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With each change to the Farm Bill, federal/state policy and appeals court ruling, how conservation programs are funded, implemented, evaluated and modified is constantly changing. To keep landowners in compliance, conservation advisors need to not only understand the latest interpretations, but be prepared to assist landowners in determining eligibility. These courses will not only achieve these goals, but ensure staff are well prepared to help landowners compare the economic and environmental benefits of the programs available.
From small particles (particulates) generated from tillage, feeding and other farm activities to greenhouse and other gasses generated by livestock and waste management systems, air quality is a growing issue for farms of all sizes. Courses in this area will focus on understanding the issues, heath impacts, and most importantly, steps that can be taken to reduce emissions and cut risk.
Business planning, budgeting, record keeping, marketing and sales are all very important aspects of running an effective business both for a technical service provider who is developing his own consulting business or the farmer trying to make his farm economically viable. Getting a good foundation of business principles and practices can help both individuals succeed. For technical service providers it is especially beneficial to understand business principles in order to understand how conservation recommendations will be perceived and implemented.
Conservation Planning is the integral "first step" that all crop and non-cropland conservation decisions are built upon. True conservation planning involves not only a working knowledge of the science behind the resource and potential management solutions, but an understanding of the cultural, social and economic factors that influence a landowner's decisions.
A farm's conservation plan is the base document from which all other land management options should start. Whether the farmer is considering a switching to rotational grazing, implementing a pest management plan or expanding their livestock operation, a poor or non-existent conservation plan can mean the difference between success and failure.
In the 1930â€™s, contour farming and terraces revolutionized how cropland was managed. 75 years later, new technologies such as GMOs, GPS applications, zone tillage and airplane-seeded cover crops provide landowners with a whole new toolbox of options. These courses will show how to determine which new technologies are best suited to protect the resources of concern, as well as how to evaluate the potential negative or neutral impact of implementation.
An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a systematic way to manage impacts on the environment that covers all levels of farm management. An EMS is farmer-directed and voluntary and focuses on business efficiency. An EMS is not a specific document or set of documents, nor is it a specific practice, set of practices, technology or engineering. While all these things are important parts of an EMS, it is the disciplined commitment to continually improving environmental stewardship and business efficiency that make it a system. The goal of an EMS is to ensure that, over time, the negative environmental impacts from farming operations are minimized and positive impacts, like clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat, are enhanced.
These courses relate to habitat management and land use: from wildlife enhancement, wetland and prairies restoration, to agro-forestry and riparian buffers. Courses cover the creation, enhancement and management of specific habitat types that may be part of a whole-farm conservation plan or as stand alone enhancement projects.
This series of courses will develop an understanding of the assumptions underlying the process of evaluating farm energy usage and how to make recommendations that will improve the efficiency of a farm operation. On farm energy development explores how to evaluate a site for various types of renewable energy production systems such as biofuels and biodigesters, wind and solar; understanding their environmental impact and the short and long-term economic benefits.
Agricultural professionals, particular those with an on-the-ground presence need to engage in assessing the resources and maintaining data management systems. Collecting, aggregating and managing farm data to determine resource conditions for an individual farm or across a county, watershed or region is increasing important. The USDAâ€™s Conservation Security Program has made attempts at paying for resource management benefits and has used indices and ratings to determine eligibility and payment rates. These management indices are tools developed that address soil, water, and habitat concerns.
Professional development goes beyond knowing the technical aspects of science to the skills necessary to develop effective relationships. This series of courses are those most important but often the most neglected. Developing communication and leadership skills are important for the effective implementation of any community project as well as the professional success of an employee. These courses focus on a wide range of personal development topics to help the technical service provider become a more effective conservation professional.
Farming practices impact water in such a myriad of ways that there are a number of course topics that focus on the function of water these include: hydrology, drainage, irrigation, fluvial geomorphology and stream flow, water quality, storm water management, limnology and other surface water and ground water issues.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) allows the land manager to combine technical expertise and real-time field level knowledge to make the best pest management decisions. The end result takes into account not only the biology of the pest, but also the economic and environmental impacts of pest control decisions, allowing the manager to make the best choice for each individual situation.
While the number of livestock farms had dropped significantly, the average number of animals per farm has increased greatly. This trend has led to significant changes in how livestock are housed, fed and raised, while at the same time created a waste management challenge, leading resource managers to look at the entire livestock operations, from what is fed to how manure is applied. Waste treatment technologies that only a few years ago existed only in industry are now being tried on farms.
These changes have also led to a rebirth of more traditional methods (grazing, small scale agriculture) and farms who are implementing new knowledge and management to maximize production and profitability.
Agricultural production without the use of non-natural inputs (herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers) is one of the most rapidly growing aspects of agriculture. Courses in this area will assist resource managers in understanding not only the basic production system, but also certification/inspection requirements, alternative methods used by organic producers and the economics of organic systems.
Courses in this area focus on the basics of soil creation, biology (soil quality), nutrient cycling and management practices used to mitigate soil erosion (both by wind and water). Courses incorporate best management practices to enhance soil health, increase productivity and decrease soil loss.
With each new state legislative session, state rulemaking and appeals court ruling, the agency and field level interpretation of program changes. To insure compliance with the latest rules, laws and interpretations, courses in this area will focus on both an introduction to the programs and updates as warranted.
These courses provide both an overview and hands on experiences using electronic tools used by resource managers to help landowners protect and enhance the environment. Seminars range from highly technical general use software (AutoCad, GIS applications) to specific needs software (MMP, SNAP Plus, Phosphorus Indexing) to field level uses of surveying equipment.
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