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Missouri Farmer to lead Army Corps of Engineers

Written by TF Staff on .

A Missouri farmer and civil engineer, R.D. James, has been selected to serve as assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, a role in which he will oversee the U.S. Corps of Engineers among other responsibilities.

The post is important for the nation’s commerce, especially agriculture. In his new role, James will establish policy direction and provide supervision of programs for conservation and development of water and wetland resources, flood control, navigation and shore protection.

A native of Fulton County, Ky., James and his family have had farming, ginning and grain elevator operations in the Missouri Bootheel for decades. He served on the Mississippi River Commission for 37 years, first appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. In that position, James helped lead the organization charged with improving the condition, fostering navigation, promoting commerce and preventing destructive floods in the nation’s most important waterway for shipment of goods.

He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Jan. 25 and sworn in Feb. 5 as assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. In announcing the confirmation, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “R.D. James understands the importance of our inland waterways system. He has an impressive background and is the right person to address our nation’s water infrastructure needs.

Stewardship is more than just a buzzword

Written by Matt Hill on .

Stewardship is a word we will hear more often as increasing world population puts a strain on our resources. We will all need to find ways to squeeze more out of what we have in a sustainable way. As individuals, we make stewardship decisions daily based on how it will affect our personal sustainability—whether that be related to our health, relationships, finances, environment and anything else that is important for us to continue “forever.”

Industries don’t have the luxury of focusing on individual sustainability. They must produce the goods and services that billions of people require for their personal sustainability, yet remain good stewards of the environment, their balance sheet, work force, etc. No doubt, agriculture is at the top of the list of industries that shoulder the biggest part of this responsibility. There isn’t anything more important to our personal sustainability than enough clean air to breathe, nutritious food to eat and safe water to drink. Farmers directly influence each of those.

Many industries don’t clearly understand their ties to the land and, as a result, only become good stewards of the environment and natural resources when forced by government regulation. In contrast, generations of farmers and ranchers have been good stewards because they recognize that maintaining a healthy environment and abundant natural resources is the only way to ensure their land is productive today and for future generations. Practices such as using crop rotations and contour farming are so common they often go unmentioned as good stewardship practices but are very important to remain sustainable.

MFA has been working alongside our customers for over a century to increase the production of your operation while being good stewards of our resources. These days, Crop-Trak consultants frequently scout enrolled acres, identifying issues early with the crop, which allows efficient use of pesticides only when and where they are needed. MFA’s Nutri-Track program develops location-specific fertilizer recommendations based on grid soil samples and yield data to ensure you don’t apply more fertilizer than can be used by the crop. This saves you money while keeping excess nutrients from washing into streams and rivers or leaching into groundwater.

MFA has recently reemphasized our commitment to stewardship, naming it as one of the company’s six core values. This helps to ensure that the responsible use of resources will weigh in on all decisions and recommendations made by MFA employees. We also created my position, the industry’s first dedicated natural resource conservation specialist. Working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), I will be focused on helping you incorporate conservation practices in your operation to improve production while protecting the natural resources.

If you have questions about available conservation programs, stop by your local NRCS or MDC office. You will find there is funding available for conservation programs to address almost any concern or objectives you have for your operation. Some really great opportunities in Missouri are planting cover crops to reduce soil erosion and improve biological activity in the soil, or planting a portion of your pastures to deep-rooted native grasses to have a high-quality forage during the summer and take advantage of nutrients deep in the soil profile. I also believe that there are opportunities to identify acres that perform poorly each year and install a conservation practice that provides quality pollinator, monarch butterfly and small game habitat while producing an annual payment. In the end, these practices make those acres more profitable.

No matter what best fits your situation, you can be sure that MFA will be there to answer questions about how these programs might affect your operation or get you the supplies needed to implement the practices.

New crop of agricultural leaders

Written by TF Staff on .

In January, 18 couples completed the second of two comprehensive sessions in MFA Incorporated’s Leadership Corps program. Established in 1988, the program is designed for civic-minded couples interested in furthering their leadership expertise.

Participants attended weekend events in July 2017 and January 2018, in Columbia, Mo., where they heard firsthand from speakers with expertise in leadership and agricultural advocacy. The agenda covered cooperative education, communication, leadership development and technical workshops aimed to provide value to participants’ farming operations.

“We were happy to be selected to participate,” said Monty Willoughby of North Little Rock, Ark., who attended with his wife, Nancy. “Anytime that you can learn more about yourself and meet others in the agribusiness industry is great. We really enjoyed our time here.”

Leadership Corps activities also included tours of the MFA home office, the Christopher S. Bond Life Science Center at the University of Missouri, the Lyceum Theater in Historic Arrow Rock and Les Bourgeois winery and restaurant on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River.

The Leadership Corps program is held every two years. If you are interested or know a promising couple who may want to participate in the next session, planned for July 2019 and January 2020, visit with your local MFA manager.

A home for genomes

Written by TF Staff on .

A $300,000 federal grant will be used to help the University of Missouri create the National Center for Applied Reproduction and Genomics in Beef Cattle.

The project is a collaboration among USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, MU’s Division of Animal Sciences and MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The focus, the university reported, will be on giving farmers and ranchers the answer to the question, “What is the return on investment if I invest in reproductive or genomic technologies?”

“We’re not just trying to fill people’s heads with new knowledge—it’s more about lighting a fire,” said Extension beef geneticist Jared Decker. “We’re focused on helping farmers and ranchers understand the technology, but, more than that, to trust the technology and identify ways they can use it. We want to educate producers and help them take that next leap.”

The project will provide continuing education for veterinarians and educational and training opportunities for veterinary students, graduate students, farmers, ranchers and allied industry professionals.

The university is still seeking a specific location for the center, which is in the beginning stages of development.

“We’re taking the model we’ve developed in Missouri over the past 20 years and making it a national center,” Decker said. “We’re hoping to spread the model of integrating research and extension in genetics, reproduction and economics and putting that together. That’s worked really well in Missouri. Now, let’s spread it nationally.”

Report outlines forces shaping the rural economy

Written by TF Staff on .

Expect an expanding global economy, strong U.S. consumer confidence and persistent economic recovery in many rural areas, but temper that optimism with another year of on-farm belt tightening due to low commodity prices.

That’s the 2018 outlook from a wide-ranging report compiled by CoBank, a $124-billion cooperative bank serving rural America.

“The rural economy is uniquely impacted by what happens in Washington, the broader U.S. economy and around the world,” said Dan Kowalski, vice president of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division. “This year, rural America will rise with the broader economic tide, but it will also contend with persistent barriers to prosperity.”

The report offers a look at these 10 key factors that will shape rural communities and the market sectors that support them:

  1. Global economy — The challenge for the world’s economies will be how to properly manage the expansion at hand and address structural impediments that have been ignored during the decade-long recovery.
  2. Monetary policy — Central banks around the world will strategize around the question of whether wage and consumer prices will accelerate. Foreign banks sound more hawkish in early 2018, and the Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates amidst larger fiscal deficits and leadership transition.
  3. U.S. economy — Consumer confidence and unemployment rates are at their best levels since 2000, and inflation-adjusted wages have been growing faster than historical averages since 2014. Consumers are saving less and spending more. Business investment will rise in 2018 to keep up with growing demand.
  4. Rural economy — Rural America has lagged urban areas in recovering from the 2008 economic crisis, but rural population, jobs and incomes are all trending in the right direction. Current efforts to improve rural broadband access offers an opportunity to make a significant dent in the rural/urban economic divide.
  5. Federal policy — Tax reform has brought changes to individual and corporate tax rates and ushered in the 199A deduction, which benefits agriculture co-ops and their members. The deduction, however, is controversial and is being reviewed by the Senate. Congress will also attempt to pass an infrastructure package and the Farm Bill before the mid-term election.  
  6. Rural infrastructure — The power and energy industry faces an environment of uncertainty due to tax reform, possible import tariffs on wind and solar equipment and oversupply in power markets. Meanwhile, weak sales and rising costs are contributing to financial strain across water utilities. And in communications, competition is heating up over who controls the infrastructure that distributes data through broadband. Rural communities can expect further investment in broadband and towers in 2018.
  7. Agricultural economy — The agricultural commodity surplus will continue to depress prices and shrink farmer working capital. Farm debt loads will continue to climb as prices fall short of high production costs. Market conditions have also resulted in a sharp divergence between farm income and farm asset values. The timing and extent of the market’s correction will be determined by much more than commodity prices and cash flow.
  8. Agricultural trade — NAFTA will be the primary focus for agriculture in the first half of 2018. All three countries involved will be incentivized to come to an agreement before the Mexican presidential election in July. Other trade deals in flux that could greatly affect U.S. agriculture exports include the rebooted Trans-Pacific Partnership and the U.S.-Korea trade agreement.
  9. Grain, farm supply and biofuels — The grain, farm supply and biofuels sectors face a turbulent year ahead as the industry further adjusts to a protracted cyclical downturn. Abundant supplies, low market volatility and rising interest rates will constrain farm finances and accelerate the forces of consolidation.
  10. Dairy and animal protein — The same abundant grain supplies that have harmed crop farmers have boosted profitability and spurred expansion in the U.S. livestock sectors. And more good news is expected in 2018. Price pressure will be an issue as the expansion continues, and trade uncertainties will loom large.

The full report is available at www.CoBank.com

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