New agriculture alliance hires executive director

Indiana Farm Bureau and other agriculture groups, government agencies and academia formed the Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance in the latter part of 2017 with the goal of improving soil health and nutrient management practices.

WickerBen_2018_350X304On Feb. 5, Ben Wicker started his role as the executive director of IANA. 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.

Before assuming this role, Wicker held positions as an independent crop consultant and agronomist and was the Indiana Pork Producers’ 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.”

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 alliance is to enhance water quality.

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.”

Alliance membershipFinancial support for 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 hope is that IANA will help farmers find ways to maintain control of their operations while making economically viable and environmentally sustainable decisions.

“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."