GROWMARK on Board with ResponsibleAg

responsibleagThe Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) recently announced the selection of individuals to serve on the newly formed ResponsibleAg Board of Directors.

The nine representatives include:
– Alicia Duke, Director, Health and Safety, Simplot
– Justin Gough, Director, Agricultural Products, LSB/El Dorado Chemical Company
– Dave Ito, Manager, Human Resources & Regulatory Affairs, Lyman/Tremont Group
– Pete Mutschler, Environmental and Safety Director, CHS Inc.
– Tim McArdle, Executive Vice President & COO, Brandt Consolidated, Inc.
– Rosemary O’Brien, Vice President, Public Affairs, CF Industries, Inc.
– Billy Pirkle, Sr. Director, Environmental, Health & Safety, Crop Production Services
– Scott Rawlins, Director, Regulatory & Governmental Affairs, Wilbur-Ellis Company
– Rod Wells, Manager, Plant Food Division, GROWMARK, Inc.

Wells says it’s important for GROWMARK to be involved in this non-profit organization designed to work with retailers ensuring best practices are in place providing a safe product to the consumer.

“This is an industry led initiative,” said Rod. “We want to demonstrate that we are doing the right things, that we are operating safety, we’re complying with regulations, that we are accountable. We feel like ResponsibleAg is a very transparent way to show that we are committed, compliant, and safe operators in the communities that we serve.”

You can listen to an interview with Rod here: Interview with Rod Wells, GROWMARK

The board of directors for ResponsibleAg will meet next month to finalize bi-laws, an operating budget, elect officers and begin looking for a business manager to oversee the day to day operations of the new organization.

ResponsibleAg is an independent, not-for-profit organization designed to support fertilizer retailers’ compliance with federal safety and security regulations. Under ResponsibleAg, retail fertilizer dealerships will have access to comprehensive inspections based on federal regulatory requirements. The inspections will be carried out by trained auditors who will have successfully completed an intensive training course based on the objectives of ResponsibleAg.

NRCS New Web Pages Meet Modern Farmers Needs

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 12.01.22 PMFor generations, children have been singing about the farmer, his wife and kids, and even the mouse and the cheese. But today, a modern farmer is more likely to be using the mouse on his computer (or more realistically, a smartphone or tablet) than dancing around a small wooded valley with his family and farm animals.

The website of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, has been evolving to keep pace with the needs of today’s farmer, says NRCS Webmaster Elisa O’Halloran.

“Our mission is to provide American farmers, ranchers and other visitors with the tools and resources they are looking for on a site that is easy to use and navigate.”

The most-effective websites combine clear and readable text, usability, functionality and simple navigation. NRCS writes the text for targeted audiences, which includes farmers and ranchers, as well as people who use NRCS online tools, such as Web Soil Survey, PLANTS database and COMET-FarmTM.

Recently, the agency created a new Get Started with NRCS page. This new webpage helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners learn how they can make improvements to their land with conservation.

This webpage features the five steps to getting assistance from NRCS, so that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can know about the process of applying for assistance from the comfort of their own home, barn, tractor or wherever else they hop online.

Also, NRCS revamped its About and Drought Resources pages and created a Resources for Small Farms page. About NRCS provides an overview of what NRCS offers, including those popular tools that bring many visitors to the website.

Drought Resources houses information on assistance and resources that can help farms and ranches be more resilient to drought. And finally, the Resources for Small Farms page pulls together information and resources that may be of interest to owners and managers of smaller farms, such as information on organics and seasonal high tunnels.

NRCS uses a number of tools to help create these pages, including site traffic and customer experience information. “We’ve found that more than 61 percent of people coming to our website were new visitors, many of whom were farmers, ranchers and forest landowners looking for information on conservation programs,” O’Halloran said.

NRCS has about 13,000 visits per day on its national website. Some of the most popular pages deal with soils, Web Soil Survey and the Farm Bill.

“We hope you enjoy these new and revamped pages, and we welcome feedback on how we can improve our ‘digital’ service center,” says O’Halloran. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to help you get started with NRCS!”

Ag Day Celebration in DC Features Policy

The National Agriculture Day celebration in Washington DC has events spread across three days – and really it should be more because it is officially National Agriculture Week.

ag-day-14-sara-harden1Official events to celebrate agriculture kicked off Monday with the Farm to Fork politics session sponsored by Agri-Pulse. With a live audience of nearly 400, USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden sat down with Sara Wyant to discuss what they have been doing to implement the new farm bill. “Congress did give us a long time to plan, I’ll have to say that,” said Harden, who said the process really started when she took over the office last August, and continued as they waited and waited for Congress to finally get the bill passed.

Harden discussed the conservation title of the bill, which she says she is especially excited about. “Our goal is to really make sure that producers know all the opportunities they have as soon as possible,” she said. “I think farmers and ranchers will see it’s a good title with a lot of opportunities there.”

Listen to the conversation here: Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden and Sara Wyant of Agri-Pulse

Agri-Pulse Ag Day Photo Album

Coverage of National Ag Day is sponsored by BCS Communications

Expert Habitat Advice Provided to Land Managers

prairie-chicken copy 2Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Robert Bonnie, announced today a renewed and expanded partnership to provide expert habitat advice to farmers and ranchers managing land within lesser prairie-chicken range.

“Our goal is to deliver a win-win for agricultural producers and wildlife,” said Bonnie. “We want to help farmers and ranchers succeed for the long term while also protecting and improving habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken and protecting the region’s ecosystem. Often, what is good for prairie-chickens is good for ranching.”

As part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), the agency is partnering with Pheasants Forever, a national wildlife conservation organization, to jointly invest $5 million over three years to support technical assistance, including hiring non-federal field conservationists to help farmers and ranchers voluntarily maintain and improve lesser prairie chicken habitat in the Southern Great Plains.

In addition, NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently finalized a plan that can provide regulatory predictability for farmers and ranchers improving lesser prairie-chicken habitat, should the species be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

As agreed to by NRCS and USFWS, farmers and ranchers voluntarily applying lesser prairie-chicken-friendly conservation practices may be protected from additional regulations under the Endangered Species Act for up to 30 years.

“The partnership between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pheasants Forever, state fish and wildlife agencies and others is will provide crucial tools and resources for voluntary conservation on lands that can benefit the lesser prairie-chicken,” Bonnie said. “It’s partnerships like these that can find solutions for some of our country’s most challenging conservation issues.”

Corn Growers Recognize Good Steward

Pictured here is Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and Jay Lynch from Humboldt, IA accepting the award for Tim Smith who was unable to attend. Tarron Hecox represents award sponsor, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and on the far left is NCGA president Martin Barbre

Pictured here is Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and Jay Lynch from Humboldt, IA accepting the award for Tim Smith who was unable to attend. Tarron Hecox represents award sponsor, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and on the far left is NCGA president Martin Barbre

The National Corn Growers Association recognized good stewardship during the recent 2014 Commodity Classic.

Tim Smith from Eagle Grove, Iowa was honored as the inaugural honoree in NCGA’s Good Steward Recognition Program. The program and award funding was provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation as part of their Harvesting the Potential campaign to raise awareness among U.S. farmers of the importance of conservation agriculture.

Smith grows 820 acres of corn and soybeans in Wright County, located in north central Iowa. Within the past few years, he has adopted strip tillage, nutrient management, cover crops and a bio-reactor on his farm. In addition to developing an NRCS Nutrient Management Plan, Smith participated in a nutrient strip trial to get a better understanding of the impact of reduced nitrogen application on corn yield. He also monitors the water quality benefits of his bio-reactor along with monitoring his tile water to get a better understanding of how his implemented best management practices are impacting water quality. And Smith has conducted soil quality sampling to gather baseline data regarding soil health – to assist with identifying changes/improvements over time as a result of adoption of conservation practices such as strip tillage and cover crops.


2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Coverage is sponsored by John Deere

USDA Helps Landowners in Conservation Practices

nrcsUSDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide $3.6 million in financial assistance for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota farmers and ranchers to help conserve wetlands and improve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, control flooding and strengthen rural economies. The finding is available through the Water Bank Program (WBP). NRCS will accept applications from now until April 18, 2014.

“The Water Bank Program provides a unique opportunity to keep water on the land for the benefit of wildlife, such as waterfowl, while also contributing to flood control, water quality and rural economies,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller.

Through WBP, landowners receive annual payments through a 10-year rental agreement for conserving and protecting wetlands and adjacent lands that may otherwise be used for annual crop production or other activities that require drainage. The program also helps restore upland habitat for more
than 300 species of migratory birds that rely on the Prairie Pothole region for breeding, nesting and resting.

Severe flooding of agriculture land has been a problem in this region and has affected hundreds of farmers. In 2012, landowners enrolled more than 15,000 acres into the Water Bank Program. Eligible land for this year’s WBP included flooded agricultural land, flooded hay, pasture or rangeland and
flooded private forestland.

Find out more here.

CTIC at Commodity Classic

IMG_9917This year at the Commodity Classic, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) was present to talk with farmers about cover crops for conservation.

CTIC has a grant to promote cover crops in seven states and they held a learning center session at Classic to educate farmers about their cover crop options, according to CTIC Project Director Chad Watts. “At this conference we attract a lot of people from the north and they’re all worried about the window and how they can fit cover crops in during the fall and still get enough growth on them before it gets too cold,” said Watts, who adds that there are many choices for producers.

Listen and learn more about cover crops here: Interview with Chad Watts, CTIC

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Coverage is sponsored by John Deere

Mosaic Sponsors World Conservation Ag Conference

wcca1The Mosaic Company is joining several other agribusiness giants, including Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto and Seed Hawk, Inc., as a platinum sponsor of this summer’s 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture (WCCA). The conference runs June 22-25, 2014, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“At Mosaic, we work hard to help farmers sustainably produce more food per acre,” said Rick McLellan, Mosaic Senior Vice President – Commercial. “Mosaic supports the World Congress on Conservation Agriculture because of our shared commitment to advancing modern agriculture techniques and careful resource management.”

WCCA will provide an opportunity for more than 600 people from around the world to meet on conservation issues. During the conference, attendees will talk to leaders in conservation agriculture, network with peers from around the world, engage in policy discussion and learn about the latest research. The conference is hosted by CASA, a network of conservation agriculture organizations across North America, with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and Soil Conservation Council of Canada (SCCC) coordinating the Congress planning committees.

Organizers say the program will revolve around three themes of conservation agriculture:

Sustainable Intensification: Conservation agriculture (CA) allows producers to intensify cropping systems to increase production sustainably without undue expansion in land area devoted to agriculture.

Climate change: A well-designed CA system contains a diversity of crop types and healthy soils that give producers more options for adjusting to changes in rainfall patterns or growing-season temperatures while also contributing to climate change mitigation.

Innovative Adoption: The best teacher of interconnected farming practices is someone who has successfully mastered them. Innovative CA practitioners, researchers and service providers will share their experience and knowledge.

More information is available here.

Grant Applications for Conservation Innovation Efforts

The U.S. Department of Agricultureusda-logo (USDA) is accepting applications for competitive grants to develop and accelerate conservation approaches and technologies on private agricultural and forest lands.

“Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) have contributed to some of the most pioneering conservation work on America’s agricultural and forest lands,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It’s an excellent investment in new conservation technologies and approaches that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can use to achieve their production and conservation goals.”

About $15 million will be made available nationwide by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). State and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental and educational organizations, private businesses and individuals are eligible to apply.

Vilsack said priority will be given to applications that relate to nutrient management, energy conservation, soil health, air quality, climate change, wildlife, economics, sociology, environmental markets, food safety, historically underserved groups, or assessments of past CIG projects.

Farm Bill Signed

President Obama traveled to Michigan State University to sign the Agricultural Act of 2014 on Friday, calling it a bill that has “a lot of tools – it multi-tasks.”

fb-signing“Despite its name, the farm bill is not just about helping farmers,” President Obama told the small crowd invited for the signing. “Secretary Vilsack calls it a jobs bill, an innovation bill, an infrastructure bill, a research bill, a conservation bill. It’s like a Swiss Army knife.”

The president made note of the conservation efforts funded by the bill. “So that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy places like the Mississippi River Valley and Chesapeake Bay,” he said. “It helps rural communities grow, it gives farmers some certainty, it puts in place some important reforms.”

Listen to some of the president’s speech here: President Obama farm bill signing

NRCS and Forest Service Partner for Forest Health

NRCSUSDA has announced a multi-year partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve the health forest ecosystems across the nation. Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie made the announcement this week in Helena, Montana, near the site of the Red Mountain Flume/Chessman Reservoir, one of the first areas to be addressed through the partnership. Another area to be targeted is the San Bernardino/Riverside County area of California which experienced catastrophic wildfires a decade ago.

“NRCS and the Forest Service have the same goal in this partnership – working across traditional boundaries and restoring the health of our forests and watersheds whether they’re on public or private lands,” said Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie.

Ag Leader’s Luke Bunkers on Water Management

Water management. An ongoing issue for growers across the country and around the world. To learn more about some of the big water management issues in agriculture, I turned to Luke Bunkers with Ag Leader who spent some time with me during the 2014 Iowa Power Farming Show.

Luke Bunkers Ag LeaderToday with input costs and costs of fertilizer and seed being as high as they are when you don’t get the crop planted and a good emerged crop with a good stand to it, you don’t get the max benefits out of the crop that you can, explained Bunkers. He noted that too much water is a big proponent of this as well as not enough water and this is where water management comes in.

One of the solutions, said Bunkers, is adding tile to fields. Ag Leader has some precision ag technology, such as the Intellislop tile plow control system, that can raise the success rate of water management. Ag Leader also has software, such as the SMS Advanced Water Management module, that can help develop a tile plan and then analyze the data at any give moment or over time once the plan has been executed.

“The tile plan gives the grower an idea of what the whole system is going to look like including how many feet of tile, what the discharge of that system is going to be, how much water is that system going to be able to handle so Ag Leader encompasses all sides of water management with these two technologies,” explained Bunkers.

Bunkers stressed that every farm is different and tile systems can be put in during the fall or spring. He is going to be participating in some tile clinics during the next few weeks in North and South Dakota put on by Hefty Brothers.

Listen to my full interview with Luke Bunkers: Ag Leader's Luke Bunkers on Water Management

Click here to view the 2014 Iowa Power Farming Show photo album.

Sponsored by Ag Leader Technology

Partnership to Enhance Soil Health

ncgaThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), with support from the Walton Family Foundation and Monsanto, is highlighting the importance of soil health for farmers and the environment with a new Science Advisory Council and formation of the Soil Health Partnership.

“The health of a farm depends on the health of its soil, and that’s what makes this new program an important one for our organization,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre, a corn grower from Illinois. “We developed the Soil Health Partnership with our partners to help our growers be the best farmers they can be, and ensure that their farmland remains valuable and productive for future generations.”

The mission of the Soil Health Partnership is to catalyze enhanced agricultural sustainability and productivity by demonstrating and communicating the economic and environmental benefits of improved soil health. The initial objectives of the program include building a network of demonstration research farms in key corn states; developing recommendations to farmers on a variety of soil management practices aimed at improving productivity, profitability and environmental outcomes; increasing adoption of those recommendations beyond the network of demonstration farms; and increasing the visibility and importance of sound soil management.

Find out more here.

Conservation Measures to Help California

USDA-LogoAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced USDA is making $20 million available for agricultural water conservation efforts throughout California to combat the effects of drought.

calif-drought“This $20 million will be directed to drought mitigation, focused on improving irrigation efficiency, providing producers resources to stabilize fallow ground and to assist with watering facilities and grazing distribution,” said Vilsack during a press conference Tuesday with Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “We expect this is the first of a number of announcements that will be made this week and in the future to provide assistance.”

“We in California are facing a disaster that has the potential to devastate our economy,” said Costa. “We have not had this dry a time period in all of California’s recorded history, that’s how bad it is.”

Interested landowners and managers have until March 3, 2014 to apply for available funds.USDA media call on California drought

Senate Approves Farm Bill

fb-2014The U.S. Senate today voted 68-32 to approve the Agricultural Act of 2014 – what was supposed to be the 2012 Farm Bill.

“This is not your father’s Farm Bill. It’s a new direction for American agriculture policy,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, who notes that the legislation includes “one of the largest investments in land and water conservation we’ve made in many years.”

The Agricultural Act of 2014 consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs while strengthening tools to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife. By streamlining programs, the farm bill provides added flexibility and ensures conservation programs are working for producers in the most effective and efficient way – an approach supported by nearly 650 conservation organizations from all 50 states. These reforms increase resources for top priorities while reducing the deficit by $6 billion.

The president is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.