DENVER — Dr. Andy Vestal, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist in College Station, is the 2012 recipient of the Southern Region Award for Excellence in Extension for creating effective programs for the citizens of Texas.
The award was presented Nov. 11 during the 125th annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in Denver.
Vestal currently is AgriLife Extension’s director of homeland security and emergency management.
The awards are given annually to an Extension professional in each of five regions who excel at programming, provide visionary leadership and make a positive impact on constituents served, according to the citation. Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture have sponsored the awards since 1991.
A 34-year veteran of AgriLife Extension, Vestal is recognized for his work with the agency’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Programs. The main objectives of these programs are to increase public awareness and adoption of best practices for emergency preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery and to provide assistance when emergencies arise in rural Texas.
“We have learned that emergency response and recovery require AgriLife Extension to engage in multi-agency planning, communications and practice,” Vestal said. “Our agency understands that we must be in the huddle to contribute to the success of the team; therefore, we have strategically committed certain human, intellectual and financial resources that are now reflected in county and state emergency management plans.”
Vestal made an impact by organizing four workshops in which more than 600 people received training and resources to participate in emergency programs. He also prepared a variety of written materials for the programs, including more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, 40 abstracts and proceedings and 230 articles in popular press. Vestal has also participated in more than 450 radio and television broadcasts.
One of his major emergency efforts was “Operation No Fences,” where he and colleagues spent 42 days after Hurricane Ike locating lost livestock and helping farmers repair their lands.
“With Vestal at the helm, AgriLife Extension corralled and returned 12,000 head of cattle — a $10 million value — and distributed 4,044 tons of livestock feeds,” according to the citation.
Vestal has also led several multi-state AgriLife Extension programs for the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In addition, he has secured grants totaling $1.4 million and spearheaded programs in Media Relations/Crisis Communications, Species Specific Educational Resource Teams and Animal Health Network.