Missouri makes its mark at National FFA Convention

Austin Stanton of the Centralia FFA Chapter in Centralia, Mo., was honored Oct. 25 with FFA’s prestigious “American Star Farmer” award at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. He was among 16 American Star Award finalists from throughout the U.S. who were nominated and interviewed by a panel of judges. Four were named winners and received cash awards totaling $4,000.

According to FFA, American Star Awards are presented to members who demonstrate outstanding skills and competencies through the completion of a supervised agricultural experience.

Austin operates a multifaceted agricultural enterprise with his brother, Dustin. With more than 15,000 hens, Stanton Brothers sells eggs to neighbors, restaurants, local grocery chains and University of Missouri dining halls. The brothers also raise swine and grow potatoes and radishes to diversify their operation.

The son of Judy and Andrew Stanton, Austin also works on his family’s row-crop and beef farm. The MU student said he wants to continue farming after completing his education and sell his products coast to coast.

“I do want to come back to the farm, and I want to raise a family on the farm,” Austin said. “That’s the reason that my brother and I went into the eggs adventure. If you have all your eggs in one basket, you’re bound to trip and fall one time. Diversification is the way to be sustainable.”

During the national convention, Missouri had 518 recipients earn American FFA degrees, the highest degree bestowed on an FFA member. Less than one-half of one percent of all FFA members earn the organization’s top individual honor.

Two Missouri chapters picked up distinguished chapter awards. The Marshall FFA chapter was named the 2018 National FFA Model of Excellence winner for the third time in four years. The Paris R-II FFA chapter was also selected as a top 10 Model of Excellence program, with a total of 31 Missouri chapters receiving the highest available chapter rating.

Four youth captured national championships in Agricultural Proficiency: Jacob Blank (Richland R-IV, equine science placement); Grace Box (Neosho, specialty crop production); Brenden Kleiboeker (Pierce City R-VI, swine production placement); and Hannah Strain (Rolla 31, forage production). Two additional programs, Columbia 93 School District (horse evaluation) and Gasconade County R-II (floriculture), received first-place finishes in the Career and Leadership Development Events category.

Nine participants earned an honorary American FFA degree, which is made available to people who have provided exceptional service on a national level to agriculture, agricultural education or FFA. Additionally, teachers who have created high-quality agricultural education programs that inspire or motivate students to strive for success are eligible. A full list of this year’s recipients and a compilation of event results are available at www.ffa.org/event-results.

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Organic acerage rises, non-GMO acerage declines

Acreage planted to organic field crops is on the rise while land planted to non-GMO corn and soybeans is declining, according to a new report from Mercaris, a market data and trading platform for the identity-preserved grain industry.

The number of farms certified under USDA’s National Organic Program increased 3 percent in 2018, with the biggest gains coming in the Northeast, Corn Belt and West Coast. Mercaris estimates the number of certified organic acres in 2018 will total 6.5 million, up 2 percent from last year.

Demand for organic livestock feed is one of the main drivers of organic crop expansion. Organic corn, soybeans and wheat are expected to account for approximately 1.2 million acres in 2018. The number of certified organic corn operations increased 4 percent from last year, while overall acreage is set to expand 2 percent.

The growth was even stronger in soybeans. More than 2,500 operations produced organic soybeans, up 7 percent from last year. Overall organic soybean production also saw a 7 percent increase from last year, with large gains in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.

Overall non-GMO acreage declined by 5 percent this year, dropping to 12.1 million acres. Total U.S. non-GMO corn acreage declined for the second year in a row, and non-GMO soybean acreage declined 7 percent from last year. The largest decline occurred in Missouri, which was the top grower of non-GMO beans in 2017.

Mercaris used data from USDA’s Organic Integrity Database, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Economic Research Service and other surveys to compile its estimates.

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Bye-bye, bollworm

After more than 100 years, U.S. cotton is free of the devastating pink bollworm. USDA made the announcement in October after years of research, rigorous control measures and regulatory activities to eliminate the pest. Pink bollworm has cost U.S. producers tens of millions of dollars in yearly crop protection costs and yield losses.

The elimination means USDA will lift the domestic quarantine for pink bollworm, relieving restrictions on the domestic and international movement of U.S. cotton.

“Removing pink bollworm regulations eases the movement of cotton to market both domestically and internationally because farmers will have fewer restrictions to deal with, like fumigation requirements,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in announcing the news. “Cotton growers were critical to this success, banding together to carry out a coordinated, multi-state program and shouldering 80 percent of the program’s cost.”

Efforts to eliminate the pink bollworm included planting transgenic cotton, using insect pheromones to disrupt mating, releasing sterile insects to prevent reproduction and conducting extensive surveys.

Pink bollworm was first detected in the U.S. in Hearne, Texas, in 1917. That infestation and another found in Louisiana in 1919 were eliminated only to be re-invaded in the 1930s. By the 1950s, the pest had spread to surrounding states and eventually reached California in 1963.

In 1955, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service established domestic pink bollworm regulations. At the height of the program, 10 states—including Missouri and Arkansas—were quarantined for this pest. Many of these infestations were suppressed through cooperative federal, state and industry programs. By 2003, only Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas remained under regulation.

The U.S. is a world leader in cotton production and trade. The industry accounts for nearly $27 billion in products and services annually, provides hundreds of thousands of jobs across many sectors and supplies nearly one-third of the raw cotton traded globally.

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