Hick Chick Chat with Bill and Tim Couser

11326519286_c9a07ae0bf_oDuring Commodity Classic in San Antonio last week, I ran into my new friends Bill and Tim Couser. I met them last October during World Food Prize and Truth about Trade and Technology (TATT) Farmer Roundtable when we toured their operation near Nevada, Iowa. Last week they were sitting on a panel discussing soil health, partnership with the National Corn Growers Association, Monsanto and the Nature Conservancy. I had a chance to chat with the Cousers and discuss what types of plans they are making for their farm and the profitability of such an alliance.

soil-healthThe ultimate goal of the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is to measure and communicate the economic and environmental benefits of different soil management strategies; and provide a set of regionally specific, data-driven recommendations that farmers can use to improve the productivity and sustainability of their farms. Over the next five years, SHP will work to aggregate regional data to catalyze a platform for knowledge-sharing from farmer to farmer to create a set of best practices to improve soil health.

You can listen to the Hick Chick Chat here: Hick Chick Chat with Bill and Tim Couser
You can listen to the full Soil Health Partnership press conference here: Soil Health Partnership Press Conference

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

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Deadline Extended for Conservation Stewardship

header_nrcsThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the deadline for new enrollments in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for fiscal year 2014. Producers interested in participating in the program can now submit applications to NRCS through Feb. 7, 2014.

“Extending the enrollment deadline will make it possible for more farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to apply for this important Farm Bill conservation program,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “Through their conservation actions, these good stewards are ensuring that their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run and CSP can help them take their operations to the next level of natural resource management.”

Weller said today’s announcement is another example of USDA’s comprehensive focus on promoting environmental conservation and strengthening the rural economy, and it is a reminder that a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is pivotal to continue these efforts. CSP is now in its fifth year and so far, NRCS has partnered with producers to enroll more than 59 million acres across the nation.

Producers earn higher payments for higher performance. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources and energy use.

Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP through Feb. 7 to be eligible during fiscal 2014. While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods. To be eligible for this year’s enrollment, producers must have their applications submitted to NRCS by the closing date.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.

Learn more about CSP by visiting the NRCS website or any local USDA service center.

Land O’Lakes, Inc. Acquires Geosys

land o lakesLand O’Lakes, Inc. announced its acquisition of Geosys, a global technology firm that provides satellite imaging and insights to agribusiness.

The acquisition caps a multi-year relationship between Geosys and Land O’Lakes through its WinField division, which utilizes select Geosys technologies in the United States.

“This acquisition further cements Land O’Lakes’ position as a leader in agribusiness. We are developing tomorrow’s agricultural technology today, and this acquisition fits that strategic drive,” said Land O’Lakes President and CEO Chris Policinski. “Today’s purchase demonstrates Land O’Lakes’ leadership in helping to build the farm of the future with cutting-edge concepts and technologies. These industry-leading technologies give farmers the tools to make critical decisions to improve yields while reducing their environmental footprint and further help our member cooperatives to leverage proven tools that turn data into decision enablers that drive productivity and sustainable agricultural practices.”

Geosys, which has more than 50 employees in multiple countries, has sought a strategic partner for accelerated growth, said Damien Lepoutre, president of Geosys.

“We are excited to align our business with Land O’Lakes because of the cooperative’s outstanding reputation in the industry, their understanding of the critical need for cutting-edge technology in agronomy and our excellent relationship,” said Lepoutre, who will remain president of Geosys. “We know the combination of Land O’Lakes’ expertise in agriculture and Geosys’ expertise in technology have proven results, and we know this combination will position both companies to continue to be leaders in precision agriculture.”

Ag Secretary Visits NAFB

vilsackAg Secretary Tom Vilsack made a trip to Kansas City to visit with farm broadcasters during the 70th National Association of Farm Broadcasting Annual Convention. The Secretary centered his comments around the RFS announcement, record levels of exports, drought issues and of course, the farm bill.

Vilsack started off by thanking all the farm broadcaster for the work that they do and shared how nice it was to talk to a crowd that understood what truly happens on the farm and appreciates the rural lifestyle.

The first topic Vilsack discussed was his excitement with agricultural exports. He stated, “We have now reached a record level of agricultural exports. Once again, $140.9 billon exports. It’s the best five years of ag exports in the history of the country. If you compare it to the pervious five year period we’ve done $230 billon more of agriculture exports and our volume is up as well.”

Next, the Secretary commented on this mornings announcement about the establishment of the National Drought Resiliency partnership. It is a collaborative effort between the Department of Commerce, Department of Interior, Department of Energy, Army Corp of Engineers, EPA, FEMA and the USDA. The goal with this team effort is to become better prepared and to mitigate the consequences of future droughts.

The final announcement came from the EPA today about RFS. Vilsack said, “At USDA we are going to focus on those aspects of this industry that we can control.” They plan to work with the industry and specifically the larger operators to create a distribution system to increase the availability of ethanol products and not depend on the petroleum industry.

You can listen to the entire press conference here Secretary Vilsack Press Conference

Checkout photos from NAFB Convention: 2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album

What is Conservation Agriculture Worth?

CTIC Dialogue6The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) Dialogues are right around the corner. The panel discussion will focus on the economic and ecological benefits of agricultural conservation systems. Conservation tools, measurements for economic and ecological benefits, long-term economic returns and their effects on producers’ decision-making processes and conservation trends that will affect agriculture in the next five years are all topics the panel will cover.

Agricultural conservation systems could hold solutions for several of the issues we are facing in agriculture, such as a growing population and the loss of land for agriculture. Conservation agriculture enables producers to do more with less while protecting water and air quality, improving the soil, providing habitat for wildlife, contributing to a healthy community and producing high-yielding crops for our nation’s feed, fiber and fuel.

The event will take place October 21 from 3:30-5:30pm in Washington, D.C. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2168.

Panelists will include:
- Suzy Friedman – Director of Agricultural Sustainability, Environmental Defense Fund
- Josh Maxwell – Senior Professional Staff, House Committee on Agriculture
- Ray McCormick – Producer, Indiana
- Jean Payne – President, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association
- Wallace Tyner – Professor of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University
- Sara Wyant, Moderator & President, Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

For more information visit www.ctic.org/CTICDialogues or call 756-494-9555.

Keeping Nitrogen in Fields Farmers’ Priority, Too

ctic-13-tim-smithContrary to what seems to be reported many times, farmers don’t want to see their field nutrients washed on down the river to contribute to some “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Farmers don’t want nitrogen to leave their fields. They want it in their corn crop,” explained Tim Smith during the recent Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill. Tim is a managing agronomist for Cropsmith and a Certified Crop Adviser. He also used to work for the University of Illinois developing ways to improve nitrogen use efficiency in crop production and helped develop the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT) to improve nitrogen recommendations for corn. During the tour, he presented information about their demonstration plots in the Indian Creek watershed. “Anything we can do to demonstrate and show them how they can be more efficient, they’re very interested in, and it’s also good for the environment. So I think it can be a real win-win.”

Tim said this has been a real good group to work with, and he’s impressed by the large number of farmers in that area participating and the questions he’s heard on the CTIC tour.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Tim here: Interview with Tim Smith, Cropsmith

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

CTIC Tour: Filter Strips Valuable for Soil Health

ctic-13-terry-bachtoldHealthy soils are products of good management practices. And topping the list of practices for Terry Bachtold (shown getting an appreciation present for all his hard work of hosting), one of the host farmers for last week’s Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., is using filter strips.

“I’m a big believer in filter strips,” he exclaimed. “Whether it is my cattle operation or a corn grain farmer, I just feel filter strips do a lot for water quality improvements.” Even with his affinity toward filter strips, Terry believes that a variety of techniques can bring healthy soils to a farm, including cover crops, no-till or rotational grazing.

Terry admitted that he is not a row crop farmer, separating his farm into pasture paddocks rotational grazing for his cow-calf operation. He added what a difference a year had made in recovering from drought conditions on his farm.

“Last year at this time, we were buying hay from July 4th. This year, we’ve got plenty of pastures.”

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Terry here: Interview with Terry Bachtold, host on CTIC tour

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Good Practices on Display on CTIC Tour

ctic-13-pauley-bradleyThe latest Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., has been a good way for the farmers of that region to showcase what they are doing to be good stewards of the environment, while making sure they maintain a good bottom line. Pauley Bradley with John Deere and a member of the CTIC is shown welcoming everyone to the opening reception sponsored by John Deere. He said this is the third year CTIC has been involved in the Indian Creek watershed project that shows how to balance good stewardship with good economics.

“The goal was to get at least half of the producers in the watershed as part of the initiative to do everything they could on the land to improve water quality in the area. We’ve got more than 40 percent participation right now, which is tremendous, [with] a lot of collaboration and a lot of folks pulling in the same direction,” Pauley said, adding that it was heartening to see capacity crowds on the tour, with many of those from the city able to see for themselves the good practices going on. “I talked to Dr. Norm Widman who’s the national agronomist from NRCS last night, and he said, ‘You know, we just have to get out of town, away from the concrete buildings and get grounded every once in a while.’ ”

Pauley went on to say he was quite pleased to see how much information they could pack into the days of this tour.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Pauley here: Interview with Pauley Bradley, John Deere and a member of CTIC

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Crowds on CTIC Tour Appreciated by Host Farmer

ctic-13-mike-trainorGood crowds from around the area and many parts of the country turned out for last week’s Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., and that was appreciated by the local farmers.

“Today we had a lot of people here. When you go to all that work, and you put these plots in, and you try to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong, to see this many people come in on our farm and see what we’ve done, it kind of gives you a real good feeling about what you do,” said Mike Trainor the host at the Trainor family farm, one of the stops on the CTIC tour, and a certified Crop Adviser and a registered USDA technical service provider. He’s in the picture with his dad, Jack Trainor, getting an appreciation award for letting CTIC come to the family farm.

Mike said with pricey inputs, it makes economical and ecological sense to make sure they don’t runoff.

“As expensive as the inputs are, we need to figure out how to put ‘em there, how to keep ‘em there, and how to best utilize ‘em.”

Mike said it’s also rewarding to be recognized by the federal regulators at the EPA that farmers like him are trying to do what’s best for the environment. He said even without the feds, it’s important for them to be able to pass this operation down to the next generation of farmers in the family.

“We’re all in it together, and we want it to be profitable for them down the road and good for the environment.”

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Mike here: Interview with Mike Trainor, Trainor Farms

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Avoiding Nitrate Runoff Focus of CTIC Panel

ctic-13-marcus-maierOne of the best parts about the Conservation Technology Information Center tour is the conversations that come up, either through formal panels or just informal talks. On the more formal side, local Livingston County, Ill., farmer Marcus Maier (pictured seated, holding the microphone) sat on a panel during the tour that addressed soil health and the issue of nitrate runoff into local watersheds.

“We’re trying to get farmers to implement conservations systems,” he explained, not only just cover crops or filter strips or field buffers, but a whole system, including nutrient management systems. Marcus said the biggest challenge is nitrate runoff into the Indian Creek watershed. “Two towns are fed by Indian Creek: Fairbury with a population of about 4,000 and Pontiac has about 12,000. So that’s our goal to help reduce [those nitrate levels in the water supplies].”

On the more informal side, lots of farmers are talking about how they’ve had much better rain than last year, which is good for the crops but kept many out of the field for a long time, putting them a bit behind. Overall, though, Marcus is pretty optimistic about how the crops in that area will turn out this year.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Marcus here: Interview with Marcus Maier, CTIC panelist, local farmer

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Voluntary Conservation Efforts Above Regulations

ctic-13-marcia-willhiteGetting caught up in government regulations and red tape is something any farmer wants to avoid, and attendees of the recent Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., heard how they can avoid more of that with voluntary programs, such as the one on display on the tour. Marcia Willhite, the Chief of the Bureau of Water with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said they’re encouraged by the success of the Indian Creek project and how voluntary efforts by farmers are paying dividends for everyone.

“Our culture is such on the agricultural side that a voluntary, incentive-based approach is what we have to work with,” she said. “I think it might be somewhat of a motivator to avoid regulations, but my sense is that the speakers and farmers in this watershed are focusing on is they see the benefit for their own productivity, they see the benefit for water quality for their own community.”

Marcia went on to say that this is a good story that needs to be told about how farmers and government are working together for the betterment of all.

“We’ve just been real excited about the success of finding out what happens when a large number of producers within a watershed decide to commit to conservation practices. There has been leadership among producers, taking charge of what they want to do to address water quality issues.”

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Hans here: Interview with Marcia Willhite, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Lucero Joins Eco Agro Resources

ecoagroEco Agro Resources is proud to announce the appointment of Luciano Lucero as the regional manager of South America.

Luciano’s hiring is consistent with Eco Agro Resources’ overall strategy to support local markets and to provide greater value to customers. Luciano’s ability to introduce the South American market to innovative urease inhibitor N-Yield and to the developing product line is consistent with Eco Agro’s focus and commitment to servicing local markets.

Ray Perkins President of Sales says, “Having an Eco Agro Resources representative in the South American market will enhance our ability to provide the customer service South American customers deserve. Luciano’s market expertise and experience within the agriculture market coupled with our innovative urease inhibitor N-Yield will provide South American customers access to our innovative techniques and potential significant product yield increases.”

In support of the South American’s Agriculture market, EAR also proudly announces the July 1 launch of our website in Portuguese with a Spanish version to follow shortly.

NRCS Helps Agriculture Mitigate Climate Change

usda-logoUSDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has developed the world’s largest soil carbon dataset to help producers and planners estimate the impacts of conservation practices on soil carbon levels. USDA is committed to reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint, as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed in a June 5 address at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Secretary outlined USDA’s modern solutions for environmental challenges.

Soil has tremendous potential to store carbon, which reduces the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Storage potential varies among soils, land covers, land uses and management, and NRCS soil scientists took 148,000 individual soil samples and evaluated them for carbon content. This Rapid Carbon Assessment, or RaCA, dataset serves as a baseline or snapshot in time for the amount of carbon each soil type is holding.

Landowners can calculate how much carbon their conservation practices such as cover crops can remove from the atmosphere with the new tools, COMET- Farm and the Agricultural Policy Environmental Extender, or APEX model.

Terra Novo Launches EarthGuard EDGE

TerraNovoTerra Novo, a leading manufacturer of erosion and sediment control products in Bakersfield, California, is expanding its EarthGuard line to include EarthGuard EDGE, a pellet form of the popular product for erosion control. The new EDGE formula allows users to apply the product without water by hand, mechanically, or air-drop. It’s ideal for use in remote areas with limited water and for smaller jobs where hydromulching is cost-prohibitive.

Like the rest of the EarthGuard product line, EarthGuard EDGE is non-toxic, 100% biodegradable and meets NSF drinking-water standards. It is chemically engineered to absorb the impact of raindrops and provides immediate erosion control and soil stabilization until permanent vegetation is established or until construction has resumed. EarthGuard EDGE is effective for erosion control, slope stabilization, landscape design, reclamation, storm water runoff protection, fire/burn rehabilitation, land development and construction.

New CAST Report Examines Nurtrient Use

castResearch, planning and implementation of the proper use of nutrients could shape food production and yields in the years ahead. A new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology examines the process shaping the current nutrient situation and the resulting requirements as world food production evolves during the next 40 years.

Two of the authors of the report, Food, Fuel and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future, will discuss their findings at a 3 p.m. briefing on Monday, March 18. This briefing will be in the State Room of the DoubleTree Hotel, 1515 Rhode Island Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. There is no charge to attend and registration is not required.

Future food, fiber and fuel demands will not be met by expanding cropland area, according to the report. Continued advances in nutrient use efficiency will moderate increased nutrient demand. With growing populations, dwindling arable land, and greater demand for biofuels, the world cannot count on an expansion of harvested area to meet food demands. Genetics will be needed to improve crop productivity, promote soil conservation and management, and maximize nutrient efficiency.