Aerial picture if Indian Park Lake in Wisconsin

North Central Region Water Network and partners will help close the financial information gap in conservation ag

The North Central Region Water Network is excited to be working alongside partners from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Minnesota Water Resources Center, Compeer Financial, and Croatan Institute on a new grant aimed at creating educational resources on the financial impacts of conservation professionals.

The two-year project was recently funded by the North Central Regional Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (NC-SARE)’s Professional Development Program. The team’s proposal was the top ranked proposal and named the 2021 Paula Ford NCR-SARE PDP Proposal of the year in recognition of the organization’s former PDP coordinator Paula Ford who passed away a decade ago. This special designation is given out annually to honor the project that best exemplifies Dr. Ford’s passion for evaluation, professional development and science-based research.

The team will be taking a train-the-trainer approach to educate extension educators, agricultural lending institutions and conservation professionals on how investment in conservation practices can affect a farm’s bottom line, and on how to effectively gather and present financial data on conservation production systems.  The team will catalog existing financial resources, create curriculum, and support materials, and develop and deliver audience-specific trainings focusing on conservation practice budget impacts, data-sources, best practices, and conservation practice profitability comparisons.

“A critical knowledge gap in current efforts by conservation professionals and farm finance educators to get conservation on the ground is how to equip farmers with the financial information they need to present to their ag lenders. It’s exciting to be able to work with an exciting team of collaborators to help address this need,” notes Jenny Seifert, Watershed Outreach Specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, who will be serving as project manager.

The project will also leverage expertise on conservation finance and agricultural lending through an expert advisory team and build off of existing resources such as EDF’s farm conservation financial case studies and its Practitioners Guide for gathering conservation-related farm budget data, University of Minnesota’s farm financial benchmarking data and extension learning materials, University of Missouri and NC-SARE’s Cover Crops Economics report, and Compeer Financials’ webinars and newsletters, among others.

The project is set to kick-off in February of 2022, so stay tuned as these resources and trainings develop.

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