Engaging in the conservation conversation

Conservation is at the forefront of many agricultural conversations from the dinner table to D.C., and now farmers and ranchers have a new resource at MFA to help lead those discussions.

On Dec. 1, Matt Hill began his new job as MFA Incorporated’s first-ever natural resources conservation specialist—a position established through a partnership among MFA, the Missouri Department of Conservation and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“Conservation is very important to our producers, therefore it’s important to MFA,” Jason Weirich, MFA director of agronomy, said. “The ultimate goal by establishing this position is to increase conservation and look at ways to have a greater impact on stewardship. Matt will be working with our partnering organizations and growers to find programs and cost-share money that helps with soil, water, nutrient and wildlife management.”

Through this partnership, Hill will provide MDC and NRCS feedback on their programs and how they work for producers. This one-of-a-kind role suits Hill perfectly, who spent the last 14 years managing 45,000 acres of public land for MDC.

“There are a lot of programs available through MDC and NRCS that offer financial assistance,” Hill said. “Most farmers and ranchers are already doing things voluntarily because they know it’s the right thing to do for the environment and for the sustainability of their operation. But there may be money available to help offset some of the costs. I just hope to shed some light on some of those opportunities.”

According to Brent Vandeloecht, MDC agriculture liaison, this position and partnership is a first in Missouri.

“As far as I know, this position marks the first time the state and federal agencies have partnered with private enterprise,” Vandeloecht said. “MFA is a natural choice because it is a leader and trusted entity by many row-crop and cattle producers across Missouri. The hope is that MFA, the agencies and the producers can all benefit by increased communications and learning more about balancing conservation and profitability.”

Missouri State Conservationist J.R. Flores agreed that this partnership will increase the availability of technical knowledge and assistance for Missouri farmers and ranchers.  

“No better place exists for conservation opportunities than in Missouri,” Flores said. “This position is exciting because we’ll be increasing the awareness of those opportunities and, more importantly, how conservation practices can translate to benefits in natural resources, such as soil, water, plants and animals.”

A native of Bowling Green, Mo., Hill said he spent summers on his family’s farm, both working and enjoying outdoor pastimes such as hunting and fishing. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he specialized in fisheries and wildlife management. Soon after, he landed a position in the wildlife division of MDC.

“Some public land management areas in the state still have a high percentage of native tallgrass prairies,” Hill said. “A large part of our work focused on managing these special conservation areas that contain populations of prairie insects and grassland birds that are declining worldwide. There are a lot of landowners who are conservation-minded and have a real interest in managing their property in such a way for it to still remain productive and profitable but also provide wildlife habitat.”

Likewise, Weirich said, when looking at a cost-per-acre breakdown, implementing conservation practices and taking advantage of cost-share initiatives make sense on low-yielding or otherwise unusable acreage.

“In the near future, we’ll be looking at a cost analysis on a per-acre basis,” he said. “If there are areas of a field that are continually losing money, then we should consider programs or practices that can help producers maximize profitability while implementing common-sense conservation.”

Hill and his wife, Lori, have two sons, Carson, 8, and Blake, 5.

Today’s Farmer readers will hear more from Hill in regular columns and articles covering conservation topics. If you have questions about conservation practices or potential cost-share benefits, contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The show goes on

Farmers and ranchers throughout the Midwest can see the latest agricultural products and technologies to help boost productivity when the 2018 Western Farm Show returns to the American Royal Complex in Kansas City, Mo., Friday through Sunday, Feb. 23-25.

Now in its 57th season, the Western Farm Show features one of the region’s largest indoor displays of farm and ranch products. More than 500 exhibitors, including MFA Incorporated, will feature farm equipment, crop production and livestock products, farm structures, numerous ag services and much more.

Other highlights include:

  • The Stockmanship and Stewardship Low-Stress Livestock Handling Demonstration, sponsored by MFA Incorporated, will be held at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, in the Scott Pavilion adjacent to the American Royal Complex. The demonstrations are included in the show admission price and focus on improving the well-being of beef and dairy cattle, as well as their handlers, through humane animal care.
  • The Health & Safety Roundup, coordinated by Missouri Farm Bureau, features blood pressure, hearing and skin cancer screenings at no cost and cholesterol screenings for a nominal fee. Also offered will be free children’s vision tests. Highway safety will be presented by the Missouri and Kansas Highway Patrols, while other organizations will offer displays and demonstrations covering such topics as gun safety, crime prevention and FAA security/hazardous materials.
  • A cooking demonstration by the Culinary Center of Kansas City will be Saturday 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., sponsored by American Family Insurance. Tickets to the cooking shows are free, available in advance from American Family Insurance agents and at the company’s booth while supplies last. 
  • During FFA Day on Friday, Feb. 23, an expected 3,000 FFA students from Missouri and Kansas will compete for bragging rights in the annual Food Drive “Border War.” Collections are donated to the Harvesters Community Food Network serving western Missouri and eastern Kansas. FFA youth also have the opportunity at the show to expand their knowledge about agriculture and learn about career options.
  • The Family Living Center, a special area of the show, will feature clothing, crafts, and food, health and home décor items.
  • Sunday, Feb. 25, will be Military Appreciation Day, providing free show admission for veterans and active-duty service personnel with appropriate identification.

Show hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Adult admission is $8 and free for children 12 and under. For more information visit WesternFarmShow.com or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Forage and grazing conferences merge

The annual Southwest Missouri Spring Forage Conference and the Heart of America Grazing Conference are coming together for a combined two-day event on Monday, Feb. 26, and Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Mo.

The joint conference is designed for producers interested in learning more about management strategies for forages and livestock. Monday afternoon’s agenda offers four different sessions focusing on soil health on grasslands, followed by a social event, trade show and evening dinner.

On Tuesday, 45-minute breakout sessions will feature topics that include chemical weed control in pastures, understanding forage quality, grazing alfalfa, mineral supplements in pastures, incorporating sheep and goats into the cattle operation, beef genetics, getting top dollar for your calves, adapting to the forage growth curve and conditioning cows for pregnancy. The keynote luncheon speaker is Dave Pratt, who teaches the Ranching for Profit School in North America, Australia and Africa. He’s been instrumental in developing the Sustainable Ranching Research and Education Project and is co-founder of the California Grazing Academy.

More information and registration are available at SpringForageConference.com or by calling 417-532-6305, ext. 101. Pre-register by Feb. 16.

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