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Conservation Agriculture Creates a “Cascade of Cost Savings” for Farmers –

EDF and AgKnowledge also saw a gap between research on conservation practices and incentivizing producers like Henry, Knopf, and Yoder to take the time, effort, and financial risk to implement them as part of their operations.

Instead, farmers are required to bear every cost associated with adopting a conservation practice and related parties who stand to benefit from conservation are failing to support farmers in this endeavor, added Monast.

A Whole-Farm Approach
EDF and AgKnowledge took a whole-farm approach to quantifying the impact of conservation practices. According to Monast, it was only when the operation was viewed as a whole that the impact of a certain practice could be seen in other aspects of the business.

“My background is in econ and I am used to studies looking at practices in isolation and those often don’t show the financials penciling out,” she says. “These farmers were very attentive to where they adopted no-till and how cover crops fit in that system and how it resulted in a reduced herbicide pass or fertilizer interaction. It was those connections that allowed them to see where the profit was being realized.”

One of the case study farmers was initially quite skeptical about cover crops. But after five years of implementing the practice, he now sees it as having a permanent place in his operation without having to sacrifice profits. Another farmer in the trio originally had issues making cover cropping a financially plausible part of his operation, but eventually made the right modifications to see the dollars needed to keep it going.

“These are case studies of farmers who successfully adopted these practices and it really shows farmers how they figured it out and how they fit them into a profitable farming enterprise,” adds Monast.

Conservation Advice for Farmers
EDF is hopeful that these findings and additional studies in the same vein will encourage the farm financial system to start taking conservation practices into account. More importantly, they hope that the report, which involves three very common and ubiquitous farming operations, will show other operators that adopting these basic practices is worth the fiscal and practical costs of implementation. As Monast notes, the practices are all fairly standard and have been part of the conservation dialogue for many years.

Her best advice to farmers curious about conservation is to try a practice out on a portion of the farm and see how it reacts, paying attention to related areas where the conservation practice may have yielded more dollars in addition to better soil, water quality, and other outcomes.

With the report’s optimistic findings, Monast and EDF are hoping to work next on connecting the dots between farmers and corporations when it comes to the value of conservation practices. This includes lenders, insurers, farmland investors, and other groups who have a financial interest in conservation.


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