Bill Buckner has lived his life and worked his entire career as an advocate for modern agriculture. Bill has been learning about, sharing, and advancing modern agriculture techniques and technologies at every stage of his life, from his Missouri farm upbringing and his education at the University of Missouri to his working life at Bayer and the Noble Research Institute.
As chairman of the board for CropLife America from 2009 to 2011, Bill brought focus to members of the crop sciences industry. He showed that clarity of communication was (as it is today) essential for society and government to “get” the fact that agriculture has made tremendous advancements, especially since World War II — and that these advancements better all who eat and our environment.
Bill supported opinion research which clearly showed that the American public held only negative views of the science and technology that is agriculture today. Under his leadership, we perfected a “modern agriculture” brand and supported the creation of a communication outreach plan. We then pivoted to our many allies, partners and related constituencies to gain alignment for this messaging approach.
All this effort was captured in a cover story by CropLife magazine in the fall of 2010. In the article, Bill says, “There is a collective need for all in agriculture to communicate a modern agriculture message.” And so it began.
The concepts that Bill’s leadership helped frame almost a decade ago are still a core part of public outreach today.
When Bill wrapped up his commercial career at Bayer, he moved on to expand his advocacy for modern agriculture in his role at the Noble Research Institute, reaching out and connecting many not-for-profit partners, government agencies, and other private and public research entities.
From my perspective, the single most profound focus of this chapter of Bill’s work is expressed in two words: soil health. Of course, Bill inherited an amazing legacy of soil stewardship at Noble, but he took that legacy — and his own lifelong commitments to advancing farming productivity and reducing environmental footprint — to do something more. Significantly more.
First Bill led the Noble Research Institute and the Farm Foundation to join forces on the topic of soil health in the modern science context. He engaged a broad cross section of stakeholders from production agriculture (farming and inputs suppliers), governments, academics, environmental groups and more to form the Soil Renaissance.
The work of the Soil Renaissance resulted in identification of the need for more research into the frontier of soil health. Not satisfied with just defining this need, Bill did something about it, which led to the formation of the Soil Health Institute. Now in its third year, the Soil Health Institute is supporting substantial new research to improve the health of our soils.
I can’t wait to see where he’ll put his energies next. But as he wraps up his role at Noble, it is time to pause and say, “Thank you, Bill Buckner.”