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Old friends, new beginnings

In the early morning hours of Feb. 23, 2019, Noel King stood across the street from MFA Agri Services in Lebanon, Mo., as sky-high flames engulfed the farm-supply store that three generations of his family had patronized.

The cattle producer and the cooperative’s board president admits he was overwhelmed by emotion as he huddled helplessly with other farmers and MFA employees, all stunned by the nightmarish scene.

“We hugged each other and watched it burn,” King said. “A hundred years of history. Gone. My family has been members here since the word go. I couldn’t help but think, ‘What’s going to happen to us now?’”

What happened next is nothing short of a miracle, said Max Stephans, Leba­non location manager. In the fall of 2020—only 18 months since the old store was reduced to smoldering rubble—MFA opened a brand-new facility in the same familiar spot on Jefferson Street, the bustling main route through town.

“Looking back at where we were then and where we are now, this is miraculous stuff,” Stephans said. “We built this store and filled it up debt-free, thanks to the diligence of the management and board over the years to make sure we were fully insured. No one lost a job. No one was laid off. We just kept operating through it all.”

More than 1,000 guests attended a two-day grand opening celebration Oct. 30-31, during which the cooperative, a local affiliate of MFA Incorporated, also commemorated its 100th anniversary. Darrell Pollock, executive director of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, led a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Friday morning to officially welcome MFA back to the community.

“In a year of mixed-up, terrible things, this is something positive that has risen up, literally, out of the ashes,” Pollock said. “After the fire, there really was a sense of loss for us all. MFA has been a good community partner. You don’t stay in business for 100 years without being that kind of company. And if the turnout at this grand opening is any kind of idea of what the future holds, they’re going to be here for the long haul.”

On hand for the grand opening was Phyllis Bishop, wife of the late Roscoe Bishop, who served on the local MFA board for 33 years. The couple raised cattle together and were mar­ried for nearly 60 years before his death on Feb. 8, 2020.

“My husband was still living when the store burned, but he didn’t live long enough to see it built,” she said. “I think it’s marvelous, and he would, too. He’d be really proud, because his whole life was about working for the farmers. He really wanted MFA to succeed.”

General Manager John Percival, who oversees operations at the cooperative’s Lebanon, Conway, Grovespring and Richland loca­tions, said the new store’s completion felt like a “lifelong journey.”

“I’ve been with this co-op 31 years, and I never dreamed that one day we’d have everything wiped out and have to start over,” Percival said. “Our mission statement is to ‘provide our farmer-members with cost-effective goods and services.’ The old store served that purpose, but this new facility will allow us to fulfill that mission even better. The fire was a tragedy, but it’s turned out to be a tremendous blessing.”

Stephans said the cooperative’s triumph over that tragedy can be attributed to the dedication of its employees, loyalty of its customers and support from the MFA system and the Lebanon community. During the rebuilding process, the co-op conducted business from a makeshift office and storefront assembled in an adjacent vacant building owned by MFA Incorporated. Fortu­nately, the feed mill was unharmed by the fire and never ceased operation.

“The building burned Friday night, and MFA had people here on Saturday morning,” Stephans said. “They gave us the keys to that building and told us to do what we needed to do. It was a godsend. By that afternoon, MFA had an IT trailer set up with all the computers and equipment we needed to run the business. Our employees were here, figuring out what equipment we had left and calling plumbers and electricians. Vendors and other businesses in town offered their help. Everybody did what they could do to get us back in business. By Monday morning, we had our first sales ticket. It was unbe­lievable.”

Rebuilding was an opportunity for reinventing the business, Stephans said. Although the new facility generally follows the same footprint as the original, the 11,000-square-foot showroom is about 2,000 square feet larger than the old one. The expansion mostly came from incorporating space that for­merly served as a greenhouse.

“In the transition to the new facility, we really had to ask some hard questions about what we wanted to do,” Stephans said. “We had a blank slate. It’s a terrible way to get there, but it really gave us a chance to look at what’s critical and what’s just fluff. That was one of our biggest challenges. Take the greenhouse, for ex­ample. Truth is, it was only profitable a few weeks each year. We decided to let the nurseries in town have that business. We want to ‘own’ what we do and be the best at it instead of trying to be everything to everybody.”

This introspective reflection led to a renewed focus on core farm-supply areas such as feed, animal health and hardware for both full-time and part-time producers. To appeal to the growing number of rural lifestyle consumers, however, Stephans said the new store also offers expanded lines of products such as wild bird feeding and outdoor living.

“The rural lifestyle is one our biggest driving forces here,” he said. “We intentionally built the store to focus on that segment of the market. At the old store, people used to come in, pick up what they needed and take off. Now, with this new layout, people come in, get a cart and wander around. From the very beginning, we knew we wanted it to be bright, open and inviting. I feel like we got that accomplished.”

Indeed, Pollock said, the product mix inside the reimagined MFA store reflects the customer base of the Lebanon community.

“This is a place where farming and town come together,” Pol­lock said. “Lebanon is a traditional agricultural community, even though when you drive through town, it doesn’t necessarily look like that. We have a lot of trade and traffic. But, at the end of the day, we’re rural Missouri. We embrace those rural roots.”

Despite some uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of the fire, a cause for which has never been determined, at no time was there a ques­tion about whether MFA would rebuild, said Board President King. Yes, there were challenges and difficulties, he said, but everyone involved learned a valuable lesson along the way—fire may destroy structures, but it can’t destroy the human spirit.

“Everything just turned out far greater than I could have ever dreamed,” King said. “MFA is everything to the ag community. It’s been serving generations of our families, and we’re all just thrilled to see the store back in business. Long live MFA.”

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Journey to the ring

On a Wednesday night in November 2019, Timothy Hudson bought a bred Yorkshire gilt from an online auction. The $1,100 purchase wasn’t an easy or cheap decision for the 15-year-old to make on his own. But it was an investment that, along with some hard work, would pay.

The Cassville High School sophomore was empowered by the support of his parents, Tracy and David, and his FFA advisors, John Littlefield and Jimmy Hinson. The ag teachers had even helped Timothy acquire a grant to purchase the gilt for his FFA career development experience.

Timothy would soon need more assistance from his FFA advisors. The pig named Penelope was due to give birth around Jan. 1, and it would be the first farrowing experience for the Hudson family. They found themselves huddled around Penelope in the barn early one cold Saturday morning as the piglets started arriving. The first one was dead.

“The first baby wasn’t fully formed,” Tracy said. “We didn’t know what we were doing and thought something was really wrong. We called Mr. Littlefield at 3 a.m., and he came right over. She labored for a long time, but the rest were okay.”

Penelope gave birth to 19 piglets over the course of two days and ended up raising 12 of them. Timothy and his younger brother, Lucas, 11, are now competing in show rings across the state with her offspring, earning numerous awards that included a grand champion boar and two grand champion gilts this past year.

“How well the pigs do depends on you,” Tim­othy said. “If you do poorly in the ring, that’s not their fault. If you don’t go out and walk them every day, that’s on you. You have to be able to control them. To do that, you have to have a relationship with them where they listen because they know you respect them. Since we’ve raised these from piglets, we definitely have that relationship.”

When he saw big brother Timothy competing and winning with his show pigs, Lucas wanted to get in on the action. His love for animals is clearly evident.

“All year, I watched him show pigs,” Lucas said. “I decided I want to do this, too.”

Timothy knows he’s setting the example for his little brother. Every day, Timothy wakes up earlier than he wants to and checks on the pigs. Neither he nor Lucas will eat breakfast until the pigs do. Before heading off to school, the brothers make sure the animals have water and food and haven’t injured themselves or gotten scratched up during the night. After school, Timothy attends basketball practice, and then it’s back home to check on the pigs again.

“I just do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “I came home the other day, and one of the pigs snapped the entire wall. She ripped the whole fence off, so I had to fix it, just things like that. It’s a job.”

After the pigs are taken care of and his schoolwork is finished, Timothy might have free time to hang out with friends.

“It’s definitely taught me responsibility,” he said. “But I couldn’t have done any of this without help. My teachers and everyone around me have always pushed me to do my best.”

Timothy is part of the Cassville FFA program, which has roughly 150 members and a variety of program opportunities. Hinson and Littlefield advise nearly 200 students district-wide when they incorporate middle-schoolers into that mix.

Both teachers attend numerous livestock shows with their chap­ter members.

“We help them manage their projects throughout the year,” Hinson said at the Missouri State Fair in August. “Then, this is the culmination, the result of all their work. It’s awesome to help kids learn responsibility and management and put the things we learn in class to use in a hands-on application.”

Back at home, the advisors practice what they preach. Hinson has a son and a daughter who exhibit pigs of their own, and both men help house animals for students who don’t have their own facilities. They also work with MFA Livestock Specialist Greg Davis to ensure all the ani­mals are getting proper nutrition.

Davis wholeheartedly rec­ommends Ring Leader for that proper nutrition. Ring Leader is MFA’s branded show feed, which is formulated with Shield Technology, MFA’s proprietary blend of essential oils and other additives designed to improve animal health and performance without the use of antibiotics. Shield also helps reduce stress in show animals, Davis said.

“Ring Leader is a top-notch feed, based on MFA’s Evolution swine feeds,” he said. “We have taken those formulations to the next level with specialized proteins and quality products added for performance to get the extra shape and bloom on the pigs while still protecting their immunity with our Shield Technology. We wanted to develop a feed that would take these kids’ projects from just being in FFA or ag class to getting that champion ribbon.”

Hinson said he fed another brand of feed for years, but when the manager at the local MFA asked him to try Ring Leader, he took the opportunity and hasn’t looked back.

“Greg has been very helpful,” Hinson said. “He’s the first feed rep that I’ve experienced who has actually made the effort to come out and do projects with us. He’s been out to all of the farms of our students who are raising pigs and offered advice and moral support to the kids.” The relationship makes a big difference for the busy ag teachers, Littlefield added.

“The customer service we get with MFA is bar none, the best we’ve ever had with any feed dealership,” he said. “That means a ton when you’ve got an issue or an animal that’s not feeding out quite right. I can call, text or email Greg, and he gets back to me instantly with an answer or guid­ance. That’s huge for us.”

That service is one reason why Littlefield and Hinson recommend Ring Leader to their students, and it’s also why Missouri State Fair Swine Show Judge Brandon Spears uses the MFA feed on his own farm in Hartshorne, Okla.

“We farrow 20-25 sows, and my three children show the pigs raised at Spears Farms,” he said. “We have had great results with the MFA Ring Leader feed line.”

To name a few highlights, in the past two years, his son, Braylon, exhibited the Champion Poland Gilt and fourth overall gilt at the Team Purebred Southwest Regional in Chickasha, Okla. Spears’ daughter, Railey, showed the Re­serve Champion Poland barrow at the same show. They also took home champion honors in the Oklahoma Youth Expo, including fifth overall cross barrow. At the Arkansas- Oklahoma State Fair in Fort Smith, Ark., the Spears family showed the Reserve Grand Champion. All of these pigs were fed Ring Leader.

Spears, who also teaches agriculture at Wilburton FFA in Oklahoma, grew up raising pigs and competing in swine shows with his family from a young age. In August 2020, he made the six-hour drive to Sedalia, Mo., to judge the youth swine show at the Missouri State Fair. The Cassville FFA chapter sent 15 of their own students, including Timothy, to show at the event.

“I was honored when I was asked to judge for the Missouri State Fair,” Spears said. “I enjoy working with kids, and any time I get to share my advice and meet good people and good families, I’m happy to do it. The livestock industry is very family-oriented and teaches young people many life skills.”

When judging, Spears said he looks for overall balance in the animal.

“First and foremost, I am looking for pigs that are structurally correct and functional on their feet and legs. It starts there,” he said. “I want to see pigs that have the right kind of proportion­al muscle shape, width and rib shape, those that are stout in terms of bone and foot size, and those that maintain look and extension. The overall freshness of the animal’s presentation is very important to me as well. Our winners are the ones that put as many of those positive traits together.”

Nutrition and daily care are big factors in gaining that com­petitive edge, Spears said. He was introduced to Ring Leader in 2018 through friend and MFA’s national livestock sales manager, Tom Lattimore.

“The reason I started feeding MFA Ring Leader at Spears Farms was the confidence I have in Tom,” Spears said. “Genetically, show pigs have different backgrounds and different needs when feeding and preparing for show day. The MFA Ring Leader line offers diversity for each pig’s needs based on what you are trying to accomplish.”

Performance and palatability of the feeds have been consistently good, he added.

“We first see the palatability of the feed when we introduce the Ring Leader Starter 1 Micro Pellet to our 21-day-old baby pigs,” Spears said. “Then, as those pigs started to transition and develop, Ring Leader offers different stages of feed for that growth.”

Timothy said he also understands the importance of good nutrition for his show pigs. Based on his teach­ers’ recommendation, he also feeds Ring Leader.

“If you don’t give the pigs what they need, they’re not up to standard, and right now the standard at shows is pretty high,” Timothy said. “The first thing you notice when you go into the ring is the pig that looks the best and the pig that looks the worst. The pig that looks the worst is always too fat or too skinny. You can just see the difference good nutrition makes.”

Penelope wasn’t Timothy’s first pig. He began his show career with one he purchased a year earlier at a sale held in the meat barn at the state fair. But his latest sow has set him on a path toward a future in and out of the show ring. Now 16, Timothy aspires to grow what started as a simple FFA project.

“I’d like to go to the College of the Ozarks for genetic engineering,” Timothy said. “They have a giant swine barn, and the program is hands-on. I’d like to eventu­ally expand on what we’ve started here, breeding show animals.”

He and his parents are talking about how to bol­ster his project and prepare for that future. Timothy has formed a business and sold several pigs. He’s also talking about selling pork at farmer’s markets in addi­tion to his breeding program.

“I think it would be cool if I could make a big name of myself, like some of the other well-known breed­ers,” he said. “But if not, I’m fine with operating a little hometown farm, raising good pigs.”

Timothy shuffles through his box of almost innu­merable show ribbons, evidence that he knows what it takes to be successful.

“I think I’m definitely competitive,” he said. “I play sports too, so I know what it takes to be good at something. You have to practice. You have to put in the work. You have to be at home working with your animals, and they have to trust you.”

To reiterate that point, Davis offered up a simple life lesson.

“Champions aren’t made in the ring. They’re made right here,” Davis said, paraphrasing a quote by former boxer Joe Frazier. “They just prove themselves in the ring, and sometimes that champion isn’t always the animal you show. It’s you.”

For more information on Ring Leader Feeds, contact your local MFA Agri Services or AGChoice location to be put in touch with a livestock specialist or visit online at www.mfa-inc.com/feed.

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Uncharted waters

FIRST IN THE STATE. It’s not a distinction that offi­cials with the Clark County Water District in Kahoka, Mo., want to hold.

Two years ago, one of the three wells that pro­vides water to the district’s service area in northeast Missouri began showing levels of nitrates above the allowable limit. Although a necessary nutrient for plants, high nitrate levels can be harmful to humans, especially infants.

The water in the Clark County district is sourced from the Des Moines River alluvial aquifer, pulled deep from the ground. The water is usually so clean that only minimal filtration and chlorine treatment is needed before it is pumped to homes and businesses.

“When our newest well was drilled in 2008, the nitrates were slightly higher than the other two, but they weren’t at levels that concerned us,” said Dan Dover, Clark County Water District manager. “For several years, they continued to steadily increase, but only about half a part per million every year. Then two years ago, they just skyrocketed.”

Until now, nitrates in ground water have never been a problem—in Clark County or anywhere else in Missouri, said Eric Fuchs, source water specialist for the Missouri Rural Water Association, a nonprofit organization that provides services, support and representation for the state’s water and wastewater utilities. In the Show-Me State, 33% of the population depends on ground water, while the remaining 67% gets its drinking water from surface water pumped out of lakes, rivers and streams.

“The Clark County situation is unique for us,” said Fuchs. “This is our first real case of nitrates in Missouri. In other states, like Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska, nitrates are a huge problem. But here, our soil profile typically isn’t leachable enough to allow them to get all the way down into the ground water.”

The Clark County Water District serves about 10,000 people through nearly 2,000 miles of water line. Water from the three wells is currently blend­ed to lower the nitrate levels under the threshold, a process that slows capacity. If nitrate numbers continue to climb, additional equipment and considerable extra expense will be needed to treat the water—costs that will have to be passed on to customers, Dover said.

“We were actually in the process of expanding our plant when the nitrate problem came up, and we had to put those plans on hold because we really don’t know what kind of treatment process we’re going to have to go with,” he said. “It all depends on whether we can get the nitrates under control. We’ve looked at some reverse-osmosis systems; they run about $2 million. We could possibly go with an ion-exchange system, which is like a giant water softener, but it’s still about $1 million. Either one will increase our end-user cost, which we’re trying to avoid.”

Beneath the surface

A few counties west, the city of Maryville is also having quality issues with its water source, Moz­ingo Lake, a 1,000-acre reservoir built in the mid- 1990s for both drinking water and recreational purposes. Nitrates and phosphorus are the issue here. These nutrients encourage algae blooms, which, in turn, create an unpleas­ant taste and odor in the water that is pumped from the lake to the Maryville Water Treatment facility and eventually into homes and businesses.

“Last winter, we had the highest algae counts we’ve ever had,” said George Hulet, region manager for PeopleService Inc., the contract company that operates the Maryville Water Treatment facility. “The prob­lem was blue-green algae, which is the primary type we have in our lake. Tests showed numbers around 200,000 cells per milliliter, and the Department of Natural Resources starts getting concerned at 100,000.”

In January 2020, the elevated algae levels prompted a “Do Not Use” warning for recreational activities on the lake. The water remained free of toxins, so it was still considered safe to drink. However, the incident caused a flurry of negative media attention and com­plaints from residents about the water quality.

“I’ve been in this job for about six years, and I’ve never seen so much at­tention drawn to a place so quick,” Fuchs said. “The biggest reason is that Maryville’s water plant serves about 30,000 people—not just the city but also rural Nodaway County and the college [Northwest Missouri State University]—and there’s no backup supply. If they did get a toxic algae bloom, we’d have a huge problem.”

Unlike ground water, which typically maintains the same quality, surface water is at the mercy of Mother Nature and many other outside forces. That means the treatment process is significantly more com­plex than the simple filtration system of the Clark County facility.

“For us, quality is a moving target,” said Jerry Riley, lead operator at the Maryville water treatment plant. “It’s always changing. We’re continually monitoring and testing samples throughout the day and adjusting our processes and chemicals accordingly. We want to provide water that people enjoy drinking. We don’t want to send out water that tastes bad and smells bad.”

While Clark County’s ground water treatment facility and Maryville’s surface water system are vastly different, their quality problems appear to have a common denominator—excessive nutri­ent leaching and runoff.

In Kahoka, testing points to nitrogen-based fertilizers as the likely

culprit of the well’s contamination, rather than other poten­tial nitrate sources such as sewage, animal waste or industrial drainage. In Maryville, the nitrates and phosphorus that feed the algae are coming from runoff and erosion. A majority of the acreage surrounding the lake is farmland.

However, rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, officials with both districts are working closely with the agricul­tural community to help solve the current problems and ensure water quality in the future. Efforts include local outreach, producer meetings and government funding to identify and implement effective land-use strategies.

“I want people to realize there are water-quality issues out there,” Fuchs said. “They’re not getting better; in fact, they’re getting worse. If we can admit we have problems, then we can tackle them head on. Don’t worry about whose fault it is. Just fix them. A huge part of this process is education, and farmers have been willing to listen.”

Flow of ideas

After the nitrate issue was discovered in Clark County, the Consolidated Public Water Supply District board held several meetings with farmers and landowners in the area around the compromised well. Fuchs was also on hand to help explain the problem and talk about solutions. Putting some common con­servation practices in place is the first step, he said.

“This is all low-hanging fruit,” Fuchs said. “No. 1: Manage your nitrogen. No. 2: Get some cover on those fields to scavenge the nitrogen left over from your cash crop. No. 3: Get on a good soil health program that includes no-till among other things.”

Although Dover said there was some tension at first, the mes­sage was ultimately well received. At the last producer meeting held in August, one of the farmers stood up and said, “I’ve got 40 acres we can work with. Why don’t we try some cover crops on that?”

That farmer was Jeff Arnold, who raises corn and soybeans with his brother, Lance, on fields adjacent to the Clark County well in question. The water district agreed to fund the cover crop inputs, and within a few days, the seed was flown into the field’s standing corn. Fuchs said the goal is to expand the practice to about 1,000 acres in the area.

“They’ve got a situation here with this well, and everyone in the neighborhood is going to have to do something to help,” Ar­nold said. “The cover crop thing has been the easiest, simplest thing to try. If we can get some data and some information on what this can do, then we can get other people involved.”

Dover explained that the soil profile is the biggest difference between the district’s three wells, even though they’re all less than a mile apart. Where the newest well was dug—and where Arnold farms—the soil is sandy and more susceptible to leaching than the denser clay soils in the location of the other two wells.

“Looking at the last 10 to 15 years of farming history in the area, a bunch of center pivots have gone in, which has allowed more corn-on-corn production,” Fuchs explained. “Irrigation is constantly pulling that water from different directions out of the ground, and a lot more nitrogen fertilizer is being applied.”

The cover crop Arnold planted is a five-way mix of bar­ley, vetch, crimson clover, radishes and turnips. He, too, has installed several irrigation systems in recent years and plants continuous corn in the fields surrounding the Clark County Water District well.

“The field we’re dealing with is about three-quarters of a mile from the well, so we know the pivot is pulling from the same aquifer,” Arnold said. “We’re going to take this 40-acre field, grow the cover crops, cut back on our nitrogen use next year, and then do a comparison with a field across the road, with all things being equal, to see how it turns out.”

Watershed moments

In Maryville, producer outreach has been more individualized. Just as public meetings were being planned last spring in the aftermath of the highly publicized algae bloom, COVID-19 concerns curtailed plans for in-person gatherings. Still, there’s been a positive, proactive response from farmers in the Mozin­go Lake watershed, Fuchs said.

“We’re targeting somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,500 acres,” he said. “I imagine 50 producers would probably cover most of the land. We’ve had a lot of interest and haven’t even had an official farmer meeting yet. People are coming forward saying, ‘Hey, we want to help with the problem,’ and we’ve already got $400,000 on the ground for cover crops and other conservation practices.”

Those funds have come from NRCS, the Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Program and Department of Natural Re­sources’ Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program, which is part of the national Clean Water Act. Nonpoint source is defined as pollution that can’t be traced to a single source but is likely from multiple activities such as stormwater runoff, agricultural practices and land development.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement in the watershed,” Fuchs said. “We’re talking to farmers about managing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. I have no doubt there are solutions out there that are cost-effective and will actually help them be more profitable in the long run.”

Adam Jones, MFA natural resources conservation specialist, is working with Missouri Rural Water Association to help identify some of those solutions. MFA’s precision agriculture program offers many conservation practices needed to help improve water quality, such as nitrogen modeling and variable-rate fertilizer applications based on intensive soil sampling.

Simply put, Jones added, much progress can be made if farmers follow the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship—right source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place.

“Managing your nutrient applications more precisely helps keep excess from being lost,” Jones said. “That’s the biggest thing. In a heavily tilled system without any cover, any residual nitrogen in your soil won’t be there for long. It’s going down into the ground or washing away with the next big rainfall. No-till and cover crops will help keep that nitrogen in the soil profile where it can be used the following year.”

Additionally, cover crops along with practices such as rota­tional grazing in pastures, grass waterways in crop fields and reduced tillage are all ways to help curb erosion, one of the main concerns around Mozingo Lake.

“Typically, phosphorus is tied to the soil particle, so it’s most likely entering the lake through sediment eroded away from the fields,” Jones explained. “If you stop erosion, you stop the phosphorus.”

When the government money dries up, Fuchs said he hopes the conservation practices it funded will become permanent. Water quality improvements are a long-term strategy with no quick fixes.

“Too many times, you see an all-hands-on-deck response to a problem, and everybody does good for a while, but then everything goes right back to how it was before,” he said. “We can’t afford to let that happen. We want to change the mindset, change the management styles and even change the legacy.”

The implications go far beyond any specific situation, Fuchs added. Government scrutiny of agriculture and water quality is becoming more and more stringent, threatening farmers and rural communities with costly and burdensome regulations. Showing success with a grassroots approach could go a long way toward keeping such restrictions at bay, he said.

“We are on the cusp of more and more regulations coming down the pike,” Fuchs said. “The goal is to turn this into a positive situation, to show the federal government that we can all work together—the cities, the water districts, conservation agencies and farmers—to solve the problem. We need these wins in Clark County and Maryville. We want to be able to tell EPA to go away. Missouri’s got this.”

Continue reading for exclusive online content. 

From source to tap

Learn more about the process of getting water to your home, farm and business

Turning on the tap for a flow of water is something many of us take for granted. If you rely on a municipal supplier for that water, do you know what goes on beyond the faucet to get it to your home, farm or business?

About 10% to 12% of American households rely on private groundwater wells for drinking water—either by choice or because the town they live in does not have a municipal water source, often the case in rural settings. 

Everyone else gets their water from the nation’s 150,000 public water systems, which draw from both surface water and groundwater sources. In the U.S, about 70% comes from surface water, replenished by rain and snow that run off into rivers, streams, and lakes. For example, the water source for Maryville, Mo., is Mozingo Lake, which is about five miles away from the city’s water treatment facility.

The rest of the nation’s fresh water comes from groundwater, which originates from rain and snow that seeps into the soil. It’s stored in aquifers, natural formations of soil, rocks, and sand beneath the ground. Groundwater is accessed from natural springs or pumped out of the ground from a well and is mainly used as drinking and irrigation water. The Clark County Water District in northeast Missouri provides water to its customers from the Des Moines River alluvial aquifer.

No matter the source, public water supplies must undergo regular tests to verify they meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Standards. Groundwater sources usually require less treatment than surface water. Though levels of treatment vary, depending on the source, the most common steps are:

Catchment

A series of pumps and pipes connect a water source to a treatment plant. Most treatment plants use gravity as much as possible to move the water.

Screening

When the water reaches the treatment area, a large metal screen traps large debris, such as plants, trees, trash, and fish, to keep them out.

Coagulation and Flocculation

Chemicals with a positive charge, called coagulants, are added to the water. The coagulants bind with negatively charged dirt particles, and together they form larger gelatinous particles called floc. Floc is separated from the water and pumped to a sedimentation pond. Meanwhile, the water is sent on for further treatment.

Ozonation

In some systems, ozone is added to the water. Ozone consists of three molecules of oxygen bound together and is made by applying electricity to liquid oxygen. When it’s pumped through water, it kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoans and reduces the concentration of iron, manganese, and sulfur. It also degrades pesticides and helps correct bad odors and tastes.

Filtration

Next, gravity pulls water through filters, which are usually made from sand, gravel, granular activated charcoal, or another medium. The filters remove particles from the water.

Disinfection

Chlorine is added to the water to kill or inactivate microorganisms. Sometimes, fluoride is also added to the water for dental health.

After drinking water is treated and meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Standards, it's transported to storage facilities where homes and businesses can access safe, clean drinking water straight from their taps. American water distribution systems span nearly 1 million miles and are mostly underground. The infrastructure includes pipes, control valves, pumps, meters, storage tanks and hydrants.

Do you know where your water comes from? Check out this interactive map from EPA: https://geopub.epa.gov/DWWidgetApp/

Solutions for the sources

When nitrogen and phosphorus are not fully utilized by growing plants, they can be lost from farm fields and negatively impact water quality. Excess N and P can be washed into waterways during rain events and when snow melts and can also leach through the soil and into groundwater over time. There are many ways that farmers can reduce nutrient losses from their operations, including, but not limited to:

  • Adopting Nutrient Management Techniques: Farmers can improve nutrient management practices by following the 4Rs of nutrient management: applying fertilizer and manure in the right amount, at the right time, with the right method and with the right placement.
  • Using Conservation Drainage Practices: Subsurface tile drainage is an important practice to manage water movement on and through many soils, typically in the Midwest. Drainage water can carry soluble forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, so strategies are needed to reduce nutrient loads while maintaining adequate drainage for crop production.
  • Ensuring Year-Round Ground Cover: Farmers can plant cover crops or perennial species to prevent periods of bare ground on farm fields when the soil is most susceptible to erosion and loss into waterways.
  • Planting Field Buffers: Farmers can plant trees, shrubs and grasses along the edges of fields; this is especially important for a field that borders water bodies. Planted buffers can help prevent nutrient loss from fields by absorbing or filtering out nutrients before they reach a water body.
  • Implementing Conservation Tillage: Farmers can reduce how often and how intensely the fields are tilled. Doing so can help to improve soil health, and reduce erosion, runoff and soil compaction, and therefore the chance of nutrients reaching waterways through runoff.
  • Managing Livestock Access to Streams: Farmers and ranchers can install fence along streams, rivers and lakes to block access from animals to help restore stream banks and prevent excess nutrients from entering the water.
  • Engaging in Watershed Efforts: The collaboration of a wide range of people, stakeholders and organizations across an entire watershed is vital to reducing nutrient pollution to our water and air. Farmers can play an important leadership role in these efforts when they get involved.

Source: https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/sources-and-solutions-agriculture

Did you know ...

...that although 70% of Earth’s surface is water, 97% of that is in oceans and estuaries and not available for drinking or irrigating? And that much of the remaining 3% is trapped in glacial ice?

...that the volume of water on Earth stays the same, but the form—liquid, gas, or solid—changes constantly?

...that per-capita daily water use in the United States is about 1,400 gallons (all uses, including irrigating, mining, and manufacturing, as well as domestic use)?

...that soil quality is a key determinant of water quality because soils regulate and partition water flow and buffer against human use and environmental changes?

...that many of the contaminants that people introduce into water—such as nitrate—also occur naturally?

...and that 3 out of 4 farmers have changed their farming practices to help reduce water pollution?

 

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In this November 2020 TF magazine

FEATURES

Notice of MFA Incorporated annual meeting - link to flipbook as published.

Hometown heroes - Cover Story
Two Missouri cattle farmers and military veterans share their stories from WWII and Vietnam - Photo Gallery
by Kerri Lotven

Get the most out of new soybean herbicide traits
Plan early and often for the most effective weed-control system
by Shannon McClintock, MFA Regional Agronomist

Life in the raw
Marc and Michelle DeLong produce direct-to-consumer milk from their goats and cows - Photo Gallery 
by Allison Jenkins

Linked to history
Since the 1850s, Laclede Chain has gone to great lengths to provide quality products
-- Photo Gallery
by Allison Jenkins

Fall deworming keeps cattle clean until spring
Wipe out parasites, prevent resistance with an effective control program
by Dr. Jim White, MFA Director of Nutrition

DEPARTMENTS & OPINION

Country Corner
Keeping it real in a virtual world
by Allison Jenkins

UpFront/Blog
Economic recovery remains fragile, but rural industries show signs of improvement
Waste not, want not
XtendFlex soybeans gain final regulatory approval

Markets
Corn: Harvested bushels likely to be lower than expected
Soybeans: Price rallies pos-sible for remainder of 2020
Cattle: Third year of red ink
Wheat: Global production concerns may boost prices
- As printed via Flip Book

Recipes
A meal in itself - As printed via Flip Book

Marketplace
BUY, sell, trade - As printed via Flip Book

Viewpoint
Let’s be thankful for a functioning food supply.
by Ernie Verslues, MFA President and CEO

Closing Thought - November TF 2020
Each month our photographer and poet team up for a unique last page for the magazine.

FLIPBOOK
Click below to view the magazine as printed in a digital Flip book format.

Click to view the magazine as printed via a flip book

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About Today's Farmer magazine

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