The sustainability of U.S. soy is an important factor for consumers both at home and abroad. In fact, conservation practices and sustainable measures are key to soy’s marketability and the livelihood of the farmers who grow it.
In addition, protecting water is important, and a variety of farm-management techniques, including conservation tillage, nutrient management and technology improvements in seed and equipment, can improve water quality and conserve water use.
Managing water has economic benefits, too. Tools such as precision-agriculture applications and soil tests help farmers apply the right amount of nutrients and chemicals for each field. This helps them reduce applications, improve water quality and boost profitability.
Realizing that water quality is a localized issue, the soybean checkoff recognized four soybean farmers for outstanding water stewardship in their own communities. Among the farmers were Terry McClure, Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) Vice Chairman and soybean farmer from Paulding County.
Terry is committed to community involvement and proactive water management. He is an Ohio Nature Conservancy board member and volunteers his farm for research conducted to ensure he is maintaining the lowest levels of nutrient runoff on his operation. Terry is a member of Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Pork Producers Council and serves on the Board of Trustees for Nationwide. Terry is a fifth-generation farmer on both sides of the family. Along with his father, Terry’s son Ryan has also joined the family farming operation that includes 4000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in northwest Ohio near Grover Hill. Since 2005, they have also served as contract growers, raising 8000 hogs for another farming operation.
“We sustain life in this country—in the world really—on a thin sliver of productive top soil. Protecting that soil for the future is so important,” said McClure. “There’s too much value not to utilize the land and care for it the best ways we can.”
Other farmers recognized for their environmental stewardship include:
• Mike Starkey, Indiana Soil and Water Conservation District president and soybean farmer from Brownsburg, Indiana: Starkey continually searches for ways to fine-tune his cropping system and has implemented conservation tillage for 15 years. He farms near Indianapolis and works to prevent erosion and sediment in the urban water supply.
• Jimmy Thomas and family, soybean farmers from Timberlake, North Carolina: The Thomas family focuses on soil health and waterway maintenance. They use a variety of structures on the farm to direct water flow and filter runoff, including terraces, grass waterways, field borders and filter strips. The Thomases also keep an eye on the earthworm populations to monitor soil health on the operation.
• Hans Schmidt, Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts president, Maryland Soybean Board chairman and soybean farmer from Sudlersville, Maryland: Schmidt is an advocate for water quality among consumers. Schmidt hosts farm tours and invites key influencers, such as legislators and government delegates, to his farm so they can learn about the practices that many farmers employ to improve water quality.