All around Illinois, farmers are increasingly showing how to improve conservation on their land — one important Star Rating at a time.
The S.T.A.R. Program, short for Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources, was created in 2017 through the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District to promote sustainable farming. Participating farmers and land owners learn how to improve the environment by reducing soil and nutrient losses, by changing the practices used to grow crops.
Participating farmers and land owners complete a simple field form and receive a Star Rating for each individual field. The points used to establish the Star Rating are based on practices identified by a science committee of university researchers and other experts. The participants receive a sign for each field that displays the S.T.A.R. rating.
In 2018, the program greatly expanded:
• 180 participants on 438 fields, for a total of 27,418 acres on Illinois land.
• 87 percent of the 438 fields participating received three stars or higher on a five-star scale.
• 43 other Illinois counties are now licensed to offer S.T.A.R.
We thank state legislators who have made soil health a priority through recognizing the state’s Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Sponsors of S.T.A.R., including ADM Cares, Farm Credit Illinois, and Kellogg Company, ensure we are helping to make conservation practices a high priority in Illinois farmland.
Now is the perfect time for more participants, as we will accept applications until March 1 for the 2019 crop year. Participating is free and is as simple as completing a field form on our website: https://starfreetool.com/home.
Together, with every S.T.A.R. rating, we will turn conservation into an integral part of our state’s proud agricultural heritage. The result will be saving of the most valuable natural resources in Illinois, our soil and our water.
Note to readers: Bruce Henrikson is S.T.A.R. Program coordinator, and Erin Bush is resource conservationist, for the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District.