FARM & FIELD: Grant funds Illinois precision conservation management program

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 6, 2016 12:01 am

A precision conservation program geared to have more farmers engaged in best management practices that protect water quality and prevent nutrient loss has been awarded a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Illinois Corn Growers Association submitted the Precision Conservation Management program for funding under the agency's regional conservation partnership program.

"PCM is an innovative public-private partnership service program created by farmers, for farmers, to address the need for greater adoption of conservation practices," ICGA President and Loda farmer Jeff Jarboe said. "The idea is simple. We believe that the main reason that farmers elect to not implement conservation practices on their farms is due to uncertainty about how it will affect their financial bottom line. The PCM program combines farmers' financial goals with their conservation management interests."

PCM is designed to achieve four main priorities:

Promote adoption of conservation practices by providing farmers with an informed assessment of financial risks and benefits.

Encourage participation in conservation programs by providing data-entry and paperwork submission services, data management and report generation services.

Track, analyze and demonstrate changes in farmer practices by providing aggregated and anonymized data for analysis of conservation practices from agronomic and economic perspectives.

Achieve natural resource benefits on the farm and over a large-scale, regional basis that improve crop productivity, water quality and soil health and help avoid the need for regulatory requirements.

Although ICGA originated the PCM program, its success depends on a larger partnership with more than 30 other organizations.

"PCM can't happen without Illinois corn farmers, but farmers need the help and expertise of researchers and financial specialists to be able to make the best decisions for their farms," Jarboe said.

Crop insurance tools

A completely revamped crop insurance section and two new web-based decision tools are available on the University of Illinois farmdoc website,

The ifarm Premium Calculator provides farmer-paid premiums for insurance products on a per-acre basis. The ifarm Insurance Evaluator provides performance evaluations of alternative crop insurance products for a case farm within a county.

"As crop insurance decisions loom for farmers, we expect these two new online tools will help ease the process," said Gary Schnitkey, U of I agricultural economist and a member of the farmdoc team that created the tools.

The online calculator allows a quick but detailed comparison between farm-level and area-level insurance products in terms of cost and guarantee values.

The web-based evaluator uses current price and volatility estimates and will be updated periodically until the final values are established. The tool provides helpful information to producers comparing costs and risk reductions across their available crop insurance alternatives in 2016.

"Evaluations of crop insurance are available for corn and soybeans in the Midwest, Great Plains and eastern United States," Schnitkey said. "The tools are also scalable to different platforms including laptop computers, tablets and phones."

Compiled by Herald-Whig Staff Writer Deborah Gertz Husar.

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