INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 29, 2014) — No one has a more vested interest in the health of Indiana soils than the Hoosier farmers who rely on the land for their livelihood. That is the reason Indiana’s agricultural community is working together to develop a long-term strategy to ensure healthy soils today and into the future.

The Indiana Nutrient Management/Soil Health Strategy is a 10-year plan designed to be a proactive approach by Hoosier farmers to continue to be good stewards of Indiana’s soil and water resources while optimizing nutrient management and reducing nutrient loss from fields.

“As an industry, Indiana’s agricultural groups have looked at what is happening across the country when it comes to nutrient management, and we want our producers to continue to operate effectively and efficiently without the additional burden of undue regulations,” said Justin Schneider of Indiana Farm Bureau. “We have a choice to either take a leadership role in working to reduce nutrient loss ourselves or to let others make those decisions for us.

“Hoosier farmers are leaders when it comes to environmental stewardship, and we have the expertise and experience to meet the existing challenges of nutrient management and soil health because our producers and their livelihoods are intricately tied to these issues,” Schneider added.       

To help form the strategy, groups from all sectors of Indiana agriculture partnered together starting in 2011 to develop a cohesive, industry-wide strategy. Those partners include Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Pork, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Corn Growers Association, Indiana Dairy Producers, Indiana Beef Cattle Association, Indiana State Poultry Association, the Agribusiness Council of Indiana and Purdue Extension.

Schneider said there is concern that the Environmental Protection Agency’s approach for regulating for water quality in the Chesapeake Bay will come to the Midwest and directly restrict whether Hoosier farmers can raise livestock or have the flexibility to manage their own nutrient use.

“This strategy is designed to showcase the strengths of Indiana agriculture and our willingness to take a hands-on role in protecting our environment and natural resources,” said Josh Trenary of Indiana Pork. “Our ability to show that Indiana farmers are taking proactive steps goes a long way to reducing the likelihood of a court ordering Indiana or EPA to set numbers establishing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water and limiting farmers’ nutrient applications.”

Trenary said it is important to understand that this strategy is not a new organization and is not about introducing new practices or programs to Indiana famers. Instead, it is about helping producers optimize nutrient use in their fields by supporting existing conservation and nutrient management programs available on the state, local and national level. 

The framework of the strategy focuses on education and voluntary implementation of nutrient use optimization practices. It also looks to expand the use of practices that help trap nutrients and keep them from entering rivers in watersheds. By building upon existing nutrient management programs, farmers can reduce nutrient loss from agricultural areas.           

“With the strategy’s framework established and in place, it is now time to ask farmers, consultants and retailers for their help in implementing the strategy,” said Trenary.

Technical information will be made available to producers to help them make decisions about nutrient management and soil health, and that information will be made available through agricultural organizations, retailers and government agencies.

As a starting point, some farmers will receive a survey from Purdue University about nutrient management. Farmers who receive the survey are encouraged to complete and return their information so that an accurate baseline can be established.

“It is vital for Hoosier farmers who receive the nutrient management survey to complete and return that information,” said Dennis Maple, president of Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “It’s a small investment of an individual’s time, but the data these surveys provide is going to be an invaluable tool in taking a baseline look at nutrient management and soil health practices and identify areas for possible education and growth.”

The survey will look at current practices and the decision making process of producers when it comes to nutrient management. That data will be used in conjunction with data from universities and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, as well as surveys by certified crop advisors to create an accurate snapshot of the current nutrient management situation here in Indiana.

Those who receive the survey can either complete the survey online or return a paper copy of the survey. Information provided in the survey is confidential and will never be linked to an individual name, only a response code. For more information on the survey, call Linda Prokopy of Purdue University at 765-494-8025.

A complete copy of the Nutrient Management Soil Health Strategy can be found online at www.inagnutrients.org

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This communication was funded with corn and soybean checkoff dollars.