[quote style=”2″]Influential Ag Leader Passes Away in Tucson[/quote]
The Hermiston agriculture community lost another stalwart with the passing of Chet Prior in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday at the age of 78.
“His contributions to our community and region would be hard to calculate,” said “Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agriculture Research & Extension Center (HAREC). “He was involved with so many things that help shape our community.”
Prior’s death follows the Feb. 5 passing of Joe Burns, the Jan. 23 death of Phil Hawman and the September 2014 death of Don Horneck – all men who played a large role in the development of the region’s ag industry.
Prior was a 2011 inductee into the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences Hall Of Fame. He was a longtime supporter of HAREC and served on the station’s advisory board for nearly 20 years. Along with Hawman, Prior was behind the effort to donate four center pivot irrigation systems to the station in 1989.
“He understood the importance of agricultural research and the importance of this experiment station,” Hamm said on Monday.
Hamm said Prior was instrumental is helping to secure the station’s water right and provided land on his farm for over 20 years for on-site research activities by OSU faculty. In his letter nominating Prior to the OSU Hall of Fame, Hamm wrote that Prior understood how critical water was to the area’s farmers.
“Chet is also a prophet, best typified by his understanding of the importance of water, long before water issues developed in our area,” wrote Hamm in 2011. With support from the Blue Mountain Potato Growers, and with two colleagues, Bob Levy and Chuck Rohrman, Prior helped found the Oregon Water Coalition.
“This organization was extremely important when water spreading was an issue and without their efforts, significant loss of water for irrigation could have occurred, resulting is significant loss of current and future regional economic opportunities,” said Hamm in his nominating letter.
In 2000, Prior received the Oregon Potato Commission’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the industry.
Prior was a leader beyond the agricultural community, as well, having served as a board member of the Greater Hermiston of Chamber of Commerce between 1989 and 1992, and serving as president in 1991. He served on the Port of Umatilla Board of Commissioners, as well as many years on the board of Good Shepherd Medical Center. Prior was a longtime member of the Hermiston Airport Advisory Committee, was a founding member of Hermiston 2000 – a subcommittee of the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce – charged with helping to favorably position Hermiston for future economic growth.
Prior served as president of the Hermiston Development Corporation for 10 years and played a key role in bringing Hermiston Foods to the area, as well as the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.
Prior also served as chairman of the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center Authority Board and was on hand in December for the center’s groundbreaking. He also served on the steering committee for the Eastern Oregon Higher Education Center in Hermiston.
“The region would look different today without the positive impact and direction Chet provided,” Hamm said. “He was willing to help whenever asked. He will be missed.”
Funeral arrangements are pending with Burns Mortuary of Hermiston.
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