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Make it count

Written by TF Staff on .

Farmers and ranchers across the nation soon will start receiving the 2017 Census of Agriculture, which is only conducted once every five years.

Producers can mail completed census forms or respond online via the web questionnaire. The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has extensively revised the online questionnaire to make it more convenient for producers, according to NASS Census and Survey Division Director Barbara Rater.

“The updated online questionnaire is very user-friendly—it can now be used on any electronic device and can be saved and revisited as the producer’s schedule allows,” Rater said. “Responding online saves time and protects data quality. Better data means informed decisions, and that’s why it is so important that every producer respond and be represented.”

New time-saving features of the online questionnaire include automatically calculating totals, skipping sections that do not pertain to the operation, and providing drop-down menus of frequent responses.

The census website will continue to be updated with new information through the census response deadline of Feb. 5, 2018. One recently added feature is a new video from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue reminding all producers to respond when they receive their 2017 Census of Agriculture in the mail this fall.

Revisions and additions to the 2017 Census of Agriculture aim to capture a more detailed account of the industry. Producers will see a new question about military veteran status, expanded questions about food marketing practices, and questions about on-farm decision-making to better capture the roles and contributions of beginning farmers, women farmers and others involved in running the business.

The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them and is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the country. The data is used to make decisions that shape American agriculture—from creating and funding farm programs to boosting services for communities and the industry.

For more information, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 800-727-9540.

Farm broadcaster Armstrong headlines MFA annual meeting

Written by TF Staff on .

Max Armstrong has said his broadcasting career began at age 11 on his family farm in Indiana’s Wabash River Valley. The youngster strung an antenna wire from his bedroom window to a pole behind the chicken coop, turned on the transmitter he built from a mail-order kit, and WMAX was on the air.

Although WMAX is long gone, Armstrong is still broadcasting, both on the radio and television, more than 50 years later. This award-winning farm broadcaster will share his expertise and insight on our industry as the keynote speaker during MFA Incorporated’s annual meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

Armstrong now co-hosts This Week in AgriBusiness with Orion Samuelson on RFD-TV and other stations, and the pair team up for The Saturday Morning Show on WGN Radio. He and Samuelson previously covered agriculture’s ups and downs for WGN Radio and TV in Chicago for more than 30 years.

Since 2009, Armstrong has been with the Penton Farm Progress Companies, where his duties include producing and hosting daily reports on Farm Progress America and Max Armstrong’s Midwest Digest. He has originated broadcasts from all 50 states and 30 different foreign nations

A 1975 graduate of Purdue University, he has twice received the Oscar In Agriculture and has been awarded the highest honors by the National Agri-Marketing Association, the American Agricultural Editors Association and the National Association of Farm Broadcasters.

Armstrong and his wife, Linda, now live on a small farm in North Carolina near their grandchildren.

Agriculture pulls together for Missouri’s hungry children

Written by TF Staff on .

Missouri’s rate of childhood food insecurity is among the highest in the nation, and the state’s agricultural industry is working to change that through the Missouri Farmers Care Drive to Feed Kids. Over the summer, this collaborative partnership raised resources to feed more than 1.8 million hungry children across the state.

“Kids coming to school hungry or not knowing if there will be food to eat at home over the weekend is a harsh reality,” said Dr. Alan Wessler, MFC chairman and MFA Incorporated vice president of feed operations and animal health. “Food insecurity in Missouri is a silent problem in our own communities and hometowns. All of the funds raised, 100 percent, will go to the backpack programs for Missouri kids.”

A check for $165,284 for childhood food insecurity programs was presented Aug. 10 at the Missouri State Fair to Feeding Missouri, the association of Missouri’s six regional food banks. The check presentation was made just before the fair’s Sawyer Brown concert, which also supported the cause. The group’s lead singer, Mark Miller, has been an avid supporter of hunger relief across the U.S., and he co-wrote and produced the movie, “Where the Fast Lane Ends,” which was shown earlier that day to Drive to Feed Kids collaborators at the fair. The film was created by Farming to Fight Hunger, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the knowledge gap between agriculture and consumers and increasing awareness of food security issues.  

On Aug. 15, the first-ever Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Service Day was held on the fairgrounds in Sedalia. More than 350 FFA students and volunteers spent the day packing 52,032 meals to feed families of up to six people.

“Missouri FFA was proud to be a part of this effort to bring awareness to food insecurity in our state,” said Keith Dietzschold, Missouri FFA executive secretary. “This type of activity brings to life the FFA motto of ‘Living to Serve’ while working to complete our FFA vision of ‘Growing Leaders, Building Communities, and Strengthening Agriculture.’”

In addition, a total of 8,950 pounds of nonperishable food was given to local pantries through donations of fairgoers during the Missouri Farmers Care Food Drive Day and the Can Creation Contest, in which FFA teams used canned food items donated by Woods Supermarket. Missouri FFA also donated 900 pounds of fresh produce from student projects on display at the fair.

“Seeing Missouri’s agriculture groups walk the walk during the Drive to Feed Kids is heartening and inspiring,” said Scott Baker, state director for Feeding Missouri. “It has gone a long way to making this one of the most hopeful years in Feeding Missouri’s history. We are grateful to all who donated.”

MFA was a sponsor of the Drive to Feed Kids along with many other agricultural organizations, businesses and individuals.

Belle of the ball

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

When the elegant Kansas City Southern Belle passenger train rolled onto the property of Central Missouri AGRIService in Marshall, Mo., the retro railcars were unlike anything this modern grain-handling facility had ever seen. Here, it’s usually utilitarian hopper cars that are being loaded with corn and soybeans, not plush Pullman cars being loaded with people.

But the grand opening of the new shuttle-loader in June called for a special celebration, so railroad officials offered to bring out the Belle, said John Fletcher, CMAS general manager.

“The KCS wanted to bring the train out to show their appreciation for our business, and it certainly added an extra-special touch to our grand opening,” Fletcher said. “Our guests who rode the train told me it’s an experience they’ll never forget.”

Not only did the Southern Belle transport invited guests to and from the ceremony but also to a time when travel by rail was preferred. The train is a reproduction of the original Southern Belle streamliner, which operated between Kansas City and New Orleans between 1940 and late 1969 until hard times and a weakening passenger market forced its cancellation.

In 1995, the president of KCS at the time, Michael Haverty, ordered the creation of an executive train to entertain company leaders, customers and guests. Just like the Belle of old, the new version is built for comfort and includes dining and lounge cars, a glass-domed observation deck and luxurious sleeping quarters. In 2007, the train was repainted in the railroad’s heritage colors of dark green, yellow and red.

Each December, the train transforms into the KCS Holiday Express, a six-car train that brings Santa Claus and his elves to communities throughout the company’s U.S. rail network in November and December. Guests can visit with Santa and walk through three cars filled with holiday displays. Each event is free and open to the public. Several cities in MFA territory are typically on the Holiday Express scheduled stops, including multiple dates in Kansas City.

Visit www.kcsouthern.com for more information.

Hops are newest crop to be studied at MU

Written by TF Staff on .

While farmers were in the midst of harvesting traditional crops such as corn and soybeans this year, researchers at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research Center in Columbia, Mo., were harvesting from plants not typically found in this area.

This was the first year for MU’s research on hops, a key ingredient found in beer. Though hops are typically grown in northern climates with less humidity, a growing craft beer movement has cultivated interest in producing the crop locally, according to Extension horticulturist James Quinn. Missouri is on the southern edge of where hops can grow successfully.

MU Extension received a specialty crop grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture to research what types of hops grow best in Missouri. Quinn and another MU Extension horticulturist, Patrick Byers, planted more than 10 varieties on the ¼-acre hops yard at Bradford. The perennial plants can produce for more than 40 years.

Hop plants are climbing bines (vines without tendrils). The flower of the hop plant is a papery-thin, pale-green cone that is used to add unique flavors and aromas to most beers, especially small craft brews. The bitterness of hops balances the sweetness of beer’s malt sugars. They also are a natural preservative, extending the life of the brew. Hop cones dry in late summer and develop a strong odor. Most home brewers harvest the hops by hand; larger growers use specialized machinery.

According to a USDA report released at the end of 2016, hop acreage in the U.S. grew 72 percent over the past five years. To help this new wave of growers, universities such as MU are conducting research. Quinn says similar grant-funded projects are also under way in Nebraska, Iowa, West Virginia and North Carolina.

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