The National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants mixed education, awards and entertainment at the alliance’s annual meeting in late January. Some of the most educational sessions involved various aspects of precision agriculture.
Blaine Viator turned the president’s gavel over to James Todd, and then Viator was announced as one of the 2012 Crop Consultants of the Year. Viator lives in Labadieville, La., working with his father in Calvin Viator, Ph.D., and Associates, LLC.
The other consultants of the year winners were Joe Turner, Turner’s Ag Consulting Co., Neola, Iowa, and Bryan Boroughs, Servi-Tech, Inc., Cimarron, Kan.
Todd, owner of Todd Ag Consulting, LLC, Plainview, Texas, oversaw the presentation of awards at the president’s luncheon during the meeting in Jacksonville, Fla.
The Service to NAICC Award was announced as going to Rep. Rodney Alexander, (R-La.) but was not officially presented the award until the March 5 Crawfish Boil on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alexander is known as a strong supporter of agriculture and has been instrumental in assisting the NAICC in conducting its Crawfish Boil, an event for meeting Capitol staffers and members of Congress.
The winner of the award that recognizes outstanding contributions and dedication to the agricultural industry was Francisca Liem, the director of the Good Laboratory Practices Standards Program (GLP) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. She serves as the EPA representative to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) GLP Working Group. OECD has approximately 40 member countries and sets international standards to facilitate commerce between members, including streamlining the pesticide registration process.
Liem began her career with EPA as a GLP inspector in 1985, which was the time when contract researchers in the young NAICC were being introduced to the requirement of field residue studies supporting product registrations in a manner compliant with GLP guidelines.
Grady Coburn, Pest Management Enterprises, LLC, Cheneyville, La., was recognized for his membership of 35 years and his charter membership assistance in helping organize the very first meeting of today’s NAICC—plus his continuous support of the organization. The other charter member still active in NAICC is Dan Bradshaw, Crop Aid, El Campo, Texas.
The top recruiter of new members was Ed Plunkett with Monsanto. There were four other recruiters who were recognized for signing new members at the local level; they were David Bennett, Bennett Agricultural Research Corp., Richland, Iowa; Allan Miller, Agricultural Research of Wisconsin LLC, Madison, Wis.; Kathleen Meagher, Canada; and Marla Siruta, AgPro Partners Midwest LLC, Dana, Iowa.
Siruta, was also introduced to the crowd as the new board member for the alliance, and it was noted that she had already been chosen to serve as secretary of the board.
The meeting keynote speaker was James Wiesemeyer, senior vice president, Informa Economics, Washington, D.C. Even as an optimist, he said he has major concerns when it comes to how the federal government isn’t functioning in a reasonable manner without negotiation and compromise among the political parties.
Wiesemeyer went through a laundry list of what to look out for in the coming four years and longer. The takeaways from his presentation were predictions and questions as he summed them up in bullet points plus comments. The following are points and comments from Wiesemeyer.
• Will Obama, or Republicans, overreach in pushing their agenda is a big question.
• Most second terms are not robust in accomplishments.
Most second terms are not robust with accomplishments when you look back in history.
• Watch for use of executive orders if partisan discord returns.
Watch the use of executive orders by Obama if he can’t get much through Congress. He has used executive orders more than any president that he has covered in my lifetime.
• Foreign policy issues usually prevail in a President’s second term.
Foreign policy issues usually prevail in a president’s second term—think North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and more.
• Major U.S. tax reform coming…big impacts for businesses/farmers.
Major tax reform is coming but it’s not going to be any time too soon. There are more lawyers per square inch in Washington, D.C., and lobbyists; so this will take some time.
• Changing U.S., world energy sector to have major implications.
The changing U.S. energy sector is already having major implications, and he thinks it will aid agriculture in the long run. And we are going to see the use of natural gas in farm equipment again; it should be there now, but it is coming.
• U.S. immigration reform is coming.
• U.S. crop insurance will come under focus and the question is if means testing is ahead.
• Rise of middle classes in developing countries will bolster world agriculture in the long run.
PRECISION DATA ANALYSIS
The main program for crop consultants started with pre-meeting educational sessions with a focus on precision. During these small breakout workshops, software companies provided training on use of their products. The half-day breakout sessions allowed crop consultants to see how these tools could be of value to them and their clients. Company representatives of Ag Renaissance, Precision Partners, Ag Leader and CropMetrics lead discussions in separate meeting rooms.
The precision emphasis continued during the first official day of meetings with John McGuire, Simplified Technology Services, Montpelier, Ohio, explaining “Yield Data Analysis.” Kelly Robertson, Precision Crop Services, Benton, Ill., made a presentation about “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Precision Agriculture.”
“If farmers don’t collect good information then we all go down,” said McGuire in talking about how crop consultants must rely on assistance from clients to do what is necessary to implement precision agriculture on their farm. And he suggested high rewards are possible from data analysis which has been termed“ data: the next cash crop.”
The big picture opportunities for working with clients are variable rate nitrogen application and variable rate seeding. Nothing can replace certain data—information on hybrids and good base maps of soil types—are important.
McGuire suggested that farmers are terrible in calibrating combine yield monitors. Without consistent yield monitor data, optional data sets are needed and a consultant needs to be a little more creative to establish management patterns, including hydrology mapping, contour mapping, wetness indexing and zone soil testing.
Robertson continued with his emphasis on gathering the best data possible from a variety of sources. As he said, “bad data in, bad decisions out.” The role of crop consultants continues to lean more and more toward being precision service providers for data analysis and recommendations based on the data.
Although accuracy of data is key, the tools for in-field accuracy used by farmers can be oversold. “Accuracy is addictive. I love to drive within a half-inch in accuracy in every pass, but do I need RTK on every field? No,” he said. “We sell farmers the highest correction that is out there and then we don’t tell them things like collect your elevation data.”
His contention is that the tools of precision ag technology are 80 percent of what farmers see as precision ag, but those tools only contribute 20 percent of the return while data analysis, or the remaining scope of precision ag actually accounts for 80 percent of the return or profit to a farmer.
Agronomic practices became the focus in some of the following presentations. Plant tissue analysis was the topic of Fred Vocasek, Servi-Tech, Inc., Dodge City, Kan. Soil fertility dynamics was a presentation by Scott Murrell, Ph.D., International Plant Nutrition Institute, West Lafayette, Ind. Weed resistance management as determined by the Weed Science Society of America was the main focus of the presentation by Ted Webster, Ph.D., USDA Agricultural Research Service, Crop Protection and Management Research Unit, Tifton, Ga.
One extended afternoon session allowed representatives of companies introducing emerging new technology to educate about new products in five-minute segments. Most of the 15 products were also being highlighted at booths within the AgPro Trade Show held in conjunction with the annual meeting.
A panel of crop consultants talked about their experiences dealing with weed resistance during the last official meeting time slot. Additional free form crop consultant discussion took place the last morning, Saturday, Jan. 26.