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Illinois S.T.A.R. Program Acres Total 27,000
The S.T.A.R. (Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources) conservation program, created by the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District in 2017, is helping Illinois farmers ensure they are protecting their farmland and environment.
How it Works
S.T.A.R. participants complete a field form that is scored by a local reviewer, which then assigns points for everything from the cover crops used on acreage, to the kinds of fertilizer used for nutrient management, to various conservation practices used on that field to prevent runoff into nearby water sources.
S.T.A.R. uses a science committee of university researchers and other experts to ensure the field forms accurately and to compare practices used and how those affect the natural resources of the state. Fields are then ranked on the five-star scale, and participants receive a sign to identify their S.T.A.R. designation.
“Our experience with S.T.A.R. farmers is they never realized how easy it can be to prevent runoff and to protect our water supplies, and how important it is to take the extra time to plan for and to execute a sustainable farming strategy on their acreage,” said Bruce Henrikson, S.T.A.R. program coordinator through CCSWCD.
The agriculture industry is also embracing the use of the S.T.A.R. program tool. ADM Cares has donated to the promotion of S.T.A.R., Farm Credit Illinois has donated to help provide field signs in their service area, and Kellogg Company has pledged through 2021 to support conservation and the S.T.A.R. program in east-central Illinois as part of its global commitment to reach 1 million farmers and workers by 2030.
S.T.A.R. Achievements in 2018
- 180 participants on 438 fields, for a total of 27,418 acres on Illinois land
- 382 of the 438 fields participating received three stars or higher on a five-star scale, or more than 87%
- 43 Illinois counties are licensed to offer S.T.A.R.
The program touts several key benefits: decreasing nutrient loss in the soil and encouraging other farmers to help meet the state’s nutrient loss reduction goals; increasing net farm income and possible new markets to sell crops grown using conservation practices; and supporting the ongoing work of soil and water conservation districts to preserve and promote the state’s natural resources.
S.T.A.R. is now encouraging interested farmers to enroll their acreage in the 2019 program, although applications will be accepted until March 1, 2020.
“We hope to show more farmers in 2019 that sustainable practices are not a luxury for farms with economic means, but a natural, necessary investment in the health of our soil, our water, and our state,” Henrikson says.
Participating is free and as simple as completing a field form at the S.T.A.R. website: https://www.precisionconservation.org/starReport.html.