BASF Celebrates Corn and Soybean Farmers

classic14-basf-banquet1BASF Crop Protection helped corn and soybean growers celebrate the achievements of the past year as sponsors of the big association banquets during the Commodity Classic last week.

At the National Corn Growers Association banquet, BASF Manager for Plant Health and Seed Treatment Dr. Gary Fellows talked about how corn growers are living Howard Buffett’s “40 Chances” challenge to make a difference in the world. “You are all greatly maximizing your 40 chances, or 40 seasons, to producing more out of the same acre,” Gary said, paying tribute to the corn yield contest and scholarship winners who were honored during the banquet.

classic14-basf-sharonBASF Communications and Industry Relations Manager Sharon Hall attended the American Soybean Association annual banquet and helped to present the Conservation Legacy Awards, which BASF co-sponsors. Iowa soybean farmer David Ausberger was honored as both the Midwest regional and the national award winner. Jerry Peery of Kentucky received the the South Region award, and Mark and Phyllis Legan of Indiana received the award for the Northeast Region.

BASF at the 2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Soil Health Partnership Update at Classic

soil-healthSince the health of a farm depends largely on healthy soil, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), with support from the Walton Family Foundation and Monsanto, recently announced the formation a new Science Advisory Council and the Soil Health Partnership (SHP).

During a press conference at the Commodity Classic, members of the partnership discussed plans to help farmers enhance soil health and introduced the initiative’s first demonstration farmers – Bill and Tim Couser of Nevada, Iowa. NCGA vice president of production and utilization Paul Bertels, Monsanto sustainable business solutions lead Michael Doane, and Sean McMahon, North American agriculture program director for The Nature Conservancy, also took part in the discussion.

SHP’s ultimate goal 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.

Listen to the full Soil Health Partnership press conference here: Soil Health Partnership Press Conference

Interview with Tim and Bill Couser: Bill and Tim Couser Interview

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Cover Crop Seed Growth

asta-risa-cssWith cover crops becoming increasingly important for farmers to provide nutrients and protect against erosion, different varieties are being developed to address specific needs.

At the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CSS & Seed Expo in Chicago, I learned more about that from Risa DeMasi with Grassland Oregon, who is second vice chairman of ASTA. “Our company is very involved with cover crop research…working on sustainability issues for the soil and for the farmer,” she said. “Our mission is to provide novel solutions for growing concerns of the growers today.”

Risa says there are a number of different types of cover crops that are best for achieving specific goals, whether that is addressing soil erosion, soil compaction, water or nutrient management, wildlife habitat – or all of the above. One variety they are particularly excited about is Balansa clover. “It provides a great amount of nitrogen,” said Risa. “It also creates very deep channels in the soil, so you get water availability when you want it and drainage when you don’t. It’s creating a lot of top growth so you get weed suppression. It also can create an environment of habitat for certain wildlife.”

ASTA is becoming more involved in the educational aspect of cover crops for all stakeholders, from policy makers in Washington to the farmers on the ground. Learn more in this interview: Interview with Risa DeMasi, Grassland Oregon

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Happy World Soil Day

World Soil DayGot soil? Go outside and dig your fingers in it. It’s World Soil Day!

Here’s a message from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service on how important healthy soil is and how using conservation practices like no-till can help farmers take better care of their land.

When soil is heavily tilled, the stalks from the previous crop are chopped, and the top several inches of soil structure are disturbed. Conventional thought suggests this fluffing action allows for better seed placement, but Ray Archuleta, NRCS conservation agronomist, said that no-till systems, especially when combined with cover crops, are better – and lead to healthier, more drought-resistant soil.

Archuleta, who works at the agency’s East National Technology Center in Greensboro, N.C., said no-till has significant financial benefits for producers, too.

“No-tillage can save thousands of dollars every year in fuel, labor and equipment maintenance,” Archuleta said. “The key is to let the soil organisms do the work.”

Here’s a message from the FAO and the Global Soil Partnership.

FedEx Delivers Early Christmas Present for Troops

t4tlogoFedEx Corp. is spreading holiday cheer to America’s service members and their families this season with a special delivery of more than 17,000 live Christmas trees. For the past nine years, Trees for Troops has brought together FedEx, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and tree farmers from across the country to ship real Christmas trees to service members overseas and to military bases here in the U.S.

“FedEx team members often feel like we’re playing ‘Santa’ during the holiday season for so many of our customers, but the delivery of these Christmas trees to our men and women in uniform is one of our most treasured holiday traditions,” said Bill Logue, president and CEO, FedEx Freight. “The holidays are a tremendously busy time for FedEx, but we’re honored to be invited to mobilize our logistics network in support of the dedication of America’s servicemen and women.”

The initiative kicked off in Thorntown, Indiana where the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association donated Christmas trees. Their trees will be shipped to service members stationed in the Middle Eat via the FedEx Express hub in Indianapolis. Then FedEx Freight will hit the road to deliver trees to U.S. military bases. Many of the deliveries will also include special holiday festivities in which military families will pick-up their much anticipated Christmas trees. The National Christmas Tree Association is also doing their part in donating thousands of trees through their philanthropic branch. The public can also donate to help support this cause.

Trees for Troops is part of FedEx Special Delivery, a nationwide program that supports local organizations by donating transportation services and other assistance to help them fulfill their missions. Since it launched in 2005, FedEx has shipped more than 122,000 real Christmas trees to service members and their families – covering every branch of the military at more than 60 bases in 17 countries.

Discussing Future of Fed Conservation Programs

farmfoundationlogo3The Farm Bill is still up in the air on Capitol Hill, and that’s why the folks at Farm Foundation have set up another of their free forums not too far from where Congress will be discussing the legislation’s future. In this next forum on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C., the group has invited a host of experts to talk about the future of federal conservation programs and what those programs mean to land owners and conservation work on the land.

Moderating the panel will be former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm. Five panelists will present perspectives on the legislation:

Bruce Knight of Strategic Conservation Solutions and former Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will provide an overview of federal conservation policies and the role of federal programs in conservation work.
Eric Lindstrom, who works on wetlands and water conservation at Ducks Unlimited, will discuss that organizations’ migratory bird program, including the federal duck stamp program.
North Dakota farmer Don Bauman will explain the role of conservation in his farming operation.
Marcus Maier of the Indian Creek Watershed Project, will discuss the role of federal programs in this farmer-led project.

To sign up, click here. Also, if you can’t make it to the event, the audio will be archived on the Farm Foundation website.

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 or call 756-494-9555.

Jason Weller Appointed Chief of NRCS

Jason Weller, NRCSCongratulations to Jason Weller on his appointment as Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service where he has served as acting chief the last eight months. Jason is pictured at the recent CTIC Conservation in Action Tour. Here are some notes from the notice about his appointment.

As Acting Chief, Jason has moved swiftly to transform NRCS’s Administrative Functions; support the expansion of innovative programs and initiatives including landscape conservation initiatives, regulatory certainty, soil health and market-based programs; and raise the external profile of the world’s premier private land conservation agency.

Jason brings to NRCS a longstanding commitment to and understanding of the agency. He served as a staff member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture where he provided oversight and crafted bills to fund NRCS programs. He served on the House Budget Committee staff where he helped construct NRCS’s budget. And he worked at the Office of Management and Budget where he was NRCS’s budget examiner. All of these skills and experiences are serving the agency well today.

Monsanto Part of CTIC Conservation Efforts

ctic-13-emilio-oyarzabalMonsanto was one of the sponsors on the recent Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., and Chuck caught up with the company’s Emilio Oyarzabal, who said the CTIC’s work is very important to Monsanto and its customers.

“We need agriculture more than ever,” Emilio said, but he added that farmers are being accused of doing environmental damage. “If we observe the problem and see how we can fix this, conservation is one way to make your farm sustainable and deflect that criticism.”

Emilio said Monsanto is right on the forefront of that environmental charge, working on how to double crop yields and decrease the inputs by a third… not an easy task.

“Biotechnology is a tool, but not the only tool. We need to make a paradigm shift in what we do in agriculture,” suggesting new crop rotations and different ways of using fertilizers, just to name a few ideas. “We need to think in different ways.”

He went on to say that precision farming tools are helping farmers adopt better practices, while companies are providing the better tools farmers need.

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Emilio here: Emilio Oyarzabal, Monsanto

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Investing in Illinois Soil’s Wealth

ctic-13-jean-payne“The wealth of Illinois is in her soil, and her strength lies in its intelligent development.” That quote was from one of the first presidents of the University of Illinois almost 200 years, but attendees of the recent Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., heard it reiterated by Jean Payne, President of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, who spoke at one of the tour dinners.

She says, while many recognize the need for good investment in that great natural resource, the recent economic troubles of Illinois has ended up cutting any state funding to nurture that investment. Rather than relying on the government, members of Jean’s group decided they’d take their own fate in their own hands and not be dragged down by what went on with the politicians.

“Are we going to let this tremendous [ag] industry get sucked down the vacuum that is becoming our state government? I said ‘No!’”

They went to other ag groups, including the Farm Bureau, corn and soybean growers, pork producers and Syngenta Crop Protection, and they were able to raise support for research. Eventually, they talked the Illinois legislature into letting them put together their own fertilizer checkoff that the groups, not the state, would manage. Now, they’re able to collect $2.5 million each year that they can use to be good stewards of the land.

“Despite the fact that we have a vacuum in our state government, I feel phenomenal about where our Illinois agriculture stands with our nutrient stewardship efforts. And it’s only going to get better,” Jean said.

She said they’ll need to keep working to educate people about the need for the checkoff and the dividends it pays on that investment.

“We have had to fight for this, [but] everything in life worth having is worth fighting for.”

Listen to Jean’s remarks to the CTIC group here: Jean Payne, President of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Corn Growers Adopting New Conservation Practices

Dan Cole NCGAThe National Corn Growers Association is very supportive of the work of the Conservation Technology Information Council. That certainly makes sense as corn farmers have a strong desire to better manage their land in a sustainable way.

During the 2013 Conservation in Action Tour, Dan Cole, corn grower (left in photo) and member of the NCGA Production & Stewardship Action Team (PSAT), was on hand along with other growers to see the projects being worked on in the Indian Creek Watershed. NCGA sponsored the first tour stop at the Bachtold Farm which focused on soil health.

You can listen to my interview with Dan here: Interview with Dan Cole

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Stabilizing Nitrogen Important for Conservation Tillage

2013 CTIC TourI want to say a big thanks to Koch Agronomic Services for being the sponsor of our coverage of the 2013 Conservation in Action Tour again this year. During the tour I visited with Greg Schwab, Director of Agronomy. He says that some of the products they make help farmers do conservation tillage. One of the challenges is maintaining the fertilizer nitrogen that you apply which can be lost as a gas. That’s where their product AGROTAIN plays a role since it is a nitrogen stabilizer. There are a number of research plots that we saw during the tour in the Indian Creek Watershed.

You can listen to my interview with Greg here: Interview with Greg Schwab

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Case IH’s Long History with CTIC

ctic-13-alan-forbesCase IH has a long history with the Conservation Technology Information Center, so it just makes sense that they were an overall sponsor and sponsored dinner one evening during the tour in Livingston County, Ill., at Rooster Heaven, a hunting club near the Vermilion River. Chuck caught up with Alan Forbes with Case IH, who serves on the CTIC board and explained why his company has been so involved with the group for the past 30 years.

“Really, they just have a culture and attitude of conservation that really fits what we believe in at Case IH when it comes to preserving the water, the air, natural resources. Culturally, it fits us.”

Alan says the Indian Creek watershed project, which looks to address preventing runoff into the area’s creeks and rivers, represents a best-in-class initiative for conservation.

“Lots of people talk conservation about what we could do, what we should do, but here producers are putting together real-world initiatives that are providing benefits, not only in the watershed, but some of the best practices witnessed here are being exported nationwide and across North America. It’s a real good effort and it’s something that Case IH is happy to be a part of,” he said.

Alan added that Case IH’s push into precision farming equipment falls in line with this whole conservation theme, helping farmers make sure they have the right inputs in the right quantities in the right places. And the CTIC tour expands that into making sure those inputs STAY where they are needed.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Alan here: Interview with Alan Forbes, Case IH

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

Farmers Want to Save Nitrogen, 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

Cover Crops Improving Soil Health

Roger Windhorn USDA-NRCSWhen I attended the CTIC Indian Creek Watershed Tour last year it was in the middle of the drought and the ground was so dry that Roger Windhorn, USDA-NRCS, couldn’t even find moisture when he dug a soil pit. Different situation this year since he found water about 30 inches down on the Bachtold farm.

Roger was giving a presentation on soil health giving us an up close and personal look at how cover crop roots grow and contribute to improve the soil. You’ll be able to see it yourself in the video and listen to him explain.

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

CTIC Tour Host Big Believer in Filter Strips

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 Drainage Key to Managing Watershed Runoff

ctic-13-phil-algreenOn the recent Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., we’ve talked a lot about nutrients draining into the local watershed and how to prevent that. Part of that formula includes controlling any water drainage from the land, and Phil Algreen with Agri Drain, a company that specializes in drainage management, talked to the crowd about some of his company’s products.

“Well, the main thing we use to [manage drainage] is called a water level control structure, a device you put on a tile main outlet [that allows] you to control [at one spot] the water table in that area affected by that tile,” adding that it is seasonally adjustable — less drainage in the winter and summer and maybe more in the spring when you’re trying to plant a crop.

But Phil talked bigger picture with the folks on the CTIC tour, explaining how their systems are not necessarily good for every situation and how they are mostly built for the flat topography of an area like Livingston County, Ill.

“But there are other practices besides drainage management we talked about: saturated buffers, wood-chip bioreactors… different things you can do, depending on the area where you live. Kind of like tools in a tool box. You’ve got to pick the right one.”

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Phil here: Interview with Phil Algreen with Agri Drain

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album

CTIC is Good Way to Show Good Practices

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

Farmer Appreciates Crowds, Support on CTIC Tour

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

CTIC: Using Cover Crops to Boost Yields

ctic-13-mike-plumerGetting the most out of what you’ve got is a goal that most producers have, and during last week’s Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., the value of using cover crops to boost a bottom line was shown. Mike Plumer is a retired University of Illinois Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources and currently a consultant for conservation agriculture, in particular, cover crops. He made a presentation to the group about the value cover crops can add.

“We’re seeing a lot of benefits,” Mike said. “One, we’re capturing nitrogen, holding that nitrogen so we don’t lose it, we’re increasing root infiltration so we get more water movement in the soil, we’re adding more biological activity, we’re adding organic matter to the soil, and as a result, we’re typically seeing yield increases.”

Mike echoed the sentiments of other speakers who showed that cover crops can help save yields, especially during drought years, and pointed to one farmer who told him his yields were 50 bushels an acre better where he had a cover crop.

During one stop on the CTIC tour, Mike discussed several different options in cover crops and how to use each of them.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Mike here: Interview with Mike Plumer, cover crop specialist

2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album