March 16, 2011
Indiana On-Farm Network® Plans for Expansion
The Indiana On-Farm Network® started in July 2010 with 16 growers and 39 fields. At the time, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) was awaiting word on NRCS approval of a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), applied for through the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI). Rather than waiting for the final approval of the grant and possibly miss a year of work, the Indiana Soybean Alliance provided some base funding to get the program kick started.
The Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ISA/ICMC) were aware of the program through conversations with Iowa Soybean Association, so when ISDA approached ISA/ICMC about partnering on the CIG, not only were they willing partners they were very excited to see the program expand to Indiana.
In July a chain of events led to Dan Perkins, Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District, to contact ISDA. Dan had been working with a group of farmers on cover crops and was interested in trying to get an On-Farm Network group started in Jasper County. Dan and the SWCD sprung to action and engaged the 16 farmers, identified fields, and program was launched. With the support of Dr. Tracy Blackmer and the entire On-Farm Network team at Iowa Soybean Association, flights were arranged to shoot aerial imagery, points were chosen for guided stalk sampling, training was held for samplers, and the samples were pulled.
In August ISDA was notified by USDA NRCS that the CIG had been awarded. For the next three years there is $150,000 of federal contribution available to fund On-Farm Network work in Indiana. For the 2011 crop year, the Indiana Corn Marketing Council is contributing $50,000 of the cash match required and Indiana Soybean Alliance in contributing the remaining $25,000 cash match required. In addition to the financial support, both organizations are contributing time and other resources in the launch and advancement of On-Farm Network.
ISDA had expected to fund five grower groups for the 2011 crop year, but increased awareness of the program and great support from the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Indiana Conservation Cropping System Initiative has allowed eight groups for 2011, with an estimated 120 farmers participating. One very exciting aspect of the growth is the willingness of local contribution. Without the local contributions from Soil and Water Conservation Districts and local businesses, it would not be possible to expand the network to this level.
In addition to the MRBI CIG, ISDA is working with Indiana NRCS on a contribution agreement that would provide additional funding to expand in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) of Indiana, adding 2 more groups and approximately 40 farmers to the two-state Maumee On-Farm Network program.The excitement surrounding the program has been somewhat overwhelming. There are a number of grower groups anxiously awaiting an opportunity to begin work. Several SWCDs are seeking additional grant resources to launch the program in their areas. A program like this requires many partners to be successful. In addition to the grower/check-off organizations and SWCDs, Purdue Extension is playing an integral role in providing local support and technical assistance to the groups. Environmental Defense Fund and Ag Tech and Environmental Stewardship Foundation are providing significant support in the technical and partnership aspects.
Needless to say, the program is up and running in Indiana and has a very bright future. ISDA is very excited to bring this opportunity to Indiana Agriculture and look forward to continuing to grow the network in Indiana and share in the knowledge being gathered across the nation.
(Contributed by Roz Leeck, On-Farm Network program coordinator, Indiana State Department of Agriculture.)