A novel agriculture professional organization is in the developmental stages for Southern field crops.
With the proposed name Southern Field Crop Alliance (SFCA), its goals are to (1) provide a forum to discuss issues that cut across crops and agricultural disciplines; (2) develop an avenue for all segments of Southern ag industries to come together for education and shared learning exercises, and (3) meet a need for organizing smaller professional meetings into one event.
The idea for SFCA came about, says Angus Catchot, Extension entomologist, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Mississippi State University, when “Several entomologists were kicking around the idea at a regional entomology meeting in 2008. We were looking for an outlet to get information to our stakeholders that would be applied in nature, all-inclusive from a commodity and discipline standpoint, and that would pertain specifically to the Southern belt due to the unique crop and pest complexes the region shares.”
As one of the many organizers involved in SFCA, Catchot says, “It’s absolutely critical to be engaged with colleagues of other disciplines and commodities, who share the common goal of working on current, pressing grower issues. The ultimate goal is to ‘put the puzzle together’ for the benefit of the producer.
“Every discipline is just one piece of the puzzle; when we work together, it strengthens relationships and the puzzle becomes complete, to the benefit of the producer. This has become even more important to crop consultants. With huge shifts in crop acres, they are looking at as many as four or five different crops on individual farms, some of which may not have been grown in that area before. In a time when crop diversity is the norm, it’s critical that there be an outlet to provide current information to the end user.”
There are several commodity-specific and discipline-specific organizations that hold annual meetings, Catchot notes, “but no place where a grower, academic, consultant, or industry representative can go and get up-to-date applied information on a diverse number of topics across commodities and disciplines. The SFCA will bring all this into one meeting, where decision-makers can get current information on nearly every aspect of their business.”
B. Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter, says, “We hope that agricultural industries will see the opportunity for a one-stop type of shopping for information, updates and interactions with clientele and professional associations.” Leonard is on the SFCA organizational team along with other agriculture professionals.
“Name any professional or public stakeholder from Virginia to Texas with a concern for or involvement in all field crops and we want them to be a part of this activity,” says Leonard.
“Whether you’re a producer, consultant, academic or industry representative, you’ve witnessed a tremendous amount of change over the last several years,” says Catchot. “Many in this group are already responsible for working a number of crops and across disciplines. The SFCA will bring together expertise in all these areas.
“SFCA will provide opportunities to work and network with a large number of people with similar interests. With the number of applied scientists shrinking every year, this will be the one place where we can come together as a group with a central theme of Southern field crops being the driver, rather than any single commodity or discipline.”
“The SFCA will represent Southern states, from Texas to Virginia, across all field crops,” says Catchot. “There will be a place for all stakeholders to participate. We hope that some of the struggling commodity organizations will be able to revive their base through the umbrella of the SFCA.”
Corporate America is also participating, with representatives from Monsanto, RiceTec, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and Agrithority involved in the SFCA development.
“We’ve pitched the idea to many in the industry already, and have received extremely positive feedback,” Catchot says. “Most of those in industry work across disciplines and commodities. The SFCA will allow them the opportunity to be involved in a meeting and organization that touches every facet of their business and to interact with a wide variety of stakeholders at one meeting.”
The Southern Field Crop Alliance will hold its first annual meeting and conference in conjunction with the 13th Annual National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference (NCSCRC), Southern Corn and Soybean Conference, and Southern Precision Agriculture Conference. The Southern Field Crop Alliance Conference will begin immediately following the NCSCRC. The conferences will be held at Harrah’s Tunica Convention Center, Tunica, Miss., Jan. 12-14, 2010.
“NCSCRC sponsors — Jeanne Reeves, Cotton Incorporated director of research, and Dwight Roberts, president and CEO of the US Rice Producers Association — are very supportive and excited about the creation of SFCA and its initial affiliation with NCSCRC,” says John LaRose, publisher, MidAmerica Farm Publications and NCSCRC organizer.
“The NCSCRC has a great place to meet in 2010, and our model for breakout sessions has been successful with stakeholder involvement. It already involves multiple disciplines and commodities, and many participants will likely attend both conferences.” Leonard says.
“NCSCRC speakers are the nation’s leading agriculture producers and researchers in cotton, rice, corn, soybeans and precision agriculture,” LaRose notes. “Each year, over 90 speakers — half of whom are recognized as the nation’s most innovative producers — share their stories of successful production practices.
“Producers speak at the NCSCRC and present their practical applications and hands-on experiences of crop production. The NCSCRC provides an atmosphere that is conducive to a healthy exchange between growers and researchers, and the SFCA conference will bring additional agriculture professionals to the lineup.”
For more information on SFCA, contact Catchot at [email protected]  or Leonard at 
Details for the four conferences can be viewed at www.mafg.net .