Mississippi State University and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture have signed a cooperative agreement to train students for poultry-related careers.

The newly developed program includes three semesters at the college in Curtis and a semester in Mississippi State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Upon completion of the program, students will earn an associate of applied science in animal science degree from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, with a concentration in poultry science.

There are currently no academic undergraduate poultry science degree programs in Nebraska. Mississippi State’s program is one of only six nationally that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the discipline.

Ron Rosati, dean of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, said he chose to partner with MSU’s Department of Poultry Science because of its reputation for training leaders in agriculture.

“The quality of the teaching, research and extension programs in poultry science at Mississippi State are well known throughout the country,” Rosati said in a news release. “The MSU program offers hands-on learning in facilities that are similar to those found in a commercial setting. This partnership will give our students the tools they need to succeed in Nebraska’s growing poultry industry.”

Nebraska currently produces about 1 million commercial broilers per year, but that number is expected to skyrocket to more than 100 million broilers per year with the under-construction Costco chicken processing complex in Fremont, which is supposed to be up and running sometime next year.

In Mississippi, poultry is the No. 1 commodity with more than 746 million broilers produced in 2017 across 1,430 farms and a production value of more than $2.8 billion.

Mary Beck, poultry science department head at Mississippi State, spent 25 years as a faculty member at the University of Nebraska prior to taking the helm at MSU. Her relationship with Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture helped facilitate the agreement, which is slated to start in the fall.

“It is exciting to be able to partner with a college in Nebraska to help train the state’s workforce in poultry and expand agriculture in a place where I spent much of my career,” Beck said. “This is a unique partnership that should be mutually beneficial to our two institutions and states.”