Secretary Naig Recognizes Conservation Leaders at Agribusiness Showcase

Stephen Eschenbach, Jim Webster, AgVantage FS Receive Secretary’s Iowa Ag Leader Awards

DES MOINES, Iowa (Feb. 12, 2020) - Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig honored three outstanding agriculture leaders today at the Iowa Agribusiness Showcase. Naig presented the Secretary’s Iowa Ag Leader Award for Conservation to AgVantage FS of Waverly, Certified Crop Advisor Stephen Eschenbach of Red Oak and Jim Webster of Dysart.

“The Secretary’s Ag Leader Awards are presented to businesses and individuals who dedicate their time and talents to advancing agriculture, the backbone of our state’s economy and communities,” said Naig. “As I travel the state, I see countless examples of farmers and landowners who are embracing a culture of conservation. I’m proud to recognize Stephen Eschenbach, Jim Webster and AgVantage FS as ag leaders who are advocates and local resources for individuals and communities who are increasing conservation practices.”

Stephen Eschenbach, Certified Crop Adviser – Red Oak

Eschenbach is a part of the seed and agronomy department at United Farmers Cooperative in Red Oak, Iowa. Eschenbach has been critical to the success of the Walnut Creek Watershed Project and the adoption of cover crops in southwest Iowa. From the beginning of the water quality initiative, Eschenbach has been a leader in identifying ways to incorporate cover crops into current agronomic systems. From planting experimental plots to identifying cost-efficient ways to seed cover crops, Eschenbach has led the way. He is the person others go to for advice on using cover crops in southwest Iowa. Last fall, Eschenbach helped producers plant more than 18,000 acres of cover crops in Montgomery and surrounding counties.

Stephen Eschenbach Ag Leader Award Winner

Jim Webster – Dysart

Webster recently retired after a 35-year career with Pioneer. Webster is an advocate for conservation practices and has been actively involved in the Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative through his leadership on the Iowa Seed Association board of directors. It is estimated that the initiative has increased the adoption of cover crops on Iowa’s seed corn acres to one-third of the total acres planted. A few of Webster’s notable career achievements include managing the Pioneer winter production recovery effort in Yuma, Arizona, after the drought of 1988, helping the Chile winter production team implement a more robust herbicide program in the early 1990s, and serving on the GIS software development team.

Jim Webster Ag Leader Award Recipient










AgVantage FS – Waverly

AgVantage FS supports and encourages best management practices in farming, including using the 4R nutrient framework to apply the right fertilizer source at the right rate at the right time and in the right place. AgVantage’s CCAs work with farmers to implement practices that conserve the land, protect water quality and maximize nutrient utilization. As part of a memorandum of understanding between GROWMARK, Inc., and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), AgVantage FS has initiated a pilot project with the local USDA NRCS to encourage collaboration at the local level and enhance service to their mutual customers. AgVantage FS has also partnered with county Farm Bureau offices to develop a traveling conservation trailer to assist with outreach and education.

AgVantage FS Secretary Ag Leader Award Recipients

Matt Kruse, Tom Severson and Jay Matthews received the award on behalf of AgVantage FS.


About the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Led by Secretary Mike Naig, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship serves the rural and urban residents that call Iowa home. Through its 12 diverse bureaus, the Department ensures animal health, food safety and consumer protection. It also promotes conservation efforts to preserve our land for the next generation. Learn more at

Keely Coppess
Communications Director
(515) 326-1616