Farmers, ranchers, researchers, agricultural business operators and conservationists are invited to participate in a forum on cover crops and soil health, hosted by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service at 9 a.m., on Feb. 18 at the Rankin County Extension Office, 601 Marquette Road, Brandon.

This local session is one of more than 225 forums taking place throughout the country in concert with the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health in Omaha, Neb., sponsored by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

In addition to providing a venue to discuss local cover crop and soil health opportunities, benefits and barriers, the forum in Brandon will feature live-streaming video of the national conference opening session featuring presentations by Howard G. Buffett of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, NRCS Chief Jason Weller, Ray Gaesser, Iowa Farmer and President of the American Soybean Association, and a panel of four leading cover crop and soil health farmers.

NRCS State Conservationist Kurt Readus said the local-level forums will provide NRCS and its conservation partners and stakeholders a platform to more fully organize and enable state and local soil health efforts at the grassroots level.

"The local forums will provide an excellent opportunity for participants to discuss how to build soil health, improve yields, curb erosion, manage pests and build resilience in farming systems here in Mississippi-and to assess opportunities for, or barriers to, the broader adoption of soil health management systems," Readus said.

Readus said the local forum participants will also have the opportunity to provide ideas and recommendations to the leaders, researchers, innovators and policy makers attending the national conference.

To participate in the local forum, contact Walter Jackson, State Agronomist at 601-965-4139, ext. 2164 or email to walter.jackson@ms.usda.gov or James Curtis, Assistant State Soil Scientist at 601-965-5205 ext. 2160 or email to james.curtis2@ms.usda.gov by February 14, 2014 to ensure adequate seating and to get additional details about the event.