Illinois farmers are stepping up to improve water quality in Illinois. Since before the release of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS), through two years of implementation, to now, our members are educated about the issue and making improvements for the benefit of Illinois and our neighbors downstream.
This was evident in the first biennial report of the NLRS. The report described actions taken by stakeholders within three sectors: agriculture, point sources (like wastewater treatment plants) and urban areas.
In 2015 and 2016, the agriculture sector invested nearly $55 million in NLRS research, outreach, implementation and monitoring. This number does not include farmer efforts outside of state and federal cost-share programs, of which we know there are many. In 2016 alone, almost 39,000 people were reached through various outreach events geared at farmers and the agricultural community. IFB partnered with the Nutrient Research & Education Council and USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service to survey farmers in Illinois about their use of conservation and best management practices for water quality. Survey results show increased adoption of both in-field and edge-of-field practices since 2011. The NLRS Science Assessment was updated and found that nitrate-nitrogen loads decreased during that time by 10 percent when compared to baseline 1980–1996 load data.
Illinois Farm Bureau plays a significant role in education and outreach on this important topic. Since 2015, Illinois Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureau leaders have shared the NLRS message with more than 8,500 farmers, landowners and agricultural partners. In addition to getting the word out, the IFB board put significant funding towards three important initiatives to help Illinois farmers implement the NLRS, study new best management practices, and move the needle on action.
- Our Nutrient Stewardship Grant Program supports our County Farm Bureaus and helps members demonstrate and study a variety of best management practices for reducing nutrient losses. County Farm Bureaus have strengthened local partnerships and doubled the IFB investment with partner in-kind and financial support.
- The 4R4U Program is a partnership between IFB, county Farm Bureaus, FS ag suppliers and GROWMARK that highlights and evaluates on-farm nutrient management practices, such as the 4Rs (Right source, Right rate, Right time, Right place) and cover crops. Partners are investigating split nitrogen applications, stabilizers, and various tillage practices. The goal is to optimize crop yield and reduce environmental impact in a meaningful way for each local area.
- Our Edge-of-Field partnership program with the Illinois Land Improvement Contractors of America evaluates woodchip bioreactors and other edge-of-field practices in a holistic way by bringing together farmers with the engineering, construction, data-collection and research pieces of the puzzle. The partnership includes the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Through this program, the partners have committed to installing one edge-of-field practice each year for four more years and studying those sites through university researchers.