Contest is a first for FFA

Missouri FFA members from five chapters competed in a first-of-its-kind Swine Facility Manage­ment Contest on May 5 at the University of Missouri Research Farm in Columbia.

Organized by the National Pork Board and Missouri Pork Association, this inaugural contest gave the ag stu­dents experience in evaluating important aspects of barn management, such as biosecurity, medications, feed, record-keeping and loading safety. It’s the only such com­petition in the nation, but organizers hope the Missouri event will inspire expansion into other states.

“This is a pilot program to expose young people to the facility management side of swine production and show them potential careers in the pork industry,” said Rob Christine, National Pork Board regional director. “We hope to take this contest to a national level. We have several other states that have expressed interest in how it goes.”

The Swine Facility Management Contest is based on the principles that ensure producers are raising pigs in a safe environment. Students completed a 40-question written exam, then moved through six stages in and around the MU Swine Research facility to evaluate pro­cedures. Representatives from Smithfield and JBS, two of the nation’s leading meat-processing companies and potential employers, helped lead the teams.

“What I like about this contest is that it’s hands-on,” said Don Nikodim, executive director of the Missouri Pork Association, adding that plans are already under­way for next year’s event. “These kids are getting exposed to the things they’d actually do working on a pig farm. Our industry depends on young people coming in, and they don’t necessarily have to own the farm. There are a lot of good job opportunities outside of ownership.”

First place in the contest went to Schuyler FFA team members Jarrett Groseclose, MaKinley Aeschliman, Ash­lyn Laws and Kaycee Hart. North Shelby FFA placed sec­ond with team members Landon Bender, Brayton Cook, Jade Daniel and Dylan McEwen. The California FFA Chapter received third place, with team members Collin Althoff, Gavin Porter, Chase Schlup and Dillon Wood.

Other participating teams were from New Bloomfield FFA and St. James FFA.

The contest also recognized the top five individuals in the contest. First place went to Jarrett Groseclose with Schuyler FFA. Dylan McEwen of North Shelby received second, and Chase Schlup with California FFA received third. In fourth place was Dillon Wood of California FFA. Fifth place went to Ashlyn Laws with Schuyler FFA.

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From agricultural leader to academic lecturer

Normally, MFA Incorporated president and CEO Ernie Verslues spends his days leading one of the nation’s top agricultural cooperatives. But on April 12 and 13, he found himself leading classes and discussions with agricultural students at the University of Missouri.

For those two days, Verslues served as the Robert O. Reich Family Executive-in-Residence for MU’s Col­lege of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The program brings business leaders to the university to interact with students, faculty and staff across the breadth of the ag school. Two executives are invited each year—one in the fall and one in the spring.

The program was established in February 1997 as a collaborative learning experience for students. Verslues addressed agribusiness and agriculture education/leadership classes, offering his per­spective on the industry changes during his tenure as well as his outlook for the future. He also par­ticipated in a student roundtable and ag markets discussion among other networking activities with CAFNR representatives.

For more information or to nominate an in­dustry leader for the program, visit online at

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U.S. farmers expect to plant more soybeans, less corn acreage

A record-high 91 million acres of soybeans are expected to be planted this season, up 4% from 2021, according to the Prospective Plantings report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The report, released March 31, provides the first official, survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers’ 2022 planting intentions.

The largest increases are expected in Missouri and Illinois, where producers in each state intend to plant 400,000 more acres than in 2021. If realized, the planted area of soybeans in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Michi­gan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin will be the largest on record.

Corn growers intend to plant 89.5 million acres in 2022, down 4% from last year. Acreage decreases from last year of 200,000 or more are expected in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Record-high acreage is expected in Nevada and South Dakota. Record-low acreage is expected in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Cotton acreage for 2022 is expected to total 12.2 million acres, 9% above last year, while rice is estimated to be down 3% to 2.4 million acres.

All wheat planted for 2022 is estimated at 47.4 million acres, up 1% from 2021. This represents the fifth-lowest wheat plant­ed area since records began in 1919. Winter wheat plantings, at 34.2 million acres, are down less than 1% from the previous es­timate but up 2% from last year. This is the 10th-lowest planted acreage on record. Other spring wheat plantings for 2022 are expected to total 11.2 million acres, down 2% from 2021.

NASS’s acreage estimates are based on surveys conducted during the first two weeks of March from a sample of nearly 73,000 farm operators across the nation.

The Prospective Plantings and all other NASS reports are available online at

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