April 16, 2021

ISA partners with ICGA in conservation program

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Corn Growers Association have teamed up to research on-farm conservation practices and the financial implications of their adoption via the Precision Conservation Management Program.

Initiated through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service — Regional Conservation Partnership Program, PCM combines precision technology and data management with farm business and financials to help farmers manage, adopt and adapt conservation practices long-term and improve on-farm decision-making.

ICGA launched the PCM program in 2015 and currently has 330 farmers enrolled across 16 Illinois counties, primarily in central Illinois.

With ISA now partnering in the program, Laura Gentry, Illinois Corn director of water quality science, said the plan is to double the program and move into 15 additional counties.

“This new partnership with ISA represents PCM’s greatest expansion opportunity to date and is a natural extension of the core values of these two grassroots commodity associations, bringing the best of both organizations to the farmers of Illinois,” Gentry said. “This partnership will greatly enhance our ability to reach more farmers, address more natural resource and farm income concerns and continue building the business case for conservation adoption across Illinois and the entire Midwest.”

Goal

The goal of the program is to integrate conservation practices and financial data to help farmers understand how specific management changes can impact both their environment and their bottom line.

“This is a data-driven program. We live in a data-driven world and farmers today really rely in good, reliable and objective data to be able to make the best decisions on their farms. We do want to see farmers adopting more conservation practices across their acres, but we don’t want a farmer to become so green that they put themselves out of business. We want farmers to make good financial decisions along with their good conservation decisions,” Gentry said.

“The success of the PCM program has always been the added focus on farmer income combined with on-farm conservation practices. The program has been a success because farmers and farm families have always been a priority,” said Randy DeSutter, Woodhall, ICGA president.

Expanded Opportunities

“We are excited to expand our focus to include even more Illinois farmers with the partnership of the Illinois Soybean Association. Together, we are going to build better farms, healthier soils and more sustainable farm families in Illinois,” said David Wessel, Chandlerville, ISA at-large director and Utilization Committee chair.

“It’ll be a great collaboration between the Illinois corn and soybean checkoff programs, bringing tried and proven regenerative ag practices that farmers are using on their farm to the forefront. Through this investment, the economic and environmental benefits of these practices will allow the sharing of knowledge needed for a sustainable future for all.

“Expanding the PCM project to new regions of Illinois will give farmers the tools they need to make viable decisions and to be the solution in addressing changing weather patterns and water quality wherever they farm in our state.

“Partnering with Illinois Corn will allow us to provide valuable resources for all farmers in Illinois that will help inform them of the latest development pertaining to increased productivity, profitability and best management practices, ensuring a bright future for Illinois agriculture.”

Digging Deep

Elliott Uphoff, Shelbyville, ISA director, recently enrolled in PCM and said he quickly learned just how in-depth the program goes.

“When the field person sat down with me, he was looking at every bit of the operation. He wanted to get an idea of what I had been doing in the past, future plans and yields. I gladly give those yields because that’s going to help make this information more usable, and I’m really looking forward to the data I’m going to get from this program,” Uphoff explained.

“There’s a big carbon market and making sure that farmers get involved with that and take advantage of the financial aspect PCM brings to the table, making sure that we know how to utilize that. With soybeans and corn joining together we’re going to have a lot more field people to help our farmers and hopefully make all of our operations a little more efficient and sustainable.

“I’m always trying to cut out steps and if I can look into this data and see that if I cut out this tillage pass I’m not losing any money. Maybe in fact I’m gaining money, and that’s the kind of information I’m looking for that I think PCM is going to bring to the table — that usable information that’s going to help change my operation for the better.”

Collaboration

“From an association perspective, ISA and Illinois Corn have a lot of shared values and our farmers are their farmers and the PCM program is one that we recognized a lot of value in that corn was already doing, and ISA wanted to be able contribute to that success,” said Rachel Peabody, ISA communications director.

“It’s been a starting point for a lot of great collaborations that’s happening between our two organizations, not just even PCM related. But it’s kind of served as a catalyst to get our two groups working together and stronger and even better. We’re looking forward to that.”

Tom Doran

Field Editor