BMP Performance Guarantee Update
November 29, 2005

in this issue
  • About the BMP Adoption Project
  • Protecting Corn Farmers from Risks When They Adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs)
  • And Another Reason to Follow Nutrient BMPs ...
  • Service Income Opportunity for Input Dealers and Crop Advisors

  • Protecting Corn Farmers from Risks When They Adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs)

    Corn farmers and organizations working with farmers on BMP adoption have a great opportunity, thanks to new grants from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the North Central IPM Center. The project provides, at reduced or no- cost, a risk-free guarantee that compensates farmers for any yield and income loss while trying out cost-saving and environmentally sound practices.

    The program supports corn farmers when they follow nutrient BMPs, reduce tillage or adopt corn rootworm IPM. By helping farmers evaluate these practices risk-free, farmers stand to learn how beneficial they are and adopt them long-term on their entire farm. According to Brian Brandt, director of the Agricultural Conservation Innovation Center at American Farmland Trust (AFT), “We want this program to increase the use of best practices that save farmers money and promote cleaner water,” said Brandt.

    In addition to the assurance of an income guarantee, farmers may find that AFT’s program is inviting since the new practice does not have to be applied to the entire farm. They can enroll just one field or a portion of a field.

    The program is unique in that it asks farmers to maintain a “check” strip in one or two trial fields. On the check strip, the farmers can apply fertilizer, use their conventional tillage practice, or use rootworm pesticides as they normally would. This gives farmers the evidence they need, on their own farm, to decide which practices produce the best returns.

    Organizations with working relationships with corn farmers, input dealers and crop advisors are encouraged to participate in the program. “AFT is looking for involvement from organizations that can use this as an educational tool in their own projects and regions,” said Brandt. These include state agencies, Extension, crop consultants, environmental groups and others whose missions include improving farmer income and/or protecting the environment.

    The program is available to farmers growing corn for grain or silage in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. For more information about the program, contact Regina Hirsch at 608 873-8393 or regina.hirsc Hirsch is a consultant working with AFT to implement the program in Midwestern states.

    And Another Reason to Follow Nutrient BMPs ...

    Corn farmers are understandably concerned about potential yield and income loss when they reduce nutrient application rates. Now, the combination of low corn prices, high fertilizer costs and the availability of the risk protection program make a strong financial case for doing so. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused fuel prices to swell this fall, pushing fertilizer prices to record highs.

    Reducing fertilizer use to BMP rates may be the best way to combat the climbing prices. A simple soil test that lets corn farmers know the phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels may be all that is needed to evaluate fertilizer use, wrote Robert Mullen, Ohio State University Extension Specialist, in a February 2005 C.O.R.N. Newsletter. If the soil is high to extremely high in P and K, farmers do not need to apply more of those nutrients, wrote Mullen.

    High prices of nitrogen-based fertilizers also have farmers thinking of alternative fertilizer options. But since most alternatives are liquid or solid in form, they might require different machinery, therefore costing potentially more than nitrogen-based fertilizers. That leaves farmers with the limited options of reduced use, more efficient use, or no use at all if testing indicates adequate soil levels.

    Service Income Opportunity for Input Dealers and Crop Advisors

    Input dealers, does margin erosion on farm chemicals have you searching for other sources of income? If so, consider the services farmers will need to implement BMPs. This new project provides an opportunity to transition to greater service revenue in your income mix.

    Input dealers and crop consultants play a key role. Certified crop consultants are needed to work with corn farmers one-on-one to develop nutrient BMPs, scout fields for corn rootworm, and provide support for farmers trying out reduced tillage practices. In addition, crop advisors will also position a “check” strip where farmers will apply their traditional practices, and help the farmer assess yield at harvest.

    Participating crop consultants must be CCAs, or certified by either the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants or ARCPACS in an area of crop science. Individuals approved by a governmental entity as qualified to establish a nutrient management plan are also eligible. To find out how to get involved, contact Regina Hirsch at 608 873-8393 or regina.hirsc

    About the BMP Adoption Project

    Initiated in 1996, our goal is to increase adoption of Best Management Practices, or BMPs, by reducing risks to farmers. BMP performance can be impacted by unpredictable weather or other events out of a farmer's control. Performance guarantees assure farmers the best outcome - and are great educational tools for those working with farmers to expand practices that benefit us all.

    This effort was initiated by the Agricultural Conservation Innovation Center, now a project of American Farmland Trust, and is now operated along with partners Agren, Agflex, IPM Works LLC and the IPM Institute of North America.

    Thanks to funders Altria Group, Inc., Great Lakes Protection Fund, McKnight Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Ohio EPA, USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant Program and US EPA.

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