- Animal Production: grazing - continuous, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational
- Crop Production: crop rotation
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
- Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization, wildlife
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: soil analysis, organic matter, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: public participation, sustainability measures
The proposal, “Conservation Planning Training for Private Sector Agronomy Service and Local Conservation Agencies” objective was to provide professional development to individuals and entities that are closely associated with the production goals of farmers. The intention of the project was to provide the basis for an integration of production resource management with that of natural resource management. The goal was to hold the Conservation Planning course for two consecutive years and provide training to 50 agricultural professionals. The training would provide the ag professionals with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply the three major phases of conservation planning:
Phase I: Collection and Analysis
1. Identify Problems
2. Determine Objectives
3. Inventory Resources
4. Analyze Resource Data
Phase II: Decision Support
5. Formulate Alternatives
6. Evaluate Alternatives
7. Make Decisions
Phase III: Application and Evaluation
8. Implement the Plan
9. Evaluate the Plan
A revision to the project was approved to deliver a more succinct index-based resource assessment that had a higher probability to be accepted by agricultural professionals.
The initial conservation planning training was developed using a training format developed by University of Wisconsin Extension and the Minnesota Natural Resources Conservation Service and based upon the USDA National Planning Procedure Handbook Conservation Planning protocol, the traditional approach.
The second training was developed using a format that emerged from implementation of the first training and based upon the use of USDA and University-developed agricultural management indices. This format was eventually became know as the Farm Resource Assessment (FRA).
The traditional format was much more extensive in the assessment accounting, but none of the 32 participants that completed the Conservation Planning Training were compelled to incorporate this process into their existing work activities as it appeared far to cumbersome for both them and their clients.
The index-based FRA format was much more succinct in describing the level of resource management and the potential areas of concern. Although management indices are used by the USDA NRCS to provide assessment and guidance for agricultural producers, this process as a whole has not been developed and integrated within the Conservation Planning framework.
Of the two approaches, the FRA process was considered by six of the course participants to be a potential service for them to efficiently provide to their agricultural clients.
The short-term objective was to increase the involvement from the private sector in conservation planning services. This involvement would create an additional resource for farmers to begin to incorporate conservation services within their existing agronomic plans. The short-term objectives for the public sector was be to begin immediately filling the demand for conservation planning. Local conservation agencies generally have well skilled individuals to design and implement specific conservation practices; further developing their conservation planning skills will result in their conservation recommendations moving more toward whole farm systems and the CSP. We expected a total of 50 professionals to be trained and certified in this two year project.
Intermediate objective for this project was be to create of a critical mass of individuals, private and public, that can begin to provide the services that are required for enrollment in the Conservation Security Program, related conservation provisions of the current farm bill and the next Farm Bill in 2007. This critical mass of individuals will be able to provide the necessary support for the early adopters of conservation planning services and will provide a leadership constituency base for conservation programs. We expected each of the 50 certified conservation planners to work with 10 farmers a year on getting 500 farmers ready to enroll in CSP or other conservation programs.
Long-term objectives will be the incorporation of conservation planning services within agronomic businesses and an understanding of the market and farm bill components that may financially support these additional services and to provide the platform for agronomists become more conservation minded. Farmers who already tend to use professional advisors will be able to better integrate conservation with their business plans, both in terms of farm practices and income, and move toward much more sustainable farms. The public sector outcomes will be guided by the rate of adoption of conservation planning services within the private sector. If the private sector adopts conservation planning services as a routine service of their agronomic recommendations, the public sector may take on a program and technical advisory role for the private sector. In the end overall capacity for delivering conservation programs to farmers could be vastly expanded with no compromise made on environmental outcomes. It was anticipated that by 2010 the combination of private agronomists and SWCD staff could enable USDA to quadruple its conservation program delivery.
In early 2008, when the project was revised the outcomes and targets that were pursued were left intact. The revisions were based upon using different conservation planning tools for the private and public sectors to meet the outcomes and targets.