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Bill Buckner: Committed to Cover Crops and Advancing Their Use on Farms, Ranches Across the U.S.

During the last seven years, Bill Buckner has raised attention for cover crops and brought people together to tackle the challenges facing farmers and ranchers.

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I first became acquainted with Bill Buckner in 2013 during the process of organizing the first National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health. Bill reached out to let me know about the Soil Renaissance, an effort led jointly by what was then called the Noble Research Institute and the Farm Foundation. It quickly became clear that Bill was a strong advocate of not only the broad aspects of soil health but also cover crops as a key soil health practice that could impact millions of acres. Bill ended up being a luncheon speaker at the conference, and it was the first of many times in the last five years that I’ve heard Bill deliver an inspirational message about regenerating our soils through practices such as cover crops.

Bill’s inspirational role has not been limited to public speaking. He’s been an extremely effective and passionate advocate for cover crops and other soil health approaches by getting people to come together in identifying barriers to overcome and goals for adoption. For example, he has catalyzed multiple strategy meetings of leading cover crop experts, collectively identifying a consensus target of 100 million acres of cover crops in the U.S. and planning for how to best reach that target.

One of the key barriers to cover crop expansion that Bill has helped address is the need for new, locally-adapted cover crop varieties. By teaming up with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, he was able to create a fund of $6.6 million to advance cover crop breeding and development across a five-year period. That work got underway in 2017 and holds much promise for future progress with cover crops.

“Progress on cover crops has significantly increased because of bill’s outstanding leaderhip efforts....”

— Rob Myers, Ph.D.

Bill’s commitment to the use of cover crops has extended to his own family farm in central Missouri, which he jointly manages with his brother. Working with their tenant farmer to implement cover crops across the farm, they saw benefits with soil organic matter improvements, protection of the soil from erosion and general soil health. Those first-hand experiences with cover crops have allowed Bill’s message about cover crop benefits to resonate with farmers as well as public- and private-sector agriculture organizational leaders. Bill has managed to elevate attention to cover crops within national groups such as the American Seed Trade Association and promote increased industry action on cover crops.

Progress on cover crops has significantly increased because of Bill’s outstanding leadership efforts, including his great motivational skills in interpersonal settings, his inspirational messages in public speeches, and his ability to see the big-picture challenges in agriculture. In fostering diverse partnerships and shared vision, Bill has catalyzed significant conservation improvements on thousands of American farms and ranches. His passion, efforts and actions have created a lasting impact upon both countless people and our land, creating a brighter future for all of us.

Rob Myers
Regional Coordinator for North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) at the University of Missouri