No matter the job, having the appropriate tools of the trade is important. Your carpenter can’t build that wraparound porch you’ve been wanting without a saw, nails, hammer and other necessities, and your doctor can’t diagnose any mystery health problems without his stethoscope, latex gloves and thermometer.

Likewise, you can’t harvest a profitable crop in the fall without taking the time to pick out the best seed, working ground and applying nutrients to ensure your crop has everything it needs — within your power — to thrive.

But just as important as fertilizer application is, so is your ability to do it effectively and safely. In other words, you need to be well-versed in the correct application of those fertilizers in order to protect not only the food itself, but the groundwater and water running off the fields during a rainstorm.

With that goal in mind, the agriculture industry, including Illinois Farm Bureau, sought significant changes to the Illinois Fertilizer Act to establish the Nutrient Research and Education Council. NREC serves as a sustainable funding mechanism for nutrient research and educational programs.

For each ton of bulk fertilizer sold in the state, 75 cents is used to support projects and programs that address the role of nutrients in enhancing Illinois crop production while minimizing the environmental impact.

Additionally, 20 percent of NREC funds must be dedicated to on-farm research and demonstration projects that address water quality issues.

And with annual funding between $2 million and $2.5 million, that means plenty of research into keeping water safe and clean. In 2014, 15 projects will be funded, totaling more than $2.55 million.

Illinois Farm Bureau also is a part of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices. Its “Keep it for the Crop” program is aimed at reducing nutrient losses, educating suppliers and farmers and dedicating resources toward research to reduce nutrient losses and enhance nutrient efficiency.

Additionally, the program has focused on water quality and nitrate load in eight priority watersheds within the state.

The KIC program works with farmers like you and fertilizer dealers to establish on-farm nitrogen rate trials in order to provide farmers with a reliable, defensible nitrogen rate for their own, individual fields.

You have helped to lay the groundwork for a new era of research and educational. The funding provided by NREC helps make substantial progress in farmers’ efforts to minimize environmental impact, optimize harvest yield and maximize nutrient utilization.

What’s more, these efforts aren’t dependent upon state or federal funding, but rather on the support of farmers themselves each time they buy nutrients for their fields.

All of this boils down to one thing: Illinois agriculture, and organizations such as Illinois Farm Bureau, doing its best to ensure you have the ability to apply fertilizer in a way that’s best for your individual farm, without the added hassles mandatory training and government overregulation.

It’s up to you help protect your most important tools of the trade by staying engaged in voluntary training for nutrient management and communicating with consumers what you do to ensure clean, safe drinking water for your family and theirs.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. of Ellis Grove, Ill., previously served as vice president of Illinois Farm Bureau for 10 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education with a minor in animal science from Southern Illinois University. He, his wife, Nancy, and their son, Kyle, operate a corn, soybean and wheat farm in Randolph County.