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EPA chief visits Missouri power plant

Written by Steve Fairchild on .

The Environmental Protection Agency can do its job without killing jobs. That was the message from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at the Thomas Hill Energy Center near Clifton Hill, Mo., today. The coal-fired electricity plant is owned by Associated Electric Cooperative Incorporated, which generates power for Missouri's rural electric cooperatives. The Thomas Hill facility has some 239 employees and an annual budget of $200 million, a significant contributor to the economy of Randolph County in rural north central Missouri.

"The war on coal is over," Pruitt said. "The war on fossil fuels is over." Pruitt added that the United States has grown proficient in providing clean energy, something that should be celebrated. Pruitt outlined the measures the Trump administration has taken to roll back controversial rules from the EPA including Waters of the United States regulations that would have drastically increased regulatory oversight of land use across the nation. "Land is your most important asset," Pruitt told the crowd. "I know that. You know that. Washington D.C. doesn't know that."

The visit to Thomas Hill Energy Center was part of Pruitt's "Back-to-Basics" tour, which has included a trip to a Pennsylvania coal mine and a stop at the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago, Indiana.

When safety is a state of mind

Written by TF Staff on .

When MFA Incorporated started the Safety Pays program in 2004, the goal was to reduce workplace accidents. The company also wanted to remind adults that they have very important reasons to make safety a motivator—children and other family members. That was the genesis of the Safety Pays poster contest. What better way to remind ourselves about safety than through the work of the next generation?

Since that launch, MFA has continued to focus on safety, including the implementation of a program called SHIELD, an acronym for “safe habits improve employees’ lives daily.” That program depends on employees throughout the company being trained to talk about safety with their fellow workers. From truck drivers to office personnel to workers at feed mills and fertilizer plants, MFA employees are having conversations about safe work practices. So, again this year, we asked children and grandchildren of MFA employees and affiliates to give us their ideas about safety.

Each year, the contest judges face a tough decision in choosing winners from the clever ideas and nice artwork submitted. After much deliberation, judges selected these as the top entries:

Best of Show: Erin Fick, Freeburg, MO

Erin is 12 years old and a sixth-grader at Sacred Heart School. She is the daughter of Kenny and Christy Fick. Kenny is a feed mill operator at the MFA Coop Assn #280 in Freeburg.

Grades K-1: Saylore Landewee, Chaffee, MO

Five-year-old Saylor is a kindergartner at St. Ambrose Catholic School. She is the daughter of Darren and Cassy Landewee. Cassy is a precision ag specialist at MFA Agri Services in Chaffee, Mo.

Grades 2-3: Callie Pyle, Willard, MO

At 8 years old, Callie is in second grade at Willard North Elementary. She is the daughter of Casey and Christy Pyle of Willard, Mo., and granddaughter of Calvin Pyle, a salesman for Golden City MFA.

Grades 4-6: Madelynn Caldwell, Vandalia, MO

Madelynn is 11 years old and attends sixth grade at Van-Far Elementary. She is the daughter of Chris Caldwell, an elevator operator at MFA Agri Services in Vandalia, Mo.

Railroads and waterways integral to ag

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

When it comes to railroads and waterways, Missouri is fortunate. The state has the nation’s second- and third-largest rail hubs and 14 public ports on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, according to MoDOT spokesman Bob Brendel.

Moving grain costs less by rail and barge, frees up highways and reduces wear and tear on roads and bridges. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation:

  • One large semi truck carries 910 bushels.
  • One jumbo hopper rail car carries 4,000 bushels.
  • One barge carries 52,500 bushels.

A few years ago, agriculture had problems finding rail cars to move grain because of higher demand from the oil industry, but railroads invested in their networks. Today, agriculture faces less competition for rail shipping services.

“Even with historic harvests the last couple of years, we’ve been able to move ag products by rail,” said Mike Steenhoek of the Soy Transportation Coalition.

But Steenhoek remains concerned about barge traffic on inland waterways—especially at deteriorating locks and dams leading to and along the Mississippi River. Thanks to lobbying by agricultural and barging organizations, Congress has approved limited federal appropriations for locks and dams. However, Steenhoek pointed out, “Improvements to the upper Mississippi and Ohio rivers are over budget and won’t be done for another five or six years. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s slow coming.”

For years, MFA Incorporated has used ports along the Mississippi to barge in fertilizer and other products. For the past three summers, MFA has also moved grain by barge from Missouri River ports.

“In 2016, MFA loaded 35 barges of grain on the Missouri River, eventually ending up in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Bill Dunn, director of transportation for MFA Incorporated.

Shane Kinne, director of public policy for the Missouri Corn Growers Association, also says his group would like to see increased investment in river locks and dams, and he’s bullish on Missouri River barging.

“We’re fortunate to have the Missouri River, yet battles about management priorities hamper its use to move products,” he said. “We continue to urge the Corps of Engineers to give a higher priority to navigation and flood control.”

Feral hog removal on the rise

Written by TF Staff on .

Missouri Department of Conservation wildlife biologists on the feral hog strike team have tallied up numbers for 2016. The year yielded a total of 5,358 feral hogs removed by MDC, partner agencies and private landowners, a significant increase over 2015 when 3,649 feral hogs were removed from the landscape. 

Some attributing factors in the increase include MDC’s “Report, don’t shoot” message encouraging trapping (see April 2016 Today’s Farmer), banning hog hunting on conservation areas and a strong public awareness campaign.

Some 2,941 feral hogs were trapped in southeast Missouri, which is where the highest density of feral hogs occurs. The Ozark region trapped 1,293, while the Southwest region trapped 1,006 hogs. St. Louis, Central and Kansas City regions all trapped fewer than 100 feral hogs each.

Alan Leary, MDC’s wildlife management coordinator and leader of its feral hog eradication efforts, said the immediate goal is to keep feral hogs from spreading to northern regions of the state while working to eliminate the population altogether. Feral hogs are a serious threat to fish, forests and wildlife as well as agricultural resources. Economic losses resulting from feral hog damage in the U.S. is estimated at greater than $1.5 billion per year.

“We made significant progress in 2016,” said Leary. “The key to eradicating these destructive, invasive pests is cooperation with private landowners and partners in efforts to report hog sightings, continue trapping and deter hog hunting and the illegal release of hogs.”

In 2016, MDC partnered with other conservation groups, agriculture organizations and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to provide the state’s feral hog strike team with more trapping equipment for use on both private and public land and to fund public education efforts on the dangers of feral hogs.

MDC also increased communication efforts with a campaign featuring private landowners who suffered hog damage and are working with MDC and USDA to eradicate feral hogs.

Visit mdc.mo.gov/feralhog to report feral hog sightings or damage.

Farmer needed for Missouri strip trials

Written by TF Staff on .

Farmers are invited to participate in University of Missouri Extension’s 2017 Strip Trial Program, which focuses on cover crops and other agronomic comparisons.

The trial consists of multiple long strips laid out side by side in a field. Researchers and growers compare different management practices on each strip, using in-season aerial imagery and GPS-referenced yield monitor data to compare different cover crop treatments.

MU conducted strip trials at 40 locations last year. This year, cover crop trials will focus on yield impact to corn and soybean, optimum termination dates, ILevo soybean treatment, fine-tuning phosphorus requirements and optimum nitrogen timing for corn.

Farmers use their own equipment or that of their commercial applicator and work with their choice of an MU Extension specialist or other crop consultant to guide them through the process. At the end of the season, growers receive personalized, confidential evaluations of their trial. They also have access to aggregated results from trials in their area and statewide.

The grower-based program helps farmers and crop advisers compare on-farm management decisions and practices in a low-cost, low-risk setting, said Greg Luce, MU Extension corn specialist and research director for the Missouri Soybean Association and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. He said strip trial research can help answer questions such as when growers should terminate cover crops for best results, whether erosion control or long-term soil health is the biggest benefit of cover crops, and whether cover crops are giving up nitrogen or tying it up in the soil.

Visit striptrial.missouri.edu or contact Luce at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 573-473-7079 for more information.

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