From the get go, Pete Baughman has been in the independent crop consultant business. That is, he grew up being a consultant. His father, Pete, checked Mississippi crops, mainly cotton and rice, for many years and he worked with his father from an early age during summers between high school and college. After graduating from Mississippi State University with a degree in ag pest management in 1997, Pete worked fulltime with his father, who is now retired.
Baughman’s business, PMB Ag Consultants, Inc. out of Indianola, Miss., checks crops in Leflore, Tallahatchie, Sunflower, Quitman and Coahoma counties. Baughman also checks crops in Phillips County, Ark. He services primarily grain (rice, corn and soybeans), heavy on rice, and a little cotton.
“Years ago, we were kind of split between cotton and rice, but as cotton lost acreage through the years, we began concentrating more on rice and other grains,” Baughman says.
He offers a full portfolio of consultant services to growers, including soil sampling, as well as weed, fertility and insect management throughout the crop season. He also works with his growers on variety and hybrid selection, matching the right one to a field’s soil type and production system.
“In rice, for example, for the past five years we’ve been about 40 percent to 50 percent hybrid rice, half Clearfield, half conventional rice,” Baughman says.
“Several growers have been trying row rice on a few hundred acres for the last couple years, just getting their feet wet. Last year, the yield of the row rice was fairly comparable to that of paddy rice, so we might see a little more row rice this season. However, row rice makes weed control even more critical; timeliness of herbicide applications is essential. Additionally, with row rice you have to contend with pigweed, which you don’t with paddy rice.”
The MACA Resource
With all the ever-changing product labels, Baughman says being a member of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association (MACA) helps keep him up to date on products, as well as other areas, including legislation, regulations and trade.
“Additionally, you get to interact with other consultants in the hall during the meeting on things such as new products, and what they saw in the field and what worked and what didn’t in controlling the problems,” the Mississippi consultant says.
“All of this helps you do a better job of making field decisions during a crop year. MACA offers a lot of consultant experience in one place; the current voting membership in the organization is 64 members. You can lean on other consultants for maybe something you have not experienced before. Networking with other consultants is a big advantage of attending the MACA annual winter meeting.
“Additionally, university speakers provide an unbiased opinion of what they have found in their research. Mississippi offers a strong university/Extension research program, and researchers including Drs. Angus Catchot, Jeff Gore, Jason Bond and Bobby Golden give us consultants excellent crop information that helps us with our growers in the field.
“And outside of the annual meeting, the university/Extension personnel are always available for questions through the season. When you call them up, they’re usually in the field, not behind a desk. They are there when you need them, such as for field issues like glyphosate drift in rice. They’re a big asset for consultants.”
MACA, which is a professional alliance of independent crop consultants, also helps its members with on-going education, and the 46-year-old organization presents a united voice for consultants on state and national levels.
“Bureaucrats listen more to an organization than they do an individual,” Baughman adds. “MACA gives us political clout on the local, state and national levels.”
MACA works with other regional state consultant organizations and the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC) to voice legislative and regulatory concerns on local, state and national levels.
MACA voting members are consultants that are educated, trained continually, experienced, and ethical. Each member has a college degree or higher in a relevant field of study. Many have graduate or doctoral degrees in an agricultural or biological field.
Association members are also required to pass a rigorous state test to become licensed in one or several consulting categories. Additionally, many members have professional certifications. To remain licensed and certified, each member must attend many hours of continuing education classes between each growing season. The association provides continuing education and helps keep members updated on their educational CEUs.