A national soybean leader, Danny Murphy of Canton, Miss., is a successful row crop farmer who gives back to the industry that has treated him so well. He has never been too busy to get involved in commodity and community organizations.

A farmer for 41 years, Murphy farms 1,600 acres, including 980 acres of rented land and 620 acres of owned land. Soybeans and corn are his major crops. His non-irrigated per acre yields last year were 42-bushel soybeans from 800 acres and 135-bushel corn from 800 acres.

As a result of his success as a soybean and corn farmer, Murphy has been selected as the Mississippi state winner of the 2014 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Murphy joins nine other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

He forward contracts about half of his expected soybean production, and also uses futures or options contracts. He uses grain bins to store additional beans for marketing during the winter or spring. He sells corn to poultry feed mills within 40-60 miles of his farm. “These mills provide good markets,” he says. “I forward contract 50-60% of my expected corn production, with the balance stored for sale at a better basis during the spring.”

He is a longtime no-till planter. And he has won National Corn Growers Association yield contests with first place in the 2006 state no-till class and first place in the state 2008 non-irrigated class.

Murphy was inspired by his grandfather who bought the home farm in 1944 and was told that a 60-acre field was only fit to “hold the world together.” Murphy says, “My grandfather didn’t accept that. Through cover crops, fertilization and conservation, that field is now one of our most productive.” His grandfather helped him with a 4-H cotton project, and was an early user of herbicides for cotton weed control.

“When I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to farm,” says Murphy. He majored in agronomy at Mississippi State University and came back to farm in 1974. His brother Tommy joined the farm in 1977, and the brothers farmed with their father until his retirement in 1989.

Tommy is a partner in the farm, and has managed the farm while Danny has been away at American Soybean Association (ASA) meetings.

Danny has been fortunate to have two long-term farm employees. As these employees approach retirement, Danny anticipates that no-till planting will allow he and his brother to farm with little outside help.   

He adopted Roundup Ready varieties in 1996 and stopped cultivating cotton. He later adopted no-till planting to eliminate trips over the field and to reduce the equipment, labor and field time needed to grow his crops. He was inspired to use no-till from his work with ASA and the U.S. Soybean Export Council. This effort developed sustainability guidelines for U.S.-grown soybeans.

By 2013, about 99% of his crops were grown with no-till planting. “We now plow just a few acres that have ruts,” he adds. He also conserved soil by building terraces and using contour farming. Eventually, he switched from cotton to emphasize corn and soybeans.

Through his volunteer work with the American Soybean Association, he has been a national leader in shaping the current farm bill. Though it was late in passing, Murphy believes most farmers will be pleased with the farm bill. He says it requires more crop insurance than traditional safety net provisions, and says farmers will need to study their options under the new farm bill.

His plans for the future include continuing to refine his no-till practices, and adopting yield maps and variable rates for seed and other inputs. He is also seeing shifts in weed populations, and is keeping a close eye on managing any herbicide-resistant weeds that appear on his land.