The Johnson County Soil and Water District will hold their next board meeting via phone conference on Monday, November 2nd, 2020 at 12:30 PM. To participate in the call, dial 1-888-844-9904 and enter in access code 7277681.
For immediate release
From: Johnson Soil and Water Conservation District
Local ag producers in Johnson County encouraged to sign up for new S.T.A.R. program
S.T.A.R. enhances soil health and water quality while targeting emerging ag markets
Two critical conservation concepts – managing nutrient loss and protecting soil from erosion –greatly enhance the future of Johnson County agricultural production and help better position farmers for changing weather patterns and to expand into the emerging sustainability marketplace. Today, the Johnson Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) introduces a new program that assists local ag producers who want to target conservation best management practices for their operation with a new program being piloted across the Midwest.
The new program “Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources” or S.T.A.R.– gives ag producers a free tool that assigns points for each practice producers are using and can use on an individual field level to prove a level of conservation. Crop rotation, no-till, nutrient application, cover crops and other soil conservation activities are graded and points assigned and converted to a rating of 1-to-5 “Stars” for each individual field.
S.T.A.R. makes its debut in Iowa this fall, sponsored by the Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI) which selected the Johnson SWCD to help inaugurate this significant push to promote soil health and water quality in Iowa.
Johnson SWCD Board Chairman Alex Schmidt encourages local ag producers to sign up now for the free tool and take advantage of the short- and long-term benefits participation reaps. “We’re excited to be one of the first 25 counties in Iowa CDI selected to be part of this pilot program, and I believe local farmers will find value in quantifying the good work they are already doing and seeing how additional practices can improve their score” Schmidt says.
“We have a culture of respect for the land here, with an understanding that farming is a business,” says Schmidt. “The S.T.A.R program works to improve the land through workable conservation practices, while increasing productivity and net profitability. It takes a commitment to accomplish those goals. With uncertain markets, weather and a water quality crisis S.T.A.R. may be the path forward and open newmarketing opportunities for our crops.”
According to CDI President Dennis Carney, landowners and ag producers who sign up for the free S.T.A.R. program can expect “unexpected” benefits. “When a landowner commits to applying sound soil health and water quality practices to their fields in a program that evaluates and documents their success – which S.T.A.R. does – they may see both conservation and economic benefits,” says Carney. “Certainly, we can establish decreased nutrient loss, keep more phosphorus in the field, and prevent water runoff. But also consider the potential for increased net farm income, and a chance to leverage market premiums from buyers who more and more demand proof that farm products be grown in sustainable environments.”
S.T.A.R Program Director Carlee Sabus adds that participation in S.T.A.R. may assist operators in securing local conservation cost share (when available), generate documentation to support potential water quality improvements, and help landowners evaluate a tenants’ level of commitment to conservation when renting their land.
To sign up, Producers fill out a simple field form that Sabus says takes about three minutes to answer questions for one field. Each field is assigned a “S.T.A.R.” rating from one-to-five stars and participants earn certificates to recognize their cooperation and level in the program from Johnson County SWCD and CDI. As the carbon and sustainability markets begin to grow, these certificates provide verified documentation that the commodity from this field was produced sustainably.
“We believe operators who sign up for S.T.A.R. will discover how easy it can be to prevent runoff and protect our water supplies,” says Sabus. “They’ll see the importance of taking the time to plan and execute a sustainable farming strategy that yeilds tremendous rewards.”
For learn more or sign up, please contact S.T.A.R. Program Manager Carlee Sabus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service can assist you with projects related to soil, water, air, plants, or animals in Johnson County, Iowa.
We provide free technical assistance in protecting these resources and can also assist with applications for funding.
We can help farmers and urban homeowners conserve soil and improve water quality through state and federal cost-share and incentive programs.