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Farmer wins national conservation legacy award

• Updated Mar 2, 2018 at 10:24 AM

Here is a roundup of various agriculture-related press releases:

Iowa Farmer Wins National Conservation Legacy Award

The American Soybean Association (ASA) presented Mark Schleisman, from Lake City, Iowa, with the 2018 National Conservation Legacy Award during the annual ASA Awards Banquet on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

Prior to Schleisman’s recognition as the program’s national winner, he was named the Midwest Regional winner of the Conservation Legacy Award. The national award winner is chosen from three regional winners. The other 2018 regional winners were Dave and Linda Burrier, Union Bridge, Md. (Northeast Region) and Grant Norwood, Mansfield, Tenn. (South Region).

The Conservation Legacy Awards program is a national program designed to recognize the outstanding environmental and conservation achievements of soybean farmers, which help to produce more sustainable U.S. soybeans. Along with ASA, the program is co-sponsored by BASF, Monsanto, Corn & Soybean Digest magazine, the United Soybean Board/Soybean Checkoff and Valent.

Schleisman heads up M&M Farms, a diverse family operation in Calhoun County, Iowa. M&M Farms grows 4,500 acres of crops, including 2,000 acres of popcorn; manages 360 cow-calf pairs; and finish approximately 30,000 head of pigs.

With livestock being such an important part of the M&M Farms operation, Schleisman was approached by Practical Farmers of Iowa to do a three-year research project documenting the economic benefits of cover crops and grazing. He and three other farmers documented the feed value of the biomass produced by cover crops.

“The amount of cover crop growth we get is very weather dependent, but we have seen a value of $70 an acre or more, with our top year coming in at $76 an acre,” Schleisman said. “The benefit to the cows is tremendous.”

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Soy Growers Concerned Over President Trump’s Steep Tariffs on Steel, Aluminum

The ASA voiced its extreme concern today as President Donald Trump announced the decision to impose steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Trump plans to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum to protect both industries, which he states poses a threat to national security. These tariffs will be applied across all countries including China. China is not only U.S. soy’s largest customer, but also the top market for U.S. soybeans, purchasing more than all our other customers combined, accounting for $14 billion in sales and more than a third of total U.S. soybean production.

These tariffs could lead to retaliation from China and would significantly endanger the current trade relationship between the U.S. and China for soybeans.

“The tariffs announced today by the administration will put the interests of other domestic industries over farmers,” said John Heisdorffer, ASA president and Iowa soy grower. “Prior to today’s announcement, China has indicated that it may retaliate against U.S. soybean imports, which would be devastating to U.S. soy growers. Our competitors in Brazil and Argentina are all too happy to pick up supplying the Chinese market.”

Retaliation from China would add significant further injury to an already-hobbled farm economy. Prices are down 40 percent and farm income is down 50 percent, and we simply can’t afford for those numbers to get worse.

Soybean farmers urge the White House to move forward with a China strategy that strengthens the competitiveness of our domestic industries, while at the same time growing our export opportunities.

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ExploreAg science camp accepting applications

Ohio high school freshman and sophomores in the 2018/2019 school year who are considering careers is science, technology or engineering are invited to apply for the integrated science camp ExploreAg.

Rewarding careers are available in the food, fuel and fiber sector. The one-of-a-kind ExploreAg Camp will expose students to the many career opportunities that are in high demand.

Fifty students will be chosen through a competitive process to spend one week on a college campus for an introduction to agriculture and hands-on learning experiences. Internationally known teachers, scientists and researchers will expose students to food science, precision agriculture, animal science, natural resources, management skills, technology and agricultural business. Along with classroom experience, the students will participate in field experiences that highlight cutting-edge research and will interact with industry partners to learn about possible careers in related fields. Students also will participate in leadership development activities and be offered guidance in planning for college.

Students may choose between camps at Ohio State University in Columbus June 10 to 15 or OSU-Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster June 17-22. The application deadline is April 6, and students who are selected will be notified by April 23.

Students will be required to submit a video application, provide contact information for three adults willing to recommend the student and submit a resume.

The camps are free, but a $50 deposit must be provided by students accepted to the camp. The deposit is refunded upon completion of the camp.

ExploreAg is a signature project of the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation’s Fisher Fund, named after former Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher. The foundation has committed $125,000 to the first two years of ExploreAg.

For more information or to submit an application, visit ExploreAg.org.

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Ohio Department of Agriculture launches new sensitive crop registry

New registry provides an improved mapping system for high-value sensitive crops and honey bees

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced a new partnership with FieldWatch, Inc. to introduce a new sensitive crop registry that will enhance communication between applicators and producers in Ohio. FieldWatch is a not-for-profit company with existing registries currently used by multiple states and private companies across the country. The new partnership will facilitate increased awareness, communication and interaction between all parties as part of ongoing stewardship activities.

The Ohio Sensitive Crop Registry (OSCR) brought to you by FieldWatch will allow beekeepers and commercial producers of specialty crops (such as tomatoes, fruit trees, grapes and organic crops) to register and map their sites online with an easy-to-use mapping tool and provide contact information about their operation. Pesticide applicators can access the site to help determine the scope and location of specialty crops and beehives in their areas. Registered applicators can sign up to receive email notifications when new specialty crop fields or beehives are added to their designated state, county or areas.

“FieldWatch has made great progress in other states and we are excited to partner with them on this project in Ohio,” said Matt Beal, chief of the ODA Division of Plant Health. “This technology is cutting-edge and will bring applicators and producers together to communicate their needs as we work toward our shared goal of the safe use of pesticides in our state.”

The new registry is free and voluntary to use. Both commercial and hobby beekeepers can use the system, however only managers and owners of specialty crop fields that are used for commercial production and are of at least a half-acre in size will have fields approved by the state data steward. OSCR by FieldWatch is not intended for homeowners or those with small gardens.

Pesticide applicators will have different options for viewing locations on the new system but all users (applicators, producers, and beekeepers) will need to go to www.fieldwatch.com and create an account to get started.

Questions about OSCR by FieldWatch can be directed to 614-728-6386 or SensitiveCropRegistry@agri.ohio.gov or info@fieldwatch.com.

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Corn growers release statement after visit to White House

The following is a statement from North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), in response to today’s White House meeting on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“For corn farmers, the question for the ongoing White House discussions is simple – what is the problem you are trying to solve? said Skunes.

"According to EPA, refiners don’t have a problem. EPA concluded in November that refiners are able to recover the cost of RINs through the prices they receive for refined products and that RIN values are not causing economic harm to refiners.

"For farmers, ethanol blending equals corn demand. Farmers care about RIN values, not because we want them to be high, but because we want the RIN market mechanism to work freely to incentivize blending. Increased blending will, in turn, lower RIN values, exactly the way the RFS is intended to work. Government manipulation of the RIN market, on the other hand, disrupts the incentive to blend.

"This is why farmers continue to tell the Administration that providing regulatory parity for E15 and higher blends is the best policy answer for refiners’ concerns.

"Allowing the RIN market to operate freely with year-round sales of E15 would increase the production and consumption of renewable fuels, increase the supply of RINs available for compliance and lower RIN values. Increased use of biofuels is already moving us in this direction, and increased use of E15 and higher blends will get us there faster.

"As discussions continue with the Administration, corn farmers thank President Trump and USDA Secretary Perdue for listening to farmers’ views and supporting agriculture. We ask that they maintain their strong stated support for the RFS by not interfering with the market mechanism that helps grow biofuels blending.”

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Kansas Farm Family Showcases New Sustainability Ethic on the Farm

A Kansas farm family’s soil-friendly, progressive farming practices and contributions to sustainable crop production earned them national notoriety as they were presented with the National Corn Growers Association’s 2018 Good Steward Recognition.

Randy and Nicole Small of Neodesha, Kansas received the Good Steward designation at the Commodity Classic convention and trade show in Anaheim, CA. The program and recognition funding is 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.

“NCGA is known for taking the lead on many issues in the policy arena that effect our members, but we also work constantly to promote positive change and improvements in how we farm,” said Kevin Skunes, NCGA president from Arthur, North Dakota. “The Small family has a long history of enhancing the farm's soil and natural resources spanning several generations. They provide a great example of the kind of progressive soil management and stewardship gaining momentum today.”

As 2S Land and Cattle, they farm 2,350 cropland acres and manage 400 head of cows. Continuous long-term, low-disturbance, no-till is a focal point of the operation. They believe the best ways to ensure the farm remains productive in the future is to pass their conservation ethic on to their children.

Along with being 100 percent no-till since 1999 they plant cover crops to improve soil health, soil test to determine nutrient needs, and split apply nitrogen fertilizers. While the common perception in southeast Kansas is that no-till soils are too cold to plant corn into, Randy has developed a system that works well for the Smalls.

This system includes regenerating native prairie grass pasture land. The Smalls have developed a system that works in harmony with their cow/calf operation to improve pasture stands, plant species diversity and the wildlife native to the area.

The Smalls have noticed improvements in natural drainage of fields, a decrease in wind erosion, and an increase in beneficial soil born species. A three-year crop rotation schedule is used to maintain maximum residue cover while still changing plant species. The rotation includes corn, wheat with red clover, and double crop or relay soybeans.

“We are pleased to support the Good Steward Award to recognize farmers who demonstrate superior commitment to sustainable farming practices,” said Howard G. Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. “We are proud to partner with NCGA to advance soil health and conservation agriculture among America’s farmers, who play a critical role in feeding the world, and congratulate Randy and Nicole on this recognition.”

Much of the farmland in Randy and Nicole’s area is located near river bottoms where soil erosion and nutrient runoff are more problematic. The soil conservation practices implemented on their operation ensure that the soil remains in place and nutrient loading isn’t an issue in local waterways. Not only are they decreasing pollution, but also improving soil health and productivity on their farm.

Herbicide applications are split applied to reduce runoff into surface waters. Applying the correct pesticide and fertilizer rates is important to the overall ecosystem. While auto-boom shutoff on the sprayer sounded like a luxury when the Small's priced it, it is an essential part of the spraying operation now.

The Smalls follow Integrated Pest Management protocols with every field scouted for pests, weeds or insects, before pesticides are applied. Economic threshold recommendations are also taken into consideration before any pesticides are applied.

They see one of the best ways to ensure the farm remains productive in the future is to make it appealing to the next generation. Randy and Nicole are the parents of two sons, Dexter and Maddix.

Cover crops, prairie grass management, and wildlife plantings are key tools along with limiting mowing and significant buffer areas along field borders.

Cover crops have been used both as green manure crop, as well as extended grazing on the crop acres for the livestock operation. Wildlife populations also enjoy the benefit of the added cover over the winter and summer months. Perennial cover crops, such as red clover, have also been used after wheat to provide additional grazing, hay, and seed production.

And their education effort goes beyond their community. Nicole shares much of their farm experiences on her blog, Tales of A Kansas Farm Mom. The blog has had more than 540,000 unique page views and she is also active telling the story of their farm through social media like Facebook and Instagram.

Their main goal is to leave the farm and ranch land better for not only their children, but for the children and grandchildren of their fifteen landlords that entrust them to care for their family's lands.

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