illinois, but his new position allows him to oversee work in 15 states. It will also necessitate him commuting between his home in Seymour, IL and the Central National Office in Ft. Worth, TX.

"This new position allows me to take my economic skills and practices and do cost returns and conservation work on the ground at a much higher level," said Kirwan.

After graduating from WIU, Kirwan worked in multiple counties within the state's Extension Service, and with Illinois Crop Improvement, which included research in the Puerto Rico winter farm. He has also worked with Champaign Soil and Water and Richland Community College, and began working at the USDA-NRCA in 2010.

Kirwan and his family have also operated a row-crop farm since 1991.

After receiving his bachelor's degree from WIU, where he was a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity, Kirwan went on to get a master's degree in agriculture economics from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Illinois State University.

In his new position, Kirwan said he works with nutrient management in the multiple states he covers and uses his background in economics, through a production perspective. He also examines the costs and benefits of changes farmers can make in their operations so they can make informed decisions.

"We also look at intrinsic values, such as when an investment can bring other non-monetary benefits with it," he said.

Most of his current work load includes production and management economics, cover crops, water quality and nitrogen management. He also developed a cover crops tool with a colleague that allows farmers to download an Excel spreadsheet with formulas to help with decision making.

One of Kirwan's professional areas of interest includes applied research, something he has used to help agriculture researchers at WIU over the years. Kirwan has worked with WIU Agriculture Associate Professor Joel Gruver and Allison Farm Faculty Assistant Andy Clayton to see the impact of possible changes at the University's research farm near Roseville, IL.

An example of that collaborative work can be found at

Kirwan said he credits WIU for giving him the educational foundation and leadership development he needed to excel in his career.

"WIU set the baseline for me in anything I have been able to achieve," he said. "I was also in the Ag Mech Club and helped out with activities in the Hoof and Horn Club. It was a great time to be an undergrad."

He said a unique agriculture class during his undergraduate experience allowed him to travel to the western United States to study feed lots and expand his personal definition of agriculture.

"We went to cattle and chicken lots and processing plants to see how they operate," he said. "It was eye-opening, and it helped increase my interest in agriculture; in more than corn, soybeans and cows."

For more information about WIU's School of Agriculture, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing