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A Business Case for Conservation: RCPP in Action

Illinois Corn Growers Association (IL Corn) has developed Precision Conservation Management (PCM), a farmer service program helping farmers adopt conservation practices in a financially responsible way, as a response to the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. PCM aims to meet the management needs of farmers by making possible the integration of agronomic information with financial and environmental analytics. Through collaborations with more than 30 partners and the development of a farmer-friendly data collection platform, PCM offers one-on-one technical support, data analysis, and an environmental evaluation through the Field to Market's Fieldprint Calculator 3.0.

The project was made possible through a funding agreement between IL Corn and the Natural Resources Conservation Service through the agency's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). In 2015, they were awarded $5.35 million in RCPP project funds, while bringing an additional $13.5 million from other partners to help fund the project.

Currently, PCM staff work with 250 farmers in 16 Illinois counties and 10 Kentucky counties, representing approximately 250,000 acres of row crop agriculture. As a commodity crop program, IL Corn is looking to ensure that PCM data represents most Midwest farming operations and can be applicable to the broader farm population.

"Farmers sometimes have difficulties making good conservation decisions when there is very little information on the economic benefits of implementing conservation practices," said Shannon Allen, NRCS RCPP Coordinator in Illinois. "This PCM project is providing the economic information to farmers so they can make an informed decision."

PCM staff work directly with farmers to input management data into the PCM Farmer Portal, a secured and encrypted data platform. Data is then used to generate a comprehensive, sustainability-focused Resource Analysis and Assessment Plan (RAAP) that provides direction to the farmer in evaluating and considering changes to production practices. Currently, the focus of PCM's assessment includes tillage, cover crops, and nutrient management. RAAP reports additionally provide meaningful comparisons to allow an individual farmer to compare themselves with results of farmers with different farming practices. The PCM Specialist works closely with the farmer to review the results of the RAAP and to identify practices the farmer might consider adopting. Based on the farmer's business and conservation interests, the specialist helps make connections with a wide variety of technical support and local incentive opportunities (e.g., NRCS cost share; cover crop incentives offered by ICGA and ag retailers).

Once conservation practice recommendations have been determined, PCM Specialists then connect the farmer with their NRCS district conservationist to move forward with Farm Bill program applications. PCM data is used to generate a variety of reports that are made available to farmers across the Midwest to assist with financially sound conservation decision-making.

For more information about the project, analysis and results, visit

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land. By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in delivering results for agriculture and conservation.

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