An MFA and CAFNR partnership

Written by TF Staff on .

MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil and the MFA Foundation pledged $750,000, payable over four years, to the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources in 2015. The pledged established an endowed professorship that supports education and research. The first professorship role was recently filled.

Joe Parcell, professor and department chair of agricultural and applied economics in the Division of Applied Social Sciences, was tabbed as the first MFA Professor of Agribusiness.

“MFA’s partnership with the University of Missouri began a century ago,” said Ernie Verslues, president and CEO of MFA Incorporated. “We are extremely happy the university selected Dr. Parcell. He is a unique individual, and several of us at MFA have met with him. Joe brings a critical perspective to issues that affect agribusinesses in fundamental ways, not simply rehashing existing data. He is receptive to our ideas as well as the needs of those of us in the business world. He is intelligent in his approach to unearthing data that helps drive smart decisions.

“Dr. Parcell is a good conduit between today’s industry and academia,” added Verslues. “Not just at MFA, but in all areas of agriculture, we’ll benefit from his tenure.”

When the funds reach $1.1 million, the professorship will be converted to a chair.

Parcell is the director of undergraduate studies and adviser chair of agricultural and applied economics. He served as the director of the Missouri Value Added Development Center from 2001 to 2013. The Center was a joint venture between CAFNR and MU Extension.

“The focus is pretty flexible,” Parcell said. “Agribusiness can go so many different directions. We want to work for what’s best for the farmers.

“I’m really just a custodian of MFA’s resources. I’m here to ensure that they get used in a wise way and in a way that is valued by others across Missouri. We’re setting the base. My objective is to take those resources and leverage them the best I can to create even more resources.”

Parcell grew up on a hog farm in Iowa. He and his wife ran a row crop farm for more than 10 years and currently have a farm that they sharecrop.

Parcell earned his Ph.D. from Kansas State University. He has been with the University of Missouri for nearly 19 years, beginning his career as an extension agent. He has worked with farmers on a variety of projects, including price information and agribusiness.

“I have deep roots in agriculture and agribusiness,” Parcell said. “I have always been focused on Missouri agriculture, and this is a tremendous honor and opportunity.

“The intent here,” he said, “is to offer support for agriculture and agribusiness in Missouri. We want to promote agriculture and agribusiness and bring more students into this world.”

One of Parcell’s greatest strengths is mentoring and working with students.

As the MFA Professor in Agribusiness, Parcell will be in charge of several resources. Farmers and students are just two groups Parcell will interact with.

“MFA’s historic relationship with the University of Missouri reaches all the way back to 1914,” Verslues said. “And, really, considering William Hirth first bought the Missouri Farmer and Breeder (currently Today’s Farmer) in 1908, the relationship actually began then, before MFA was even created. From the first date of the publication, Hirth depended on University of Missouri professors to spread information they were developing. The magazine’s cover contained this quote, ‘It is published in the home of Missouri’s great agricultural college and the Missouri Experiment Station and tells you of the many great things which these fine institutions are doing for you. It stands for better crops, for better livestock, for more comfort and less drudgery—in short for a more profitable and pleasant farm life.’ We still operate under those beliefs. So, yes, we are excited.”

GMOs and the environment

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Using a model to assess the economic and environmental value of GMO crops, agricultural economists at Purdue found that replacing GMO corn, soybeans and cotton with conventionally bred varieties worldwide would cause a 0.27 to 2.2 percent increase in food costs, depending on the region—with poorer countries hit hardest. The study was published in the Oct. 27, 2016 edition of the Journal of Environmental Protection. It reported that a ban on GMOs would also trigger negative environmental consequences: The conversion of pastures and forests to cropland (to compensate for conventional crops’ lower productivity) would release substantial amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Conversely, if countries that already plant GMOs expanded their use of genetically modified crops to match the rate of GMO planting in the United States, global greenhouse gas emissions would fall by the equivalent of 0.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide and would allow 0.8 million hectares of cropland (about 2 million acres) to return to forests and pastures.

“Some of the same groups that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions also want to ban GMOs. But you can’t have it both ways,” said Wally Tyner, the James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue. “Planting GMO crops is an effective way for agriculture to lower its carbon footprint.”

Tyner and fellow researchers used the Purdue-developed Global Trade Analysis Project model to investigate two hypothetical scenarios: “What economic and environmental effects would a global ban on GMO corn, soybeans and cotton have?” and “What would be the additional impact if global GMO adoption caught up to the U.S. and then a ban were implemented?”

The model is set to 2011 crop prices, yields and growing conditions and encompasses the ripple effects of how a change in one sector impacts other sectors.

GTAP-BIO predicted a modest and region-specific rise in overall food costs under a global GMO ban, a result of the lower productivity of non-GMO crops. Tyner said people in poorer regions would be most burdened by the price increase, as they spend about 70 percent of their income on food, compared with about 10 percent in the U.S.

Countries that export crops would gain economically by the increase in food prices, while countries that import crops would suffer. As a result, the U.S., despite being the biggest planter of GMO crops, would profit under a GMO ban because of its strength as a crop producer and exporter. China, a major crop importer, would suffer a welfare loss—a measure of economic wellbeing—of $3.63 billion.

Banning GMO crops would also lead to an increase in global cropland of 3.1 million hectares (about 7.7 million acres), as land would be cleared to compensate for the lower yields of conventional crops. Converting forests and pastures into farmland is an environmentally costly process that releases carbon stored in plants and soil, and this expansion of cropland would add the equivalent of 0.92 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Getting out the word on atrazine

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The personnel situation at EPA might be fluid in the coming weeks. Regardless of changes there however, growers in MFA’s trade territory made their opinion known about proposed changes in long-standing environmental rules for atrazine. EPA recommendations, if implemented as written, would change the agency’s “level of concern” for aquatic life from 10 parts per billion to 3.4 parts per billion, severely affecting the ability to use the proven herbicide.

With much of Midwest agriculture concerned about the recommendation, growers were encouraged to share their opinion during the EPA’s comment period. MFA Agri Service Centers were one place that growers could find cards to fill out and submit as official comments to the EPA. This fall, MFA joined Missouri Corn Growers Association in celebrating the 6,349 signatures gathered in the process. It was a clear message.

Apps for farming

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Compatible with Android and Apple mobile phones, a new app from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service app helps forecasts times when cattle will undergo heat stress. The app forecasts up to seven days in advance of extreme heat conditions and offers suggestions that can protect animals before and during a heat-stress event.

In addition to high temperatures, weather-related factors like humidity, wind speed and solar radiation can contribute to heat stress.

According to the ARS, the Midwest is subject to recurring heat waves that can have significant financial impact on livestock producers and especially feedlot cattle producers. In the last ten years, there have been several heat events in the Midwest; direct and indirect financial losses for these events are estimated at over $75 million for the cattle industry alone. These weather events are unavoidable, but management strategies can reduce the impact of heat waves. Advance notice combined with heat stress management plans can help minimize losses associated with these recurring weather phenomenon.

Until the early 1990s, the National Weather Service issued livestock safety warnings that helped feedlot producers preempt losses or diminished productivity resulting from heat-stress events. Starting in the mid-2000s, researchers filled the void with a Web page (, which is still available, offering similar forecasts.

Recent increases in smartphone usage prompted ARS to design and launch a mobile-app that allows producers to access forecasts while they’re in the field.

A list of ARS apps can be found at

GMOs come to the fruit bin

Written by TF Staff on .

Consumers will get the chance to vote on GMOs directly with their pocketbook as Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ nonbrowning Arctic apple has been given deregulated status by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Arctic Fuji apples join the company’s Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny varieties, both of which use similar breeding technology to achieve non-browning fruit.

The approval follows a review of OSF’s petition for extension by USDA/APHIS and the successful conclusion of a comment period that sought public feedback. In an announcement from USDA/APHIS, Michael J. Firko, APHIS Deputy Administrator, explained that “this determination of nonregulated status of [Arctic Fuji] apples is the most scientifically sound and appropriate regulatory decision.”

In fruits, there are several factors that lead to browning: the phenolic content; an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase; and these compounds’ ability to mix. Arctic apples have been improved through reducing the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. The Arctic Advantage non- browning trait becomes apparent when an apple is sliced, bitten or bruised. The work was done without introducing novel genes to the trees.


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