July 23, 2024

Survey to document nutrient loss reduction efforts

PEORIA, Ill. — With the interim nutrient loss reduction goals deadline just two years away, agriculture groups are teaming up to collect verified information of what efforts are underway in fields.

The inaugural Illinois Ag Retail Survey was launched by the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association this month with support from Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Pork Producers, Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Council on Best Management Practices and the Illinois Certified Crop Adviser Program.

A percentage of ag retail facilities will be randomly selected to participate each year in the farmer survey, with liaisons traveling to these selected facilities from now through March to conduct the survey.

Any location selected will be notified ahead of time and contacted to schedule a meeting with the regional liaison.

“This new survey allows for our industry to accumulate this data and help tell our story.”

—  Kevin Johnson, president, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association

The purpose of the survey is to accumulate information related to agricultural practices in the state. The survey is entirely anonymous and provides an opt-out clause for the grower.

“We ask that retail members participate given how important it is for us to have a voice when it comes to nutrient loss in our state,” said Kevin Johnson, IFCA president.

“As 2025 nitrogen and phosphorus loss reduction goals near, there is increased pressure to provide accurate measurables related to practice adoption outlined in the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. This new survey allows for our industry to accumulate this data and help tell our story.”

Proactive

Johnson provided further details at the annual IFCA convention Jan. 17 in Peoria.

The survey is similar to one that’s been conducted in Iowa beginning in 2017 to collect data on farmers’ in-field practices as they relate to reducing nutrient losses.

“The biggest reasons we’re doing this is we’re trying to get ahead of this. The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is a totally voluntary program. We know by 2025 there’s going to be a new Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy put out there, and so we’re looking at these numbers,” Johnson said.

The Illinois NLRS establishes a goal to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in Illinois waterways by 45%, with interim reduction goals of 15% nitrate-nitrogen and 25% total phosphorus by 2025.

“One of the things they ask for in the NLRS is accountability and verified information. There are some things going on, but not with verified information,” Johnson added.

“We do a survey, but we need to take it to the next step because we know we’re just taking a snapshot or just a little look into what ag retailers are doing, but we need to take it to the next level to verify and show them what’s actually going on in our state. We’re trying to quantify what practices we’re doing and how much loss there is or how much we’re saving.”

Sampling Protocols

Statistical sampling protocols are provided by Iowa State University Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology.

“We’re teaming up with our sister organization, Iowa Agribusiness Association, as well as Iowa Nutrient Research and Education Council because they’ve had these protocols already done and in place,” Johnson said.

The protocol includes randomly selecting 150 ag retailer locations across Illinois. Iowa State University will randomly select the locations.

The selected locations will be stratified across the nine crop reporting districts based on each area’s percentage of row crop acres.

At each selected retailer location, 10 farmers will be randomly selected to survey, and for each farmer one 40-acre farm field will be randomly selected to collect survey information on.

“A goal has been set of at least 500 samples collected to statistically representative of the state. We are shooting high to get the best data on this because we know that not every question is going to get answered,” Johnson noted.

No personal information from farmers or ag retailers will be inputted into the system. All information will be confidential. A number, not a name, will be used. Iowa State University uses a private server in a secure location.

The goal is to have all of the information collected by April 1.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor