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Congressional Visit Day

From Fred Vocasek, senior lab agronomist:

I spent Tuesday in Washington D.C. helping with the Congressional Visit Day, sponsored by the Science Policy office of the Agronomy, Crop, and Soil Science Societies. A total of 55 people made up fourteen teams who visited nearly a hundred Congressional offices. The teams were assigned to the Representatives and Senators from their own state – Kansas in my case.  We met with staff, usually a Legislative Assistant working for the Senator or Representative. Our objective was to ask the Congressional member to support funding for agricultural research in the upcoming 2016 budget negotiations.

Our team consisted of myself; Trevor Rife, whose K-State PhD research is focused on wheat genetic improvement; Katrina Larkin, a December K-State grad, farm wife, assistant agronomy manager at Mid-Kansas Coop, and who took top overall at last fall’s Australian Universities Crop Competition; and Bill Cook, Society Publications Director. During our office visits, we each explained to the Legislative Assistant how the investment in ag research funding benefitted our business and our customers.  All of them were supportive, but pointed out the reality of the budget negotiations.

The President’s budget requests  spending up to $450 million in the USDA budget for the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI).  The various House and Senate Appropriations Committees and Subcommittees negotiate the final amount that will be spent, which will be $325 million in 2015.  AFRI is a program that awards grant dollars to approved research projects.  In 2013, a total of 1400 projects were approved for funding, but only 350 projects were finally funded.

AFRI grants support over 2000 students including undergrads, grad students, and researchers. As an example, Kansas State has an AFRI grant to study the wheat blast fungus, a devastating disease recently identified in Brazil. Another AFRI grant is funding a study of sorghum genetics to improve bioenergy production. AFRI has a direct impact on Servi-Tech. The grants fund many other research and Extension projects across the U.S., resulting in the technologies which we implement with our own customers. We also depend on the professors that earn degrees under AFRI projects to train our current and future crop consultants and lab staff.

1. Roberts office visit

L-R: Trevor Rife, Bill Cook, Sen. Pat Roberts, Katrina Larkin, Fred Vocasek

2. waiting for appt (1)

We often waited in the hallway outside of the Congressional office. The offices are rather small, with little seating.  There were many other groups visiting Congressional offices during this time, so we waited our turn.

3. train

We usually had to walk between the Congressional office buildings, distances of a fourth to a third of a mile.  Once we had a Congressional intern escort us by taking an underground train, restricted to Congressional members and staff.  Sen. Marco Rubio (Rep., Florida) steps off the train as we step on.

4. Pompeo office vist

Office visit with Rep. Mike Pompeo, 4th District (south central Kansas, including Wichita).

5. Jenkins visit

Office visit with Rep. Lynn Jenkins, 2nd District (eastern Kansas, including Topeka).

Ryan Meister Named Director of Technology

Ryan Meister

Ryan Meister

As technology drastically changes the agricultural landscape, Servi-Tech is reinvesting in its commitment to high-tech applications in agriculture.

It is with pleasure that Servi-Tech announces that Ryan Meister will be changing his role within Servi-Tech to Director of Technology Development. In this new role, Meister will be responsible for assisting Servi-Tech’s crop service division in technology training, creating consistent technology services throughout the company, working with our software vendors to increase usefulness, helping grow technology based revenue for crop service, and looking for and creating new technology service offerings.

“Ryan will bring consistency and expertise to this role, designed to enhance the overall level of the adoption of technology within Servi-Tech’s agronomy staff,” said Pete Kruse, Servi-Tech Director of Operations. “We are proud to have Ryan on our staff, and look forward to the changes ahead.”​

Meister has been the eastern Nebraska territory manager for the past two years, and has been with the company for 11 years.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to bring new technology to our customers,” Meister said. “The rate at which new tools are being made available will provide new opportunities in ag, and I hope to utilize these new tools along with our agronomy expertise for the benefit of our customers.”

This move will make room for a new territory manager in eastern Nebraska. Servi-Tech is currently accepting applications to fill this position.

Servi-Tech Names New CEO

Greg Ruehle

Greg Ruehle

Servi-Tech is pleased to begin a new era of making the planet more productive with their announcement of Greg Ruehle as the new president and CEO.

Ruehle will begin his position in January after the retirement of Mitch Counce, who has served as president and CEO since 1992.

“I am thrilled to be joining Servi-Tech – a company that I believe is uniquely positioned to provide leadership to agriculture now and into the future,” he said. “As an expert in agronomy, lab analyses and precision agriculture, Servi-Tech fills a growing need for unbiased data and advice.”

Ruehle was raised on a diversified, family-owned grain and livestock farm in northwestern Iowa and still provides management oversight today on behalf of the family. He is a graduate of Texas Christian University’s Ranch Management Program and has a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University.

He has more than 20 years of executive leadership experience including: Director of Private Lands, Water and Environment for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Washington DC; Executive Vice President of the Nebraska Cattlemen; and Executive Secretary of the American Shorthorn Association. He comes to Servi-Tech from the Independent Professional Seed Association where he has served as Chief Executive Officer since 2005.

“On behalf of the members and leadership of IPSA, I want to thank Greg for nearly a decade of service to IPSA,” said IPSA president Lou Buice.

Servi-Tech leadership welcomed Ruehle in a statement from the board of directors.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Greg’s caliber carry on the outstanding leadership that Mitch Counce has provided since 1992,” read the statement.

Ruehle will assume management duties at Servi-Tech mid-January.

Servi-Tech, the country’s largest agronomic firm, was organized in 1975 by three farmer-owned cooperatives to provide technical service for agricultural producers in southwest Kansas. Today, Servi-Tech provides consulting to approximately 2,000 farmers across seven states and over 1 million acres. Servi-Tech Laboratories has agricultural customers in all 50 states and over six countries.

Servi-Tech in the News

Good afternoon!

Pete Kruse, Servi-Tech’s director of operations, was quoted in a story in the Dodge City Daily Globe this week.

Here’s the story!

rain 1 rain 2

Mobile App Available for TheProfiler

Did you know there’s a mobile app you can download for your phone and tablet that lets you view information from TheProfiler in your field?

TheProfiler pic

Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services (STEPS) has been hard at work to put the latest technology into your hands.

This mobile app provides real-time access to soil moisture information that enables agronomists, producers and soil moisture managers to make better use of water through timely irrigation decisions.

The latest version of the app, version 2.5.3, displays the Plant Available Water (PAW) as part of the device overview. The PAW is the water content difference between field capacity and permanent wilting point of your soil at any given depth.

Google play

Google Play (for Android devices)

iphone app

App Store (for iPhones and iPads)


south dakota pic device overview

For more information about STEPS or TheProfiler, go to or contact our office at 1-800-557-7509.

A special thanks to our partners for helping to make the planet more productive: Servi-TechAgSense, McCrometer, and MP2.

Getting Involved

Many employees at Servi-Tech are members of local and national professional organizations. Regardless of what the organization is, the purpose of professional development is the same – to enhance the skills that you have while gaining new ones in the process.

This is a blog post from Monica Springer, communications specialist with MP2 Communications (the communications division of Servi-Tech).

I joined the Kansas Professional Communicators group last year, but I’m just now becoming active in it. I became an appointed member of KPC, and I’ll be in charge of quarterly newsletters.

There are university professors in this group, assistants, people who work in marketing and public relations, journalists, and a whole slew of other professionals in the group.

I went to the KPC spring conference earlier this month in Hutchinson. The conference was at the Cosmosphere (I love that place!). At the conference I heard several speakers talk about our profession and saw how hard we all work when awards were given out at the end of the night.

Ad aspera

Seriously, the Cosmosphere rocks.

The speakers included Kristen Roderick, mobile and social media editor at The Hutchinson News; Ray Hemman, public information director for the Hutch school district; Rachel Groene, the brand director at Greteman Group in Wichita; and Lori Bower, who owns BowerComm Marketing Communications.

I wanted to share some random notes from the speakers.

  • Direct mail still works, because you can’t segregate the 40, 50 or 60-year-old who still picks up the mail, doesn’t own an iPad and who still reads a printed version of the newspaper.
  • Print newspapers are going to be around for a while. (Monica’s note: Hooray!)
  • Every company needs a social media policy in place.
  • I don’t know what Snapchat and Vine are, but I want to play with these things because people keep talking about them.
  •  The two first place awards that we won, for Servi-Tech’s social media and for The Servi-Tech Cultivator, will advance onto the national competition, which is held in South Carolina in the fall. Kansas Professional Communicators is the local organization of the national organization, which is called the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW).

Inspire young minds

Random other notes and quotes:

  • Somebody recommended reading “The Shallows – What the Internet is Doing to our Brains” by Nicholas Carr. I’ll add it to my reading list.
  • “Snow days are when the superintendent cannot make a right decision.”
  • “People are talking about it, so we might as well join in on the conversation.”
  • “Anything you do represents the company you work for.”
  • “Facebook just became baby book.”
  •  “It’s nearly impossible to communicate anything to anyone.”
  •  “It’s scary for people to commit.”

Here’s a press release about the event, with the awards that MP2 Communications took home:

Winners in the 2014 Kansas Professional Communicators contest were announced today during the organization’s annual spring conference.

North Dakota Professional Communicators judged 90 entries, with 37 entries receiving first-place honors and advancing to the National Federation of Press Women communications contest. Winners in the national contest will be awarded at the national conference Sept. 4 to 6, 2014, in Greenville, S.C.

Based on number of awards, including three first-place finishes, Amy DeVault, assistant professor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University, was recognized as the 2014 Sweepstakes Winner.

The state awards were distributed following a day full of education, skill development and interaction with communication professionals in the Hutchinson area.

For more information about KPC, visit

For more information about NFPW, visit

newsletter award

Awards that MP2 Communications received:

First Place

Social media campaign/Corporate or for-profit

“Servi-Tech Inc.”


First Place

Newsletters/Corporate or for-profit

“The Servi-Tech Cultivator”


Second Place

Videos for website/Nonprofit, government or educational

“Frontier Cooperative”


Second Place 

Writing for the Web

“Frontier Cooperative Page”


Second Place


“Kansas Musings”


Second Place

Blogs/Corporate or for-profit

“From Field to Field”

Here is a full list of contest winners: Contest Winners

News of the Weird: ISU design professor envisions virtual reality lives for farm animals

From Saturday’s Ames Tribune:

By Gavin Aronsen, Staff Writer

Could chickens raised in close confinement live more humane lives if they experienced them virtually?

That’s a question posed by Austin Stewart, an assistant professor in Iowa State University’s College of Design, for his latest project. He calls it Second Livestock — a takeoff on the popular online virtual world Second Life.

The idea goes something like this: Chickens, too numerous in the United States to realistically all live free-range lives, could be raised in cages more humanely if, from a young age, they stood on omni-directional treadmills and wore virtual reality headsets displaying three-dimensional worlds mapped to their feed and scratch, mimicking a free-range existence.

Such a life would also provide protection from the stressors and predators that threaten free-range chickens.

– See more at:

A photoillustration of a chicken wearing a virtual reality headset. Image courtesy of Austin Stewart. - See more at:

A photoillustration of a chicken wearing a virtual reality headset. Image courtesy of Austin Stewart. – See more at:

What are your thoughts on this? Is this just complete sci-fi, ag-ignorant flights of fancy? Or is this something that could be a legitimate option years from now?