NEWS STORIES

CONSERVATION

NCGA Joins America’s Conservation Ag Movement

(Posted Wed. Oct 23rd, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

Driving sustainable farming practices is a priority of NCGA. That’s why it joined the America’s Conservation Ag Movement, a unique partnership between Farm Journal’s Trust in Food Initiative and leading agribusinesses, food companies and non-profit organizations. A national education and engagement program, it’s designed to more rapidly scale the adoption, documentation and beneficial outcomes of conservation agriculture. It will build upon the work of NCGA, USDA, land grants and others that have worked to improve the ecological impact of agriculture.

Preserving Water Quality and Quantity a Key Priority for Corn States

(Posted Fri. Sep 13th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation

State and NCGA staff who deal with environmental and sustainability issues like water quality met in Colorado this week to discuss efforts by farmers to assure both the quality and quantity of water society will need in the future.   The Water Quality Working Group, representing 11 states from Ohio to Colorado, discussed successes and compared notes on challenges farmers face as they increase sustainability efforts while balancing society’s future need for increased productivity.   Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District hosted the meeting and provided a close-up look at how they manage and conserve water to meet the needs of the growing population and a flourishing agricultural industry in what was once known as “the great American desert.”   The group was also briefed on the Natural Resources, Conservation Service’s ongoing Conservation Effects Assessment Program. Information and data collected through this initiative is expected to reflect the positive impact of...

Teeter Joins SHP as Minnesota Field Manager

(Posted Tue. Aug 27th, 2019)

Keywords: SHP Sustainability Conservation

Anna Teeter is SHP’s newest team member, joining as a Field Manager covering Minnesota. Anna most recently received her master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Department of Soil Science. Her thesis evaluated preserving nitrogen from fall-applied dairy manure using nitrapyrin, a nitrification inhibitor, in combination with spring wheat as a fall cover crop.    “Anna is a great addition to the SHP Field Manager team. Her extensive experience working with diverse farming operations will bring a great perspective to Minnesota farmers,” commented SHP Field Team Director, Jack Cornell. Anna received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison double majoring in Agronomy and Life Science Communication. Throughout her undergrad, Anna worked with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Forage Extension Specialist and gained experience working with a diverse group of farming operations. Additionally, Anna served as a Crop Scout at Tilth...

Conservation Action Tour Showcases Advances in Sustainability

(Posted Thu. Aug 22nd, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability

NCGA Stewardship and Sustainability Director Rachel Orf is in central Iowa this week attending the 2019 Conservation Technology Information Center Conservation in Action Tour. Attendees are examining a wide range of edge-of-field systems, in-field solutions, and management practices on the farm and at those being adopted by retailers.   “The theme of the 12th annual Conservation in Action Tour, Conservation at The Leading Edge, is reflected in how farmers hosting tour stops are literally at the leading edge of conservation practices,” Orf said. “Healthy soil and clean water are incredibly valuable assets for farmers living - and making a living - from the land as well as society at large.”   Yesterday the group got to see a bioreactor in the process of being constructed. In agricultural applications, bioreactors are vessels/trenches filled with woodchips that literally contain water briefly allowing bacteria to filter and clean the water from the farm field. They are...

Soil Health Partnership Celebrates 5 Years of Growth and Collaboration

(Posted Thu. Aug 1st, 2019)

Keywords: SHP Conservation Sustainability

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) has been fostering transformation in agriculture through improved soil health since 2014. This year, SHP celebrates its fifth anniversary and the foundational collaborations that developed the program.   SHP was founded by a diverse group of organizations with a shared vision of developing a farmer-led research network to measure the impacts of implementing soil health practices on working farms. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Bayer, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), alongside the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), came together to see this vision through. This program was based upon work supported by the National Resources Conservation Service, U.S Department of Agriculture.   “We are proud of the collaboration led to SHP’s establishment. That collaboration has continued to grow and evolve with many partners, bringing dynamic perspectives to the table. We would not be where we are today without our founding partners sharing the...

Senate Staffers Hear About the Intersection of Soil Health and Climate Change

(Posted Tue. Jul 30th, 2019)

Keywords: farm policy sustainability conservation

    A standing-room-only crowd attended a briefing: “An Overview of Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry” in Washington, D.C. today to hear experts like Executive Director of the Soil Health Partnership Dr. Shefali Mehta, highlight the agricultural practices farmers are adopting that can help mitigate climate change.   The briefing was hosted by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and targeted a diverse group of staffers interested in learning more about how farming practices are helping make farmers more resilient in the face of a changing climate.   “Practices such as reducing or eliminating tillage and growing cover crops can improve soil health, and they also hold the potential to increase carbon sequestration and storage and to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with agricultural production,” Mehta said. “In addition to their role in climate change mitigation, these practices can make agricultural land—and farm operations—more...

Annual Monarch Blitz Kicks Off July 27

(Posted Fri. Jul 26th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 3rd Annual International Monarch Monitoring Blitz in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The event from July 27 to August 4, 2019, invites people across North America to go out to gardens, parks and green areas and monitor milkweed plants for monarch eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises and butterflies.   The information will help researchers identify priority areas for monarch conservation. It also provides a great way to build overall awareness of the importance of the Monarch butterfly to our ecosystem and biological diversity.   NCGA supports Monarch conservation initiatives because of their contribution to productive agriculture. An increase in milkweed and nectar plants appropriately placed in rural areas can benefit Monarchs without inhibiting production, and farmers are in a great position to establish Monarch habitat.   You can learn a lot more from NCGA’s new publication called Best Management Practice for Pollinator Protection in...

SHP Soil Sessions: Crop Update and Scouting Tips

(Posted Fri. Jul 19th, 2019)

Keywords: SHP Conservation Sustainability

You still have time to sign up for a unique webinar to get a U.S. crop update and learn crop scouting techniques and strategies. The Soil Health Partnership sponsored event will be held July 30, 2019 at 11 a.m. EST / 10 a.m. CST.   During the session discussion will revolve around:   How to scout fields with cover crops during planting What to expect with a late harvest? Drone scouting techniques and strategies   If you are unable to join live, please still register. A recording of the webinar will be shared with all registrants so you can listen any time. You can register here.

Cover Crop Benefits Clearer in Drought and Wet Years

(Posted Fri. Jul 12th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability; Production

Joe Breker needs his own tee shirt that reads “No Tillage, More Plants” or “Cover Crops Are Good Risk Management.” The North Dakota farmer thinks the tandem of no-till farming and the use of cover crops are key to making farmers more resilient in good times and bad, deluge or drought.   That’s because National Corn Growers Association’s 2017 Good Steward Recognition Recipient has spent four decades working to make his farm more sustainable and he has seen the conservation and business benefits of protecting and enriching the soil with cover crops, especially when mother nature provides too little or too much rain.   “If you already have established cover crops in a wet spring as we’ve had, it protects the soil from erosion and in some cases can get you in the field faster. That’s important when getting planting done is a challenge,” Breker said. “Sure, some fields are just too wet but cover crops generally improve your chances for success in most years.”   And Breker is not...

Sustainability: Making Dollars and Sense in Agricultural Sustainability Programs

(Posted Wed. Jun 26th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability

Consumer interest in where and how their food is produced is on the rise, and many leading brands and retail companies have responded by setting ambitious sustainable sourcing commitments. However, plenty of challenges remain to make sure all participants, from farmer to retailer, share in the value from the evolving marketplace.   Better understanding this conundrum and finding solutions and incentives throughout the value chain is a key topic of discussion at the Field to Market Meeting in Oakbrook, Ill. this week. NCGA staff, including Rachel Orf, Director of Stewardship and Sustainability, are in attendance seeking opportunities to partner with other organizations and companies on projects.   Orf says many farmers are making substantive changes in their farming operations with sustainability goals in mind. But, for the progress to continue, there must be clear incentives to enhance farmers’ livelihoods such as protecting and maintaining farm productivity and better prices...

SHP Testifies in Support of Investment and Collaboration in Soil Health Practices

(Posted Tue. Jun 25th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability SHP

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) Executive Director, Dr. Shefali Mehta testified today at a House Agriculture, Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hearing in support of investment in soil health practices.   The SHP, a program of the National Corn Growers Association, is a farmer-led effort that has built a network of over 220 farmers in 15 states and over 100 partner organizations at the federal, state and county levels over the past five years.    “Our partner farmers work with us over five years to measure the impacts of the practice change. We measure basic soil macro- and micronutrients every year on the field, as well as soil health indicators every other year. Through this process, we are creating an in-depth data set from which to support farmers’ decisions and to understand the long-term changes in soil health over time. We look for impacts on yield, input use, and the farmer’s profitability,” explained Dr. Mehta.   “The farmers we work with are exceptional...

Virtual Reality Immerses Viewers in Monarch Butterflies’ 3000-Mile Migration
EDF and NCGA debut “The Monarch Effect,” an interactive experience about solutions that benefit farms and monarchs

(Posted Wed. Jun 19th, 2019)

Keywords: Pollinators Conservation Sustainability

The Monarch Effect, an interactive, virtual reality experience, will debut today during National Pollinator Week in Washington, DC. Created by Environmental Defense Fund and the National Corn Growers Association, The Monarch Effect immerses viewers in monarch butterflies’ incredible 3,000-mile migration through North America. The journey begins in the oyamel fir forests of central Mexico, where tens of millions of monarchs spend the winter. Viewers then join consecutive generations of monarchs as they fly north into the American heartland looking for the milkweed and wildflower habitat they need to survive.   “Being surrounded by millions of monarchs during our shoot in Mexico was one of the most surreal and magical moments of my life,” said Eric Holst, associate vice president for working lands at EDF. “This technology transports people there, letting them feel that same sense of awe.”   Monarch populations have plummeted 90% over the past two decades due to habitat loss,...

Mesko joins SHP as Development Director

(Posted Wed. Jun 19th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability SHP

The Soil Health Partnership is pleased to announce that John Mesko has joined as the Development Director, bringing vision and a breadth of experience to the SHP team.   Mesko grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm in Minnesota, gaining a passion for farming and tremendous respect for farmers.  After graduating from Purdue University with a bachelor's degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in agricultural economics, Mesko’s diverse career in agriculture has centered around helping farmers become more financially and environmentally sustainable.    He served as a sales agronomist and technical information manager for Mycogen Seeds. As a County Extension Director for Purdue University, his work centered on farm management and developing new markets for farmers. In addition to raising and selling grass-fed beef and lamb for a dozen years, John has led two sustainability-minded nonprofits: The Sustainable Farming Association and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable...

Byerly Joins SHP as Kansas & Nebraska Field Manager

(Posted Wed. Jun 19th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability SHP

Keith Byerly has joined the Soil Health Partnership as the Kansas and Nebraska Field Manager. Byerly brings a broad set of experiences and expertise to this role.     “I am really impressed with Byerly’s experience of communicating his agronomic knowledge to the growers in his region across various platforms,” said SHP Field Team Director, Jack Cornell. “SHP is dedicated to continually helping farmers make more informed decisions to become more productive in their operations, and Byerly is going to help us provide Kansas and Nebraska farmers with local support.”   Byerly graduated with a degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska Lincoln in 2001 and has been a Certified Crop Advisor since 2002. Byerly spent the last eighteen years working for a cooperative that served multiple states out of Nebraska. For fifteen years, he has been a precision ag manager focusing on data services, prescriptions and hardware.  Raised on the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills, Byerly holds a...

Pollinator Week Is A Great Time To Think Small

(Posted Mon. Jun 17th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation Pollinator

So many big things on a farm: buildings, equipment, fields, and even the scale of business decisions. So, sometimes it can be easy to forget the small things like honey bees, Monarch butterflies and other pollinators that play a critical role in the health of the environment and high yields on many crops.   “That’s why we have a National Pollinator Week – Junes 17-23, 2019 - which launches today. Pollinators are an indispensable natural resource in agriculture and healthy ecosystems,” said Roger Zylstra, a Lynnville, Iowa farmer who heads the National Corn Growers Association’s Stewardship Action Team. “There is a growing awareness amongst farmers that they are on the front line in playing a critical role for their survival and NCGA is trying to help.”   NCGA is working cooperatively with numerous groups like The Honey Bee Health Coalition, Farmers for Monarchs, and the Environmental Defense Fund to expand pollinator awareness through education and providing tools to assist in...

Ag Innovation and Sustainability on Display at DC Area Farm

(Posted Fri. Jun 7th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability

Key staff from multiple government agencies are getting a crash course in the latest farming techniques and agricultural technology from industry experts at the Modern Ag Sustainability Field Day Demo Day outside of Washington, D.C. today.   The Office of Pesticide Programs, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA Pest Policy Management and Foreign Ag Service are all represented at the event on the family farm of Chip Bowling in Newburg, Maryland.   Bowling, a former NCGA president and current chairman of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, hosted the event along with NCGA, Agricultural Equipment Manufacturers, American Soybean Association, American Seed Trade Association, National Agricultural Aviation Association and the Fertilizer Institute.   The day featured in-field demonstrations of modern conservation tillage, precision planting, spraying and harvesting equipment. The group also saw drones and the latest in seed and fertilizer...

U.S. Farmers Should Take a Bow on World Environment Day

(Posted Wed. Jun 5th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation SHP

Today is World Environment Day and for U.S. farmers that makes it a great time to celebrate their success in modernizing agriculture and make it more environmentally sustainable. Improved soil management like no till and use of cover crops, precision farming tactics that better utilize nutrients and pesticides, and reducing trips across fields reduces fuel use and air pollution.   This list could go on, but suffice it to say, caring for the planet is vital to our survival. As caretakers of massive tracts of land farmers play a key role in improving our environment and they take this responsibility seriously.   From the Soil Health Partnership, which is building new soil for future generations; to the Take Action initiative that is constantly educating farmers on the latest and best ways to use crop products like herbicides and pesticides; to our efforts to save honey bees and Monarch butterflies, NCGA is working hard to keep farming profitable and assure environmental...

Efforts to Help Struggling Honey Bee Population Gaining Momentum

(Posted Wed. May 22nd, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainabillity Conservation

Corn is wind pollinated and does not benefit from insect pollination so why the heck do corn farmers care about bees?   Well, few farmers grow only one crop and bees play a critical role in 80 percent of flowering crops. Even bigger picture, bees are a critical part of thriving ecosystems, including those found across the Corn Belt.   That’s why more and more farmers are keeping pollinators in mind as they manage their fields each year and make longer term plans for their operation, according to Nicole Hasheider, NCGA’s director of biotechnology and crop inputs. NCGA is doing its part to help by partnering with the Honey Bee Health Coalition and through the introduction of a new resource on pollinator protection.   Bees can cover up to 3,200 acres as they travel looking for nectar and pollen, which means the odds are high they are eventually going to end up hanging out in a cornfield. Corn pollen, while of low nutritional value to honey bees, can still be an important component...

 NCGA Releases Pollinator Protection Guide

(Posted Tue. Apr 2nd, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

The National Corn Growers Association – in partnership with the Honey Bee Health Coalition – is releasing new best management practices (BMPs) to protect bees and other pollinators in and around corn fields.   At roughly 92 million acres, field corn covers more land than any other row crop in the country, and in the Midwest Corn Belt, corn often makes up to 40 percent of the landscape or more. The BMPs presented in the NCGA’s new guide identify potential effects of agricultural practices on bees at each stage of production and recommend ways to mitigate those impacts.   The digital publication showcases specific strategies such as reducing dust and drift while planting a pesticide-treated seed.   “While corn does not rely on honey bees for pollination like some crops, bees depend on neighboring plants for forage,” said Nathan Fields, NCGA vice president of production and sustainability. “As good stewards of the land, corn growers can follow these BMPs to help protect honey...

Soil Health Partnership Announces Several Open Positions

(Posted Mon. Mar 25th, 2019)

Keywords: sustainability conservation

As the Soil Health Partnership heads into its fifth year of long-term data collection on working farms, the organization is hiring for several roles to support its expanding footprint. Open roles include Development Director, a Michigan Research Manager, Soil Health Kansas-Nebraska Field Manager, and Soil Health Minnesota Field Manager.   The Development Director plays a critical role in leading the relationships and partnership development for the SHP. The Development Director will provide internal support to the SHP Executive Director and work closely with the team of National Directors. This position will partner with the SHP National staff to build a comprehensive partnership and relationship plan to ensure long-term support of our unique on-farm science program. The position will also provide oversight of and contribution to communication efforts.   The Michigan Soil Health Research Manager will provide technical assistance and research collaboration for the Soil Health...

Consider Pollinator Plantings as You Gear Up for Spring

(Posted Tue. Mar 19th, 2019)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability

If you are a Monarch butterfly supporter buckle up because here’s some good news. The yearly count of the Eastern Monarch butterfly population that overwinters in Mexico was released recently, showing an increase of 144 percent over last year’s count.   After years of struggles with a host of challenges from bad weather to loss of habitat, the large butterfly count - the highest count since 2006 comes as welcome news. But not too fast, because Western Monarchs continue to struggle due to drought, wildfires, pesticides and loss of habitat.   Landowners and farmers are uniquely situated to support the Monarch and are already making a difference. Habitat plantings can fit into many niches on the agricultural landscape, including conservation lands, grazing lands, rights-of-way, field margins, field borders, pivot corners, conservation lands, ditches, buffers and other low-productive lands. Milkweed and other nectar-producing flowers planted in these areas yield multiple on-farm...

The Bottom-Line Benefits of Sustainability

(Posted Tue. Feb 26th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

In today’s economic environment it’s more important than ever to focus on business survival as a key element of all the management decisions you make, and this is true of efforts to make the farm more sustainable too.   As agriculture and society become more focused on sustainability, efforts that emphasize the bottom-line benefits of moving to more sustainable practices are on the rise. And, this week, that’s the focus of a special Learning Center session at this year’s Commodity Classic sponsored by National Corn Growers Association.    So, join Shefali Mehta, executive director of soil and sustainability, NCGA; Nathan Fields, NCGA vice president of production and sustainability and Suzy Friedman, senior director of agricultural sustainability, Environmental Defense Fund on March 1 from 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. in room W208 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.   Fields says there is an emerging pathway to cleaner water, healthier soil and a potential income...

Planting is Coming and So Are the Pests. Are You Ready?

(Posted Wed. Feb 20th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation production

If you haven’t looked into the innovative and proactive Take Action initiative of late, it might be a great time to give the widely expanded program supported by National Corn Growers Association and a host of partners a closer look.   The great news is the educational campaign is evolving and growing at a fast pace and now provides information on dealing with herbicide-resistant weeds, and fungicide and insect resistance.   Finding a clearer path to a more sustainable and profitable way to farm is made much easier thanks to Take Action. The mission here is to choose the best available tools and technology for the environment, your balance sheet and all with an eye on preserving access to these important tools. Informed management is just smart farming.   Take Action on Weeds, which the National Corn Growers Association promotes as a resource of farmers combating herbicide resistance issues, was developed by the United Soybean Board. Based on that success new technical...

Soil Health Partnership Call for Proposals

(Posted Wed. Feb 13th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) announced it is accepting proposals for partnerships and collaboration for 2019. SHP encourages any organization or individuals who have an interest in working together to submit ideas.   “At the SHP, we collaborate with a diverse network of partners ranging from universities to industry and government groups to non-profits,” said Dr. Shefali Mehta, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership. “These broad partnerships enable SHP to maximize the impact of our work. This year we are making this specific call for proposals to ensure that we continue to seek out diverse partners and include a fuller range of ideas.”   Applicants are required to complete the Request for Partnership form on the SHP website. The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 15, 2019.   “Whether working with soil science or agronomy experts, developing a partnership in a new state as we expand our farmer network, or fueling a graduate student’s passion for soil...

Weak Farm Economy Not Hampering Drive to Healthier Soils

(Posted Thu. Jan 17th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

This week’s Soil Health Summit 2019 with Soil Health Partnership was the largest ever—360 registered attendees made their way to St. Louis to learn and network. A diverse group including farmers, corporations, educators and environmental groups spent two days talking about soil health. The summit provided many takeaway messages and insights of interest. Here are just a few:   Enthusiasm for learning new sustainability practices and adopting new farm management tools to protect and improve soil is not being slowed by a prolonged downturn in the farm economy. Many farmers, landlords, and others are investing in the long game to assure more sustainable and profitable agriculture.   SHP outreach is building a diverse coalition of partners from farms all the way to consumers. The program and the network being created is growing rapidly.   The common interest of proving the latest farming techniques, building healthier soils, cleaner water while maintaining farmer...

Second Annual Soil Health Summit Awards Honor Best in Soil Health

(Posted Wed. Jan 16th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

Five dedicated leaders in soil health received “Seeds of Change” awards at the 2019 Soil Health Partnership Summit, Jan. 15-16 in St. Louis. These awards highlight those participants in the Soil Health Partnership who go above and beyond to promote soil health throughout the year.    “The Soil Health Partnership’s strength has its roots in our committed and supportive partners—especially the farmers and agronomists who play an important role in our ability to support research-based practices,” said Dr. Shefali Mehta, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership. “These five individuals exemplify the very best of our dedicated partners, and we thank them for their great work.”   The five award recipients are:   Super Sprout: Brian Ryberg, Buffalo Lake, Minnesota. As a first-year member of the partnership, Ryberg has jumped right into active involvement with activities that included holding a field day. Ryberg values collaboration, according to SHP staff, and has worked...

Look Down, You Are Standing on Our Future

(Posted Tue. Jan 15th, 2019)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

How do we feed a growing population and meet additional, related demand from other sectors for crops (like corn) while also addressing farmers and consumers desire for continuous improvement, healthier soils and cleaner water? Enter the Soil Health Partnership.   Today and tomorrow, SHP is hosting a meeting with national significance called the Soil Health Summit 2019 in St. Louis, Mo.  SHP Executive Director Shefali Mehta says the diverse partnership is “a gathering of unlikely partners” that includes farmers, agronomists, environmental groups, and partners from throughout the value chain from the farm all the way to finished consumer products.   Mehta, notes a key thing that sets SHP apart is supporters moved beyond “just talking” quickly, and the “unlikely partners” rallied around their shared desire to help farmers improve soil health while maintaining and improving profitability. The result is a boots-on-the-ground effort that is turning farmers fields into a research...

NCGA Statement on WOTUS Rule

(Posted Tue. Dec 11th, 2018)

Keywords: wotus policy conservation sustainability

National Corn Growers Association President Lynn Chrisp made the following statement on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) release of the new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. The new rule replaces the 2015 WOTUS rule that would have increased regulatory burdens and costs for farmers.   “Farmers rely on clean water and are committed to protecting our environment and the communities where we live and work. With a clear understanding of what is and is not jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act, farmers can implement stewardship practices such as grass waterways and buffer strips without the burden of bureaucratic red tape or the fear of legal action.   “NCGA looks forward to fully reviewing the new WOTUS rule to ensure that it provides clear jurisdictional boundaries to farmers, protects our nation’s water and can be implemented without confusion.”

Soil Health Partnership Expands New Program to Grow Network and Data
Phase 2 of pilot Associate Program announced on World Soil Day

(Posted Tue. Dec 4th, 2018)

Keywords: sustainability conservation

Just in time for World Soil Day on December 5, the Soil Health Partnership announced it is expanding a pilot project to give more farmers access to the soil health network.    As the organization launches phase 2 of its pilot Associate Program, it will invite 75 farmers to enroll in 2019. This will enable more farmers to join SHP in its mission of using science and data to support farmers in adopting agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm.    The economic component of soil health has taken on an increasing level of urgency during a difficult farm economy, said Shefali Mehta, executive director of the Soil Health Partnership.   “We’ve seen increasing demand from farmers who would like to join our network,” Mehta said. “Expanding the pilot phase of our Associate Program provides a great number of farmers with access to a scientific platform to evaluate soil health as part of a comprehensive management strategy.”   Joining...

NCGA, USFRA Put Farming Sustainability in the Spotlight in Denver

(Posted Thu. Nov 15th, 2018)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

The National Corn Growers Association joined other agricultural groups in telling farmers’ sustainability story during the “Cultivating Collaboration for Sustainable Food Systems” at the 2018 Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Denver this week. Lauren Biegler, a farmer from Minnesota who participates in both CommonGround and the Soil Health Partnership, represented the association during this dynamic panel, which was hosted and organized by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance.   USFRA believes that farmers and ranchers are the solution to enhanced sustainability practices and varying climate patterns. The panel, hosted during this value chain- inclusive event, shared the current practices farmers employ and the potential for further improvement in the future with retailers and companies focused on consumer packaged goods.   During the session, farmers representing various commodities discussed the importance of communication and collaboration in working towards a shared goal of...

NCGA Names Robyn Allscheid Director of Research and Productivity

(Posted Thu. Nov 15th, 2018)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability

The National Corn Growers Association welcomes back Robyn Allscheid, who rejoins the organization as the director of Research and Productivity in the St. Louis, Mo. office.  Allscheid previously served at NCGA as manager of research and business development from 2008 to 2010. She will serve as staff lead for the Corn Productivity and Quality Action Team as well as leading NCGA’s research programs.   “Robyn has a deep background, both academically and professionally, that will help NCGA coordinate and develop research programs across the state and national levels,” said Vice President of Production and Sustainability Nathan Fields.  “Her proven skill and previous experience have allowed her to hit the ground running, already adding to the team in a positive, productive way that will benefit our efforts to maintain and create opportunities for U.S. corn farmers.”   Allscheid comes to NCGA from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center where she ran the lab for the Center’s...

(Posted Fri. Aug 24th, 2018)

Keywords: conservation sustainability

Water management and water quality are the key focus this week for State and National Corn Growers Association staff attending a one of a kind meeting on Put-In-Bay South Bass Island in Lake Erie.   The goal of the Summer Water Quality Meeting is to better understand how algal blooms on the lake became a national story and more importantly how agriculture and its allies are responding, said Tadd Nicholson, Executive Director of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association.   The heart of the two-day meeting was a tour of Stone Lab, Ohio State University’s research center which is supported and operated by the University in partnership with Ohio Sea Grant program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.   The Stone Lab allows researchers to identify plankton, measure chlorophyll content and cyanobacteria toxins which can result from blooms of blue green algae. They also test for nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen which enter the lake from multiple sources...

(Posted Tue. Aug 21st, 2018)

Keywords: farm policy conservation sustainability

On Monday, a broad coalition of agriculture organizations, including the National Corn Growers Association, asked a federal district court in South Carolina to stay its order striking a rule that delayed implementation of the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule. Absent a stay, the court order puts the 2015 rule in effect in the 26 states where courts have not already stayed its implementation.   The coalition warned of the “patchwork regulatory regime” created by allowing implementation of the WOTUS rule in about half the nation.   “Enormously consequential national regula­tions like the WOTUS rule—which subject commonplace activities involved in building, farming, and pest management to a complex and burdensome federal permitting and enforcement scheme—should not apply differently depending on whether the activity happens to be located on one side of a state line or the other,” the organizations wrote in their filing with the court.

Dr. Shefali Mehta Tapped as New Leader of Soil Health Partnership

(Posted Thu. Aug 16th, 2018)

Keywords: conservation sustainability

Shefali Mehta had a fascination with plants from early in her childhood. From her time growing up in New England, through her education and work in agriculture in the U.S. and around the world, she followed her passion, launching a notable career as an agricultural and environmental economist.   Mehta has been tapped as the new executive director of the Soil Health Partnership, a long-term data project that measures and quantifies the impact of farm management practices known to promote healthy soils.     “Everything we have literally starts with the soil, which is intimately connected to our very survival and ability to take care of current and future generations,” Mehta said.   Soil health is taking on elevated importance in agriculture as a means to protect topsoil, helping farmers manage extreme weather, increase profitability, protect water quality and sequester carbon. Practices that improve soil health include growing cover crops, reducing tillage and taking a...

(Posted Thu. Aug 2nd, 2018)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

Visit Brian Corkill’s Twitter page, and you’ll learn that he’s a farmer, husband, father, Illini and coach, with a passion for “Ag, technology, learning and preserving what we have for future generations.”   The 48-year-old Corkill, who owns and runs BA Farms in Galva, Illinois, is among the growing number of farmers engaging in social media to enhance farm business, learn, and connect with his industry. The Soil Health Partnership has launched a new campaign to reach more farmers like Corkill on social media and help them get “soil smart.”   “It’s pretty clear to me that social media isn’t just a fad, and if we want to help other farmers learn the value soil health can bring to their operation, we can reach them through social channels,” Corkill said.    Corkill, an enrolled farmer in the Soil Health Partnership, serves on a committee that helped shape the  new #SoilSmart campaign, which launched Aug. 1 and will run through the fall. Funded by a grant from the Walton Family...

Good Steward Aug. 6, Deadline Rapidly Approaching

(Posted Mon. Jul 30th, 2018)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

If you have a farmer friend, neighbor or family member who epitomizes the title “Good Steward” then please take a minute to consider nominating them for the National Corn Growers Association’s Good Steward Recognition Program before the 5 p.m. CDT, Aug. 6, 2018 deadline.   We’re looking for a farmer who always does their job with a keen eye on improving the productivity and sustainability of their farm for future generations so if you know one let’s make sure they get recognized.   This year anyone can nominate a candidate for recognition if they are a Corn Grower member. NCGA affiliate states and organizational partners may also submit the nomination(s). One recipient will be selected from a field of nominees submitted by NCGA state affiliates and other corn industry and organizational partners.     Nomination forms must be completed jointly by the nominating party and the nominee and will be processed through NCGA. Selection of the Good Steward Recognition will be made by...

(Posted Mon. Jul 2nd, 2018)

Keywords: Sustainability conservation

If you have a farmer friend, neighbor or family member who epitomizes the title “Good Steward” then please take a minute to consider nominating them for the National Corn Growers Association’s Good Steward Recognition Program. We’re looking for a farmer who always does their job with a keen eye on improving the productivity and sustainability of their farm for future generations.   Every profession has its early adopters that point the way for others, and National Corn Growers Association thinks these good stewards of the land are special people who deserve to be recognized. If you agree and know of a good candidate, nominations are due 5:00 p.m. CDT August 6, 2018.    This year any one can nominate a candidate for recognition as long as they are a Corn Grower member. NCGA affiliate states and organizational partners may also submit nomination(s). One recipient will be selected from a field of nominees submitted by NCGA state affiliates and other corn industry and...

(Posted Mon. Jul 2nd, 2018)

Keywords: Sustainability Conservation

Representatives from farmers through the entire production chain met in Madison, Wis. last week for the bi-annual meeting of Field to Market, including representatives of the National Corn Growers Association.   Field to Market is a collaborative effort emphasizing the inclusion of diverse perspectives, a foundation of science- and outcomes-based approaches to sustainability, and a focus on commodity crops with recognition of their unique supply chains.   “We approved our 138th member company at this meeting and I think it’s indicative of the support to grow sustainability in our society,” said Keith Alverson, who serves on the board of NCGA and Field to Market.  “This represents 9% growth since last year at this time and we continue to host important discussions on supply chain sustainability from all ends of the supply chain spectrum.”   Alverson said, “NCGA has a clear role and mission of engagement at Field to Market of representing a grower voice and help inform others...

It’s National Pollinator Week; Take a Bee to Lunch

(Posted Mon. Jun 18th, 2018)

Keywords: conservation

  No seriously, if you care about pollinators like honey bees and Monarch Butterflies a great way to help them prosper, and help our food production system in the process, is to plant things they like to eat or use for habitat. As owners and managers of large amounts of land, farmers are stepping up to do their part.   More than a decade ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.   Today kicks off the official 2018 Pollinator week which has been designated as June 18-24, and farmers interests in helping pollinators continue to grow. It’s estimated that pollinators provide us with one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our...

NPR Showcases the Benefits of the Burgeoning Soil Health Movement

(Posted Mon. Apr 23rd, 2018)

Keywords: Conservation

Don’t think dirt is beautiful? You don’t know Deb Gangwish. She has a thing for soil and openly espoused her infatuation recently in an interview on National Public Radio (NPR). And Del Ficke, another Nebraska farmer, understands her crush completely.   Gangwish, who serves on the National Corn Growers Association Freedom to Operate Action Team, is part of a growing legion of farmers at the forefront of a swelling soil health movement. And this movement is turning the historic soil management “evolution” into more of a “revolution” because of the momentum and accelerated change.   “For years, talk of "healthy soil" was mostly limited to organic farmers and others on the fringes of mainstream American agriculture. No more. Articles about soil health fill major farm publications. It's the subject of several recent books. Big food companies are on board, and some of them are discussing a new eco-label for food, alongside "organic" and "fair trade," that would reward farmers for...

NCGA Encourages Participation in Updated Pollinator Initiative

(Posted Tue. Mar 13th, 2018)

Keywords: Conservation

Corn farmers and Midwest landowners who want to help honey bees and Monarch butterflies have a unique opportunity to do this in a strategic fashion through The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund’s SEED A LEGACY Pollinator Habitat Program, which is being supported by the National Corn Growers Association.   The updated program, expanded in 2018 to include 11 states, seeks partnerships between landowners and beekeepers to provide cost-effective, high-quality pollinator habitat to ensure honey bee and Monarch butterfly populations thrive.   Applications for each state are being accepted online at BeeAndButterflyFund.org/habitat-programs through March 31, 2018 for spring planting. A second application period will open later in 2018 for projects to be planted in the fall.   Native pollinators, honey bees and Monarch butterflies have experienced population declines over the last two decades. The Habitat Fund offers a way for farmers to incorporate the latest innovation and technology...

Soil Health Partnership Builds One of Largest U.S. Databases of Soil Health Sample Info from Working Farms

(Posted Mon. Mar 12th, 2018)

Keywords: Conservation Sustainability

The seeds of good data have been planted—and the Soil Health Partnership is eager to harvest early results.   The organization’s team is currently preparing for another round of robust soil sampling, a critical part of identifying, testing and measuring farm management practices that improve sustainability through soil health. An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, the program’s goal is to quantify the benefits of these practices–like growing cover crops in the off-season and reducing tillage—from an economic standpoint, showing farmers how healthy soil benefits their bottom line.   “We have spent the first few years carefully constructing the infrastructure within our program to make sure that we have scientifically credible data,” said Nick Goeser, NCGA Vice President of Production and Sustainability. “We are now beginning to make early sense of the scope and scale of the dataset collected over last 3 and a half years – and we are eagerly anticipating the...

Kansas Farm Family Showcases New Sustainability Ethic on the Farm

(Posted Thu. Mar 1st, 2018)

Keywords: conservation sustainability

A Kansas farm family’s soil-friendly, progressive farming practices and contributions to sustainable crop production earned them national notoriety as they were presented with the National Corn Growers Association’s 2018 Good Steward Recognition. Randy and Nicole Small of Neodesha, Kansas received the Good Steward designation at the Commodity Classic convention and trade show in Anaheim, CA. The program and recognition funding is provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation as part of their Harvesting the Potential campaign to raise awareness among U.S. farmers of the importance of conservation agriculture. “NCGA is known for taking the lead on many issues in the policy arena that effect our members, but we also work constantly to promote positive change and improvements in how we farm,” said Kevin Skunes, NCGA president from Arthur, North Dakota. “The Small family has a long history of enhancing the farm's soil and natural resources spanning several generations. They provide a...

(Posted Thu. Feb 22nd, 2018)

Keywords: sustainability conservation

As interest grows in soil health and its potential to optimize farming, the Soil Health Partnership has developed a new tool to immerse the inquisitive. Partnering with StoryUP, the nonprofit ag group has produced a “virtual reality” video that will allow viewers to visit a farm enrolled in SHP and experience a Virtual Field Day.   "One of our most powerful assets is our enrolled farmers sharing their stories and knowledge with others," said NCGA Vice President of Production and Sustainability, Nick Goeser. "This video format allows viewers to transport themselves to a farm and learn from the farmer as if they are standing right there with him at a field day. We are all about innovation, and that spirit extends to our communications program."   Virtual reality is 360-degree, 3D video or computer-generated environments viewed with special goggles where the user can see in all directions.   After giving some attendees of the Soil Health Summit a preview in January, the SHP...

(Posted Thu. Jan 25th, 2018)

Keywords: Conservation

Family farmers face daily challenges from low prices to battling insect and weed pests but today they are digging deeper to find a new resiliency in their management tactics as they face weather extremes.  Heavier rainfall, more total rain, changing growing seasons, warmer night-time temperatures, shifting frost dates, and higher total CO2 levels frame the climate puzzle.   The National Corn Growers Association’s Climate Task Force is working to better understand these developments and conducted its third meeting this week in Chicago. However, the meetings follow months of study and engagement to have a clearer picture of emerging agronomic challenges.   “Attaining profitability and sustainability in tandem are key goals for corn farmers. Changes in climate patterns have short- and long-term implications for farmers who provide feed, food and fuel for the world,” said Keith Alverson, chairman of the Climate Task Force. “This producer-led, multi-disciplinary team is charged with...

Missouri Farms Join Soil Health Partnership, Embracing Next Frontier in Agriculture

(Posted Wed. Sep 6th, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

Six Missouri farms have joined the Soil Health Partnership, a move that could hasten the adoption of agricultural practices linked to optimizing crop production and sustainability alike in the Show-Me State.    Often called the next frontier in agriculture, research shows the benefits of nurturing soil health include improved crop yield, enhanced water quality, increased drought resilience, better flood resistance, and decreased greenhouse gas emissions. Key practices to improve soil health include reduced tillage, the use of cover crops in winter, and advanced nutrient management.   “The missing link has been data that show these practices can provide a significant economic benefit on real, working farms, in addition to positive environmental outcomes, “said Darrick Steen, director of environmental programs for the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. Both organizations support the program and helped bring it to the state. “The SHP is...

(Posted Fri. Aug 11th, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

What will improve soil health to make farmland more productive, efficient and sustainable for the next generation, and how does it impact the business side? Get the scoop from area farmers and other experts at a field day across Illinois throughout August, including:   Aug. 15: Oglesby, Ill. John Hochstatter Cover Crop Meeting Aug. 16: Monticello, Ill. Lieb Farms Soil Health Meeting Aug. 22: Decatur, Ill. Dave and Chase Brown Soil Health Meeting Aug. 23: Newark, Ill. Brad Scalf Soil Health Meeting Sept. 5: Rutland, Ill. Kirk Kimble Water Quality Site Field Day Sept. 8: Vermillion County, Ill. Tom Kentner Soil Health Field Day   The Soil Health Partnership, partnering with other organizations, will host the events alongside local farmers.  The meetings will include in-depth discussions on soil health and cover crops. The field day events include topics like:   Advice on cover crop management for beginning and advanced users Local farmers discussing soil health...

(Posted Wed. Aug 9th, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

The Soil Health Partnership has endorsed a set of 19 soil health measurements, encouraging the agriculture industry to quickly adopt them. Once widely adopted, the indicators are expected to help farming become more sustainable and precise in areas such as nutrient management.   Research shows that the benefits of improving soil health include: Improved crop yield, enhanced water quality, increased drought resilience and flood resistance, and decreased greenhouse gas emissions.   After three years of collaboration with scientific and agricultural partners, the Soil Health Institute announced its endorsement of the “Tier 1” national soil health measurements earlier this week. Examples of the specific Tier 1 measures include organic carbon, pH, and available water holding capacity. A complete list of all 19 endorsed soil health measurements is available at the Institute’s website.   “We recognize the vigorous scientific collaboration that went into the development of this list...

(Posted Tue. Jun 27th, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

When it comes to caring for farmland and adopting the next generation of farming practices, there cannot be enough sharing. That’s the philosophy of the Soil Health Partnership, hosting its fourth year of field days this summer and fall within its network of more than 100 farms.   At the field days, Midwestern farmers can learn how changing nutrient management and tillage strategies, along with cover crop adoption, can make farmland more productive, efficient and sustainable.   Some events are open for registration in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Nebraska. The organization plans about 70 field days throughout the summer and fall, with more events yet to be scheduled in those states, plus additional events in Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin.   “Whether you are brand new to the topics covered during a field walk, field day or round table discussion, or you are a seasoned soil health veteran, you can learn valuable information that will help your business,” said Nick...

(Posted Thu. Jun 22nd, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

Eight years ago, the U.S. Senate approved designating a week each June as Pollinator Week. June 19-25, is the official week in 2017. In the wake of that decision, many positive steps have been taken to help pollinators from Monarch butterflies to honey bees, and the National Corn Growers Association is proud to be part of these efforts.   Corn does not require pollination by honey bees, but NCGA recognizes the integral role they play in a productive agriculture system. Some of your favorite foods such as berries, apples, oranges and almonds, depend on pollinators. That’s why NCGA works collaboratively with the Honey Bee Health Coalition seeking a menu of solutions to the challenges bees face.   Honey bees and pollinators work throughout the year to support the food and products we count on every day. Pollinator Week is an opportunity to highlight everything honey bees make possible — including billions of dollars in North American agriculture. Coalition members are doing their...

(Posted Tue. Jun 20th, 2017)

Keywords: conservation water quality

Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rainforest and coral reefs. Now, modern agriculture is trying to capture some of nature’s wetland magic as a means to manage nutrients on the farm.   State and national corn organizations’ staff that work on water quality issues recently toured the Franklin Research & Demonstration Farm near Lexington, Illinois, to learn more about how research into “constructed wetlands” might provide another serious tool to help farmers manage nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous.   The tour provided an educational opportunity for staff of the National Corn Growers Association and state corn staff representing Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio who met in Bloomington, Illinois, to discuss initiatives to promote voluntary nutrient-management programs.   A constructed wetland is a man-made wetland that acts as a treatment system that uses natural...

(Posted Thu. Jun 15th, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

Farmers’ continuous commitment to adopting more sustainable agricultural practices is reaping significant benefits such as healthier soil and cleaner water. But, despite these successes, there is more work ahead to juggle the science and economic factors that must be blended and balanced as the speed of change increases.   Finding the best path and striking that balance is the central theme of a water quality and ag nutrient meeting being held in Bloomington, Illinois this week. The meeting brings together National Corn Growers Association staff and state corn staff representing Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.   The nuts and bolts portion of the meeting covered topics such as: assessing current water quality initiatives; costs and benefits of current practices; educating key thought leaders and the public; and farm bill proposals.   One reoccurring theme was finding ways to keep farmers focused and motivated to...

(Posted Thu. May 18th, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

Agricultural and conservation leaders are amplifying the drum beat on the importance of soil health in 21st Century land management. The National Corn Growers Association showed its support for this effort today, participating in the Soil Health Institute’s unveiling of its new Soil Health Action Plan in Washington, D.C.   Speakers at the event said soil health must emerge as the cornerstone of land use management decisions, in part due to increased extreme weather events, the growing population, and the decrease in arable farmland.   Keith Alverson, a sixth-generation farmer near Chester, South Dakota, who serves as a member of the Corn Board of the National Corn Growers Association served on the panel at the event. He noted he participated because of his personal commitment to healthy soil and to reflect NCGA’s commitment to soil health via its support of the Soil Health Partnership.   Healthy soil prevents erosion, is more resilient to flooding and drought, and more...

(Posted Wed. Mar 22nd, 2017)

Keywords: Conservation

World Water Day is March 22, a good time to recognize the strides farmers are making to adopt practices that enhance water quality for everyone.   I’m a sixth-generation family farmer. My wife, Sara, and I grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa and run a 140-head cow/calf operation. We grow corn almost exclusively using no-till methods, and hope to someday pass the farm on to our four young sons. We also began seeding a variety of cover crops on some of our acres several years ago. They prevent soil erosion, take up leftover nitrogen and phosphorus in the field, and provide additional forage for my livestock.   Our farm is one of about 25 in Iowa enrolled in the Soil Health Partnership, an ambitious long-term, data-driven initiative of the National Corn Growers Association. This unique research effort hopes to show U.S. farmers how sustainability through soil health can also lead to increased profitability. Conservation practices can improve soil health, sequester or reduce greenhouse...