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  •  A series of events in June organized by the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative spotlighted the important role of pollinators in the Show-Me State and beyond.

    Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens proclaimed June 19-25 as Pollinator Week in the state, recognizing birds and insects as “essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing much of our food supply.” The proclamation, coinciding with National Pollinator Week, was presented June 21 at a press conference in the Carnahan Memorial Garden in Jefferson City.

    Later that evening, special guests and members of the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative attended a private reception featuring Charles Wooley, deputy regional director for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Ty Vaughn, vice president of global regulatory for Monsanto. Both speakers praised Missouri for its unprecedented efforts in monarch and pollinator conservation.

    “I don’t know any other grassroots effort more important than what is going on here in Missouri,” Wooley said. “It takes all of us working together to ensure we have a future filled with pollinators like monarchs.”

    During the past two decades, monarch butterfly populations have declined by an estimated 90 percent due to factors such as loss of critical habitat, namely milkweed, the only plant used by monarchs during egg and larval stages. MFA Incorporated is a funding partner in the Missourians for Monarchs collaborative, which formed in 2015 as a statewide initiative to address this issue. MFA territory falls in the epicenter of the monarch’s breeding and migratory path from Mexico to Canada.

    The collaborative also includes other ag and conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, utilities, cooperatives and agribusinesses such as Monsanto. Vaughn said an important part of his job is communicating with farmers about how they can turn unproductive farmland into valuable pollinator habitat.

    “We’ve begun to look at agriculture as a system that incorporates everything farmers do, including conservation practices,” he said. “With today’s digital tools, we can map fields and show areas that may be better off in pollinator habitat than in crops. I believe we’ll look back on this time and place and say that’s when ag and conservation began to coexist to make it a better place for pollinators.” 

    Missouri’s Pollinator Week observance culminated in the first-ever “Monarch Mania!” on June 22 at the Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City. More than 1,400 visitors took part in activities focused on monarch butterflies, pollinators and native plants. Runge officials said it was the most-attended weekday event in the center’s history.

    Overall, Pollinator Week events were intended to raise awareness about the plight of pollinators and help further the Missourians for Monarchs’ goal of establishing 385,000 new acres of habitat across the state during the next 20 years on both private and public land.

    “The monarch is our ambassador for all pollinators,” said Jason Jenkins, Missourians for Monarchs coordinator. “Interest keeps growing in our collaborative’s efforts, all because of this unique, iconic species that has catapulted conservation in a way we’ve never seen before.”

    For more information, visit www.facebook.com/MissouriansForMonarchs.

  •  The 2017 MFA Ag Experience participants started their internship on May 22 with an orientation at MFA Incorporated’s home office in Columbia, Mo., and will complete their 12-week program on Aug. 11. The work-study program allows college students to spend 12 weeks in the real world of production agriculture. Interns are working with MFA Incorporated and its members, getting hands-on experience in areas that match their career objectives.

    MFA Ag Experience interns are: seated, from left, Jacob Stuckmeyer, Koby Limbach, MiKayla Engemann and Sylvia Romine. In back, from left, are Elizabeth Wyss, Caitlyn McGuire, Ethan Fordyce, Jacob Hoellering, Levi Banner, Lane Hankins, Andy Devine, Cassidy Brown, Madison Byrd, Kaylee Padkins, Celena Kipping and Connor Hill. Learn more about the program and two of its past and present participants in the article, “Meet the Future of Agriculture."

  • The conversation about modern agriculture has never been more important. The non-farming public is interested in understanding how agriculture supports the demands of consumers and how farmers are focused on preserving our planet’s natural resources, according to new market research facilitated by Monsanto.

    The research highlights society’s perceptions about today’s farm industry and provides insights on the best way to communicate effectively about agriculture. For example, the study found that people are interested in the digital tools and data used in modern agriculture, and that subject makes a great starting point to influence positive perceptions about farming. The study also found that “sustainability” may not be an effective term unless defined in a succinct way, and that the public prefers a farmer’s focus to be on “using fewer resources” rather than “producing more food.”

    The results of this research led to a new website and accompanying advertising and social media campaigns to help tell the true story of today’s farmers and the agricultural community. The online resources can help farmers understand what messaging resonates with the public and what terminology and information are most effective in engaging positive conversations about modern agriculture. For more information, visit modernag.org.

  • Here in the Midwest, where food grows all around us, there are children who don’t know where they will get their next meal. That is an unfortunate irony that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Missouri’s agricultural community.

    In response, this summer you will see a campaign called Drive to Feed Kids in action at the Missouri State Fair. The effort is being led by Missouri Farmers Care, an organization dedicated to the state’s farming community. And thanks to the members of Sawyer Brown, you can see a great concert at the State Fair to support the cause.

    Drive to Feed Kids is a program that leverages existing food bank and distribution networks to deliver kid-friendly meals to youth. Food is delivered through backpack programs and in-school food pantries to help children in households with low food security.

    MFA Vice President of Feed Dr. Alan Wessler, chairman of Missouri Farmers Care, said the Missouri State Fair is an appropriate venue to celebrate the best of Missouri agriculture as well as address food-security challenges.

    “All of us in agriculture are focused on doing our best to produce food,” Wessler said. “But we’re also focused on making our communities the best they can be. When our youth face uncertainty about access to nutritious food, it presents challenges in coming to school ready to learn and thrive. It is time to consider how we can help. Our partner through Drive to Feed Kids, Feeding Missouri, has a proven and efficient way to deliver food to those who most need it.”

    Over the past decade, research from USDA and other agencies has revealed how pervasive the lack of access to nutritious food is in many American households. To help quantify the problem, USDA uses terminology centered on food security to provide a better picture of the real needs. High food security means a family has no problems attaining nutritional food. Low food security means reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet. Very low food security means eating patterns are disrupted, and food intake is reduced.

    In its most recent research, USDA found that 5 percent of American households have very low food security. And, 76 percent of counties in the top 10 percent of food-insecure counties are rural. Predominantly rural counties have higher rates of food insecurity than urban counties.

    Statistics like these are what brought a sense of urgency to Missouri Farmers Care. The organization’s campaign will feature several events at the Missouri State Fair, which runs Aug. 10-20 in Sedalia. On opening day, Thursday, Aug. 10, there will be a premiere of Where the Fast Lane Ends, a movie co-written and produced by Sawyer Brown lead singer Mark Miller. 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.

    The movie premiere will be followed that evening by the Sawyer Brown concert at 7:30 p.m. with opening act Royal Wade Kimes. Tickets to the concert go on sale June 20.

    The first Missouri FFA Food Insecurity Service Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 15, when Missouri FFA members will pack 50,000 child-friendly meals to be distributed by Missouri food banks.

    To find out more, visit MoFarmersCare.com.

  • Since its creation in January 2000, the MFA Health Track program has enrolled and tagged more than 600,000 head of feeder calves into the nation’s most comprehensive third-party verified beef cattle preconditioning program. Now, the program is adding even more value for participating producers through a new partnership with ABS Global, a world-leading provider of bovine genetics, reproduction services and technologies.

    With the new ABS Alliance Advantage offering, MFA Health Track puts genetic and health certification into a single ID tag program for the first time. Producers qualify their calves for the program by using designated ABS Profit Proven bulls and meeting MFA Health Track requirements, which include 45 days of preconditioning with both nutrition and vaccination protocols.

    “A little more than 17 years after it was started, Health Track’s reputation for integrity and value is as good as it has ever been,” said Mike John, MFA Health Track director. “However, missing from that documentation, and of significant value, is an indication of the genetic composition of those calves. That’s where ABS comes in, and with it comes global genetic experience. This takes Health Track to the next level.”

    Calves enrolled in the ABS Alliance Advantage program are identified with a special purple tag that designates their potentially high-value status.

    “ABS has created evaluation schemes and databases to help its customers make more informed sire selections that dramatically add to the value of their offerings,” John said. “By combining that expertise with the obvious health benefits of the Health Track program, a new level of predictable performance will come with calves that qualify for the new ABS Alliance Advantage purple tag.”

    The ABS Alliance Advantage approval and tagging process includes these steps:

    • Calves must be enrolled in MFA Health Track and meet all program requirements. This program is available through MFA Agri Services locations and administered by MFA Incorporated livestock product sales representatives.
    • ABS maintains minimum criteria and publishes lists of AI (artificial insemination) sires that qualify for Alliance Advantage. Natural service sons of these sires can also qualify. ABS representatives are responsible for Alliance-qualifying calves based on its program criteria and the ability of producers to identify calves out of approved sires.
    • When qualifying calves have been approved, purple ABS Alliance Advantage tags are ordered from MFA and delivered through an MFA representative who can help process and tag the calves.
    • When all requirements for both components are complete, a sales certificate is created that documents preconditioning dates, processes and products as well as genetic information to help buyers identify potential of the calves with the purple tags.

    For more information and details about the ABS Alliance Advantage program, visit with your local MFA Agri Services or AGChoice location or MFA sales representative.

  • A regulation mandating more training and safeguards for people handling restricted-use pesticides has been delayed for one year by the EPA.

    The EPA said it was going “back to basics” by delaying the Obama-era rule in its mid-May announcement. The Certification and Training of Pesticide Applicators (C&T) rule would have established a minimum age for handling these pesticides, required more training and more frequent certifications for the approximately 1 million applicators allowed to use them, and tightened overall controls on insecticides, pesticides and other substances.

    “To achieve both environmental protection and economic prosperity, we must give the regulated community, which includes farmers and ranchers, adequate time to come into compliance with regulations,” said Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator.

    The original effective date of May 22, 2017, is now extended to May 22, 2018.

    In its statement on the year-long delay, EPA said it received feedback from states and stakeholders that more time and resources are needed to prepare for compliance with the rule. Specifically mentioned was an April meeting with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who applauded the move to extend the deadline.

    “I look forward to continuing to work with this administration to curb regulations that are killing jobs and hurting our farmers,” Greitens said. “It’s time for government to get out of the way and let our farmers farm.”

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