Conservation News

Commodity and Conservation Organizations Join Forces to Co-Host Learning Center Session at the 2022 Commodity Classic

Learn about matching profitability with ecological performance on March 11

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are partnering with the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and Cotton Incorporated to host a learning center session at the 2022 Commodity Classic in New Orleans at 12:30pm, March 11. A group of six speakers will discuss combining precision agriculture and conservation to build farming systems that match profitability with ecological performance.

“Conservation practices bring immense value to both farms and ecosystems through improved soil health, increased biodiversity and other key climate-positive impacts,” Rachel Bush, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s conservation programs manager said. “When targeted in the right way, these practices can also increase an operation’s overall economic profitability, making it a win-win for all sides.” 

The session will open with an introduction from Dr. Mark McConnell of Mississippi State on the emerging opportunities in conservation as part of a sustainable and profitable farming operation. Following the opening comments, representatives from Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, and Cotton Incorporated will share a brief overview of their approaches to grower-focused partnerships being implemented throughout the Great Plains and the Southern States. Culminating the learning session are farmer testimonials from Kansas sorghum farmer Andy Hineman and Georgia cotton farmer Nick McMichen, discussing the key role precision ag tools play on their family farms for conservation, sustainability and profitability.

“By utilizing an acre-by-acre approach in their conservation efforts and identifying the most strategic acres for wildlife habitat or practice improvements, our partnerships are keeping working lands productive. In finding that ‘sweet spot,’ farmers are building successful cropping operations alongside healthy landscapes,” Adam York, sustainability director for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program said. 

WHAT: Finding the “Sweet Spot”: Combining Precision Agriculture and Conservation to Build a Sustainable and Diverse Farming Landscape 
WHEN: 12:30pm-1:30pm, March 11 
WHERE: 2022 Commodity Classic, Room 206 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Speaker Lineup 

John Duff 

John Duff serves as The Executive Vice President for National Sorghum Producers and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program where he provides leadership and analysis on a wide array of sorghum industry issues from markets to policy. He holds a bachelor’s degree and MBA in agribusiness, both from Texas Tech University. John enjoys spending time with his wife Amanda; daughter Chloe; and son Heston; as well as on the nearby family farm where he partners with his parents to produce sorghum and cotton. He is an active member at his church and in the New Horizon and Llano Estacado Emmaus and Chrysalis communities. 

Mark McConnnell 

Dr. Mark McConnell is the Assistant Professor of Upland Birds at Mississippi State University and an expert on the role of precision agriculture and conservation in farm level profitability. He published the first research evaluating the economic outcomes of Farm Bill conservation enrollment using precision agriculture technology and has since published multiple papers illustrating how precision agriculture technology can identify overlap in conservation and economic opportunities in agricultural landscapes. Mark is an avid bird hunter, amateur dog trainer and, mediocre fly-fisherman. 

Rachel Bush

Rachel Bush has been with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever for over a decade. Joining The Habitat Organization as a Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Rachel later served as the North Dakota State Coordinator before taking on added Conservation Program responsibilities for the Organization. Rachel earned her bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management and a master’s degree in Zoology. Being raised on a small farm and ranch in south-central Michigan instilled an affinity for working lands and a desire to find conservation options that work for farmers and ranchers. Rachel currently resides in North Dakota with her husband, daughter and two bird dogs. 

Jesse S. Daystar

Dr. Jesse Daystar is the Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President of Sustainability at Cotton Incorporated. He leads the cotton industry to a more regenerative and sustainable future through supporting research and outreach programs aimed at implementing best science practices in the soil and throughout the supply chain. Jesse holds a Ph.D. in Forest Biomaterials from North Carolina State University and has established himself as a leader in cellulosic fiber sustainability. He leads not only through research but also education, serving as an adjunct professor at the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment. 

Andy Hineman 

Hineman Farms was established in 1886 when Andy’s great-great-grandfather homesteaded in Lane County, Kansas. Andy’s children are currently the sixth generation to farm and care for the ground. Andy and his father, Don, together farm approximately 15,000 acres of dryland cropland and own approximately 1,000 acres of grassland that they rent to ranchers or use for custom grazing. With an annual rainfall average of 18” per year, the farm’s crop rotations consist of winter wheat, corn, sorghum and fallow. They utilize precision ag systems for variable rate fertilizer and seeding, yield management, in-crop scouting and general farm record keeping. 

Nick McMichen 

Nick McMichen operates a 2,400-acre, sixth generation cotton farm in Georgia and Alabama where he implements numerous conservation practices to help improve local quail populations in addition to his own farm’s productivity and profitability. McMichen employs precision agriculture to identify unproductive acres and use those acres for wildlife friendly conservation practices that directly benefit his land use goals and production strategies. These practices have included quail habitat in field borders as well as native plantings in drainage ditch corridors and buffers. McMichen is dedicated to the integration of conservation into his farm and believes it is an essential part of being a farmer and steward to the land and the environment.

About Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever together make up the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. This community of more than 400,000 members, supporters and partners is dedicated to the protection of our uplands through habitat improvement, public access, education and advocacy. A network of 754 local chapters spread across North America determine how 100 percent of their locally raised funds are spent — the only national conservation organization that operates through this grassroots structure. Since its creation in 1982, the organization has dedicated more than $1 billion to 567,500 habitat projects benefiting 22 million acres.

About The United Sorghum Checkoff Program

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program is a producer-funded organization that is dedicated to improving the sorghum industry through research, promotion and education. For more information about the USCP and other research projects please visit www.sorghumcheckoff.com.

About Cotton Incorporated

Cotton Incorporated is the research and promotion company for Upland cotton. Funded by U.S. cotton growers and importers of Upland cotton-containing products, the not-for-profit organization’s mission is to increase the demand for and profitability of cotton. As a resource for the cotton industry, Cotton Incorporated conducts or oversees 500 research and educational projects in an average year. Research areas range from the development of agricultural and textile innovations to analyses of commodity and market data.  To learn more, visit www.CottonInc.com.

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