Grass Class

Spring Forage Conference planned Feb. 26 in Springfield

Native warm-season grasses will be spotlighted at the 35th annual Southwest Missouri Spring Forage Conference on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Oasis Hotel and Convention Center in Springfield, Mo.

The conference’s keynote speaker is Pat Keyser, professor and director of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Native Grasslands Management. His general session on native warm-season grasses will complement several breakout sessions throughout the day. Topics include strategies for managing farm and ranch depreciation; intercropping summer annuals; retained ownership; basics of intensive-grazing management; mitigation of fescue endophyte; proper stocking rates; fertilizing for crop removal rates; toxic plants; preparing for drought; economics of renovation; and forage sustainability with soil types.

A large trade show will also be held in conjunction with the conference. Agricultural businesses and organizations will have exhibits and representatives available to discuss their products and services.

Conference registration begins at 8 a.m., with sessions running from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cost is $35 per person in advance or $45 at the door. A banquet luncheon is included. To register or get more information, contact the Laclede County SWCD office at 417-532-6305, extension 101. The conference hotel is located at 2546 N. Glenstone Ave. in Springfield.

CLICK TO READ more stories from the Feb. 2019 Today’s Farmer Magazine.

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Missouri makes its mark at National FFA Convention

Austin Stanton of the Centralia FFA Chapter in Centralia, Mo., was honored Oct. 25 with FFA’s prestigious “American Star Farmer” award at the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. He was among 16 American Star Award finalists from throughout the U.S. who were nominated and interviewed by a panel of judges. Four were named winners and received cash awards totaling $4,000.

According to FFA, American Star Awards are presented to members who demonstrate outstanding skills and competencies through the completion of a supervised agricultural experience.

Austin operates a multifaceted agricultural enterprise with his brother, Dustin. With more than 15,000 hens, Stanton Brothers sells eggs to neighbors, restaurants, local grocery chains and University of Missouri dining halls. The brothers also raise swine and grow potatoes and radishes to diversify their operation.

The son of Judy and Andrew Stanton, Austin also works on his family’s row-crop and beef farm. The MU student said he wants to continue farming after completing his education and sell his products coast to coast.

“I do want to come back to the farm, and I want to raise a family on the farm,” Austin said. “That’s the reason that my brother and I went into the eggs adventure. If you have all your eggs in one basket, you’re bound to trip and fall one time. Diversification is the way to be sustainable.”

During the national convention, Missouri had 518 recipients earn American FFA degrees, the highest degree bestowed on an FFA member. Less than one-half of one percent of all FFA members earn the organization’s top individual honor.

Two Missouri chapters picked up distinguished chapter awards. The Marshall FFA chapter was named the 2018 National FFA Model of Excellence winner for the third time in four years. The Paris R-II FFA chapter was also selected as a top 10 Model of Excellence program, with a total of 31 Missouri chapters receiving the highest available chapter rating.

Four youth captured national championships in Agricultural Proficiency: Jacob Blank (Richland R-IV, equine science placement); Grace Box (Neosho, specialty crop production); Brenden Kleiboeker (Pierce City R-VI, swine production placement); and Hannah Strain (Rolla 31, forage production). Two additional programs, Columbia 93 School District (horse evaluation) and Gasconade County R-II (floriculture), received first-place finishes in the Career and Leadership Development Events category.

Nine participants earned an honorary American FFA degree, which is made available to people who have provided exceptional service on a national level to agriculture, agricultural education or FFA. Additionally, teachers who have created high-quality agricultural education programs that inspire or motivate students to strive for success are eligible. A full list of this year’s recipients and a compilation of event results are available at

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Organic acerage rises, non-GMO acerage declines

Acreage planted to organic field crops is on the rise while land planted to non-GMO corn and soybeans is declining, according to a new report from Mercaris, a market data and trading platform for the identity-preserved grain industry.

The number of farms certified under USDA’s National Organic Program increased 3 percent in 2018, with the biggest gains coming in the Northeast, Corn Belt and West Coast. Mercaris estimates the number of certified organic acres in 2018 will total 6.5 million, up 2 percent from last year.

Demand for organic livestock feed is one of the main drivers of organic crop expansion. Organic corn, soybeans and wheat are expected to account for approximately 1.2 million acres in 2018. The number of certified organic corn operations increased 4 percent from last year, while overall acreage is set to expand 2 percent.

The growth was even stronger in soybeans. More than 2,500 operations produced organic soybeans, up 7 percent from last year. Overall organic soybean production also saw a 7 percent increase from last year, with large gains in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Missouri.

Overall non-GMO acreage declined by 5 percent this year, dropping to 12.1 million acres. Total U.S. non-GMO corn acreage declined for the second year in a row, and non-GMO soybean acreage declined 7 percent from last year. The largest decline occurred in Missouri, which was the top grower of non-GMO beans in 2017.

Mercaris used data from USDA’s Organic Integrity Database, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Economic Research Service and other surveys to compile its estimates.

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