The American Soybean Association presented Steve Berger from Wellman, Iowa, the 2015 National Conservation Legacy Award during the annual ASA Awards Banquet at Commodity Classic in late February in Phoenix, Ariz. Prior to his recognition as the program's national winner, Berger was named the Midwest Regional winner of the Conservation Legacy Award. The national award winner is chosen from the regional winners. Other 2015 regional winners are Mike Starkey from Brownsburg, Ind. (Northeast Region) and Jimmy Thomas from Timberlake, N.C. (South Region).
One of the first conservation measures Berger remembers experiencing as a child is building terraces. He helped build 15 miles around his fourth generation farm at Dennis Berger & Son Inc., to slow down the impact of the rainfall on soil erosion.
Berger farms with his mom, dad and wife on their 2,000-acre soybean and corn operation with 20,000 head of swine. They've been heavily involved in soil conservation since the 1960s. The Bergers introduced no-till nearly 40 years ago and cover crops in the last 15 years.
Conservation Legacy Awards national program honors growers
Berger said he approaches the farm as a business, science and an art. He believes that farmers must be shown conservation practices can work effectively and economically, so more of them will embrace conservation voluntarily. "It is important to have the farmer teaching, learning and working with cover crops in modern-day systems," he said. "It is challenging in today's farming environment to blend economics and esthetics, but is very rewarding."
The Conservation Legacy Awards Program is a national program designed to recognize the outstanding environmental and conservation achievement of U.S. soybean farmers. A national selection committee, composed of soybean farmers, conservationists and natural resource professionals, evaluated nominations based on each farmer's environmental and economic program. Along with ASA, the program is co-sponsored by BASF, Monsanto, Corn & Soybean Digest, and United Soybean Board/Checkoff.
ISA names farmers as "experience participants" in new program
In other soybean association news last week, it was announced that nine farmers from across Iowa have been named participants in the inaugural Iowa Soybean Association Experience. The leaders, one from each of Iowa's nine crop reporting districts, will engage in activities and discussions throughout the year that enhance their knowledge and understanding of the structure and activities of the ISA. They'll also join industry leaders and ISA staff in discussing topics impacting the competitiveness of soybean farmers related to production, demand, public policy and freedom to operate.
ISA Experience participants are:
• Kellie Blair, Dayton
• Chris Gaesser, Corning
• Darcy Maulsby, Yetter
• Chad Pontier, Osceola
• Brent Renner, Klemme
• Suzanne Shirbroun, Farmersburg
• Pat Swanson, Ottumwa
• Mark Vosika, Pocahontas
• Dave Walton, Wilton
"The program is an ideal way for participants to understand the mission, goal, programs and influence of the association and its structure and governance," says ISA producer services director Heather Lilienthal. "We anticipate that participants will come away from the experience seeking new ways to serve the soybean industry including long-term involvement in the ISA."
Cultivating a better understanding of ISA mission and goals
The pilot program kicked off Feb. 18 in Ames in conjunction with ISA's annual Research Conference. Discussions appropriately focused on supply production and research. Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of supply and production systems, explained how ISA's analytics, Environmental Programs and Services and On-Farm Network teams coordinate their work to the benefit of farmers. He also provided an update on the association's research partnerships including the Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University.
Joe Merschman, president and CEO of Merschman Seeds, also participated in the inaugural meeting and offered unique insight into opportunities and challenges impacting farmers, and seed and trait providers. Merschman Seeds was established in 1954 by Bill and Bernice Merschman on the farm of Bill's grandfather near West Point. What began as 20 acres of certified seed oats now encompasses growing, conditioning and distributing soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa and forage seeds.
"We're proud to take part in an activity that's furthering the leadership skills of farmers and positioning them to have a positive impact on the industry for generations to come," Merschman said. The next leg of the ISA Experience will take place this spring. It will focus on policy issues and include a visit to the Iowa State Capitol. ISA Experience sponsors are Bunge, Merschman Seeds and REG.