(Indianapolis) – February 5, 2018 – Indiana Farm Bureau and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indiana announced that today Ben Wicker started his new role as the executive director of the Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance (IANA), a partnership of agriculture groups, government agencies and academia working to improve soil health and nutrient management practices. Wicker holds a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and crop science from Purdue University and is an active member of his family’s diversified grain, forage and cattle operation in Rush County.
“It is exciting to see the commodity groups and the conservation organizations come together to tackle key resource issues,” said Jill Reinhart, acting state conservationist with USDA NRCS. “Ben’s background in all of these areas makes him a perfect fit to lead this new partnership organization.”
“Ben has a strong background in farming, agriculture organizations and conservation,” said Jennifer Boyle Warner, executive director at the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. “This experience will be very helpful in working with the various organizations and the interests of this new group.”
Before assuming this role, Wicker held positions as an independent crop consultant and agronomist, and spent time with Indiana Pork Producers as the director of producer outreach. Most recently, Wicker held the position of agribusiness specialist at The Nature Conservancy where he worked with agribusinesses to expand services that promote nutrient management and soil health.
“I’ve been involved in agriculture my entire life. I’ve always enjoyed the crop and soil sciences side of things,” said Wicker. “As I have had the opportunity to become more involved at the state and national level, I realized how important it is for farmers to have the information they need to make the best decisions possible regarding the use and the efficiency of their crop nutrients.”
Indiana agricultural, commodity and conservation organizations, academia, and local, state and federal agencies teamed up to form the IANA. The goal of the alliance is to improve soil health and nutrient management efforts. The IANA was created to identify ways the partners can jointly enhance their programs to further the shared goal of improving nutrient use efficiency to reduce nutrient loss from agricultural production areas. The ultimate goal of the IANA is to enhance water quality.
“With Ben’s leadership, we expect to see enhanced communication, more coordinated research efforts and an increase in the promotion of science-based soil health practices from all IANA partners,” said Aly Wells, director of production and environment at the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council.
Justin Schneider, INFB director of state government relations, said that with Wicker at the helm, the IANA can begin to fulfill its mission. “This role is very important to the success of this new partnership,” said Schneider. “Ben will be instrumental in fostering the growing collaboration of the partners and sharing important information about soil health and nutrient management directly with farmers.”
Financial support for the IANA is shared by the partner organizations. The alliance will operate as a standalone nonprofit group led by a board of directors elected from representatives in the partnership. The IANA hopes to allow farmers to maintain control of their operations while making economically viable and environmentally sustainable decisions.
The IANA is made up of the following partners:
·Indiana USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
·Indiana Farm Bureau
·Indiana Soybean Alliance
·Indiana Corn Marketing Council
·Indiana Pork Producers
·Indiana State Poultry Association
·Indiana Dairy Producers
·Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Inc.
·Indiana Agribusiness Council, Inc.
·American Dairy Association of Indiana
·Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
·The Nature Conservancy in Indiana
·Purdue University College of Agriculture
·Indiana State Department of Agriculture
“There’s already so much good work happening in Indiana around nutrient management and soil health, and many of the partners have initiatives and programs underway,” said Wicker. “My plan is to communicate the great work that is being done and to link those efforts together under a common goal. I want to further develop the partnerships and the collaboration between them in order to extend the reach of their efforts in working with Indiana’s farmers.”