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Hillsman Offers Insight on Soil Health Techniques and Challenges

By: Sarah Fielder

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), State Conservationist Dr. Terron Hillsman, a panelist at the upcoming annual Agriculture and Environmental Law conference, has a lifetime of experience in agriculture and natural resources.

The conference, hosted by the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI), will be on Friday, November 17, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel in Annapolis, Maryland.

Hillsman grew up on a small farm located in McLemoresville, Tennessee, where his family raised cattle and hogs, and grew cotton, soybeans, and corn. Although Hillsman’s family still owns the farm, they now lease it out. He earned a B.S. in agriculture from Tennessee State, a master’s degree in organizational management from Tusculum College, and his doctorate in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee.

As Maryland’s state conservationist, Hillsman regularly interacts with farmers and producers. He is responsible for managing and budgeting within NRCS, and regularly connects with the agricultural community.

“Seeing the mission of the agency of helping people help the land spoke to me and is how I got in [to my job],” said Hillsman.

The agency also works with several organizations, including the Farm Bureau and Soil Conservation Districts located in each county in the country.

At the conference, Hillsman will emphasize the financial assistance program NRCS offers, which encourage producers to make conservation investments in their land and improve soil health. Hillsman will also speak to the challenges of implementing conservation practices on leased land.  To successfully implement conservation practices on leased land the landowner and farmer need to have shared goals and equitably allocate responsibilities.  ALEI Senior Legal Specialist Sarah Everhart will present alongside Dr. Hillsman at the conference and discuss legal strategies to incorporating conservation into a leasing relationship.

“I’m excited to be a part of the conference and interact with conference participants,” Hillsman said. “I certainly hope to discuss the agency’s role in project land conservation, and some techniques and tools available to help producers with conservation roles on the farm.”

“Soil health is important because it comes down to sustainability,” said Hillsman. “Producers count on soil for their livelihood. And as consumers we rely on the food resources for our consumption.  Making sure out soil stays healthy and vibrant is in everyone’s best interest.”

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