FEBRUARY 11, 2004

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Steering committee to benefit farmers formed at SWOSU meeting

Twenty individuals recently signed up to participate as a steering committee that will eventually create an organization that will be able to certify sustainability of cropping systems and seek markets hat will reward producers that produce healthy foods from healthy lands.

The action resulted from a workshop held at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. Ninety individuals interested in the agricultural industry turned out to learn more about sustainable agriculture and Core 4 Conservation.

Alfred Miller, chairman of the Great Plains Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Association, said it is the goal of RC&D to support economic improvement in the area through expanded business and industry utilizing the area's natural resources and through the development of alternative agricultural products and expanded market opportunities.

"Developing an organization that can certify the sustainability of agriculture-produced products will greatly enhance our ability to improve rural economies," Miller said.

Robert Taylor, director of the Deer Creek Conservation District, stresses the need for implementation of the no-till farming concept that would, in turn, affect water quality.

"Since we are already experiencing a shortage of good quality water in some areas, our water supply is becoming more and more valuable to us," Taylor said. "We would have less concentrations of nitrate and sediment runoff with implementation of no-till farming."

Jim Hettenhaus of Chief Executive Assistance, Inc. presented the latest technical information on biotechnologies and the opportunities that exist today and in the near future. Hetttenhaus said it is dependent upon everyone to pursue biomass opportunities. He presented facts on current uses of biomass for energy and other bio based products.

Lyle Miller, a local area producer, said he is excited about the possibilities for biomass development and the potential for greater producer profits in western Oklahoma.

"Products from biomass are going to happen and Oklahoma should be on the cutting edge," Miller said. "No-till biomass management practices will greatly improve soil quality and help minimize soil
erosion."

Dr. Jim Stiegler, head of the Plant and Soil Sciences Department at Oklahoma State University, is recognized as one of Oklahoma's authority on conservation tillage. Dr. Stiegler gave a presentation at the workshop on the history and trends of conservation tillage and expansion of no-till cropping systems.

Also, Jim Hassell, executive director of the Conservation Technology Information Center, brought valuable information on alliance building. Hassell also presented an important challenge on managing for soil quality, saying the health of the soil will determine water and air quality and every other environmental concern.

Larry Wright, RC&D coordinator, said it is a policy of United States Department of Agriculture to be committed to working toward the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of diverse food, fiber, agriculture, forest, and range systems. USDA strives for a balanced goal of improved production and profitability, stewardship of natural resource base and ecological systems, and enhancement of the vitality of rural communities.

The workshop was sponsored by the Great Plains Resource Conservation and Development Association and the SWOSU Center for Economic and Business Development.

Contact: Brian Adler, 580-774-3063
Additional information available by calling Dr. Marvin Hankins at (580) 774-3750