One-on-one assistance centerpiece of PCM program – AgriNews

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Precision Conservation Management program participation continues to grow as farmers look towards implementing conservation practices.

PCM is a free service that combines precision technology and data management with farm business and finances to help farmers manage, adopt and adapt efficient long-term conservation practices to help improve their bottom line.

PCM is a program funded by the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Soybean Association and grants from the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, Pepsico, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation and the Environmental Defense End.

PCM was created as a result of a USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant.

Greg Goodwin, who grew up on a small family-owned farm in Crawford County, took the helm as PCM director earlier this year and gave an update on the program that was launched in 2015 to provide one-on-one assistance to farmers.

“This year, we expect to have roughly 50 to 100 new farmers who have joined the program, hopefully even a little more than that. We’ll know how many after the data collection is completed and we have final enrollment numbers,” he said.

“We’re excited to see the program continue to grow. We have a number of new staff members who are over a year into the program and a couple new just getting on board.

“We continue to look to partner with farmers, encourage conservation management adoption and pair them with proper incentives and programs to help assist them throughout that process.”

Farmers can sign up for PCM at www.precisionconservation.org.

“From there, they can click the ‘contact us’ button. That will connect them with someone in their area that will partner with them one-on-one,” Goodwin said.

“We are only in about 30 counties in Illinois right now. The initial regions were formed based on different watersheds related to the nutrient loss reduction goals of the state. We have grown outside of that a little bit and we are looking to expand to other regions of the state in the next five years.”

Technical Support

Once a farmer has expressed interest in signing up, a conservation specialist will be the point of contact and provide one-on-one technical support and enroll the farmer in PCM’s Farmer Portal platform.

“We can enroll farmers at any point throughout the year. Our staff would work with them to collect their management records and then we pair that with average economic cost tables that have been developed through Illinois Farm Business Farm Management and University of Illinois Extension,” Goodwin said.

“Depending on what time of year it is, we have two major data collection periods, one in June and then post-harvest. So, the farmer can expect four to six hours a year to spend with our specialist.

“We will compensate you for your time. You get a $500 payment at enrollment and after 12 months in the program another $250 and you can participate indefinitely after that.”

Incentive Programs

Among the benefits of the program is the PCM specialist connects farmers with incentive programs, including some that may not be commonly known.

“There are the sort of mainstay federal programs out there that farmers are generally aware of and we have specific pools of those funds set aside for farmers who are participating in our regions. There are also a number of programs coming online that will probably start to roll out in 2023,” Goodwin said.

“For example, the new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program includes about 70 national-scale pilot programs that are funding at various levels from about $20 million to up to $100 million with match that are all looking to enroll farmers and have various incentive programs out there.

“That is what we see our role to be in terms of farmer services, helping them navigate that space and understand what opportunities are out there. Some of these are even available just at the county level.

“We try to do a very good job of understanding what’s out there for farmers in each of our regions and be able to act as a resource to help them navigate that space.”

Analysis

Farmers who participate in PCM will receive a customized Resource Analysis and Assessment Plan each year that provides direction to the farmer in evaluating and considering changes to production practices. Currently, PCM’s assessment focuses on tillage, cover crops and nutrient management.

“In February or March of every year, we meet with every cooperating farmer and deliver these RAAPs one-on-one through our conservation specialist. We have partnered with Field to Market which through their Fieldprint Calculator has a set of sustainability metrics,” Goodwin said.

“For your customized report, you will see how any of the fields you have enrolled compare to yourself through time and also anonymously to any other farmers who are participating in an aggregated fashion in your region and also at the state level.”

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