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Source: American Farmland Trust news release

Champaign, IL - Today, the S.T.A.R. initiative (Saving Tomorrow's Agriculture Resources) is excited to release its first Annual Report for the 2019 crop year. The report provides an overview of S.T.A.R., documenting its expansion and impact and aggregating the benefits of in-field practices into metrics that are useful to a diversity of audiences.

S.T.A.R. is a free tool that provides farm operators and landowners a means to evaluate, measure and increase their use of conservation practices based on locally identified resource concerns. The goal of the program is not only to evaluate the use of conservation practices, but also to educate participants about the benefits of additional management changes and encourage improvement. S.T.A.R. uses a simple field form to request information concerning field management and conservation practices, assign points to each practice, and provide a S.T.A.R. rating ranging from one to five stars.

"The S.T.A.R. field form underwent substantial revisions in 2019, assigning more points to practices with higher nutrient and sediment reduction efficiencies than practices with lower or unknown efficiencies," states Dr. Emily Bruner, Chair of the S.T.A.R. Science Advisory Committee and Midwest Science Director for American Farmland Trust. "While the S.T.AR. Initiative is practice-based, allowing farmers flexibility in choosing their path to conservation success, our 2019 Annual Report summarizes individual practices reported from S.T.A.R. fields and translates this data into environmental impacts."

"The Illinois Department of Agriculture commends S.T.A.R. on a great 2019 report," Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello adds. "S.T.A.R. is a prime example of how a tool developed by Illinois farmers can help encourage improvements in on-farm soil health and downstream water quality. We look forward to working with the S.T.A.R. Initiative to get more conservation on Illinois farms in the 2020 crop year."

In 2019, over 200 farmers used the tool on over 80,000 acres. Outside of Illinois, organizations in Iowa and Missouri plan to offer the tool as well.

Report Highlights:
The use of no-till and strip-till by S.T.A.R. farmers accounted for 3,374 truckloads of sediment kept out of Illinois waterways, over 15,000 lbs. of phosphorus kept in the field and the carbon dioxide equivalent of removing 6,730 passenger cars from the road for a full year.

The use of cover crops by S.T.A.R. farmers accounted for 1,168 truckloads of sediment kept out of Illinois waterways, over 4,000 pounds of phosphorus kept in the field, over 73,000 pounds of nitrate-nitrogen kept in the field, and the carbon dioxide equivalent of removing 1,175 passenger cars from the road for a full year.

To read the full report and learn more about the practices supported by S.T.A.R. visit Farmers interested in enrolling their acres are encouraged to fill out a 2020 Field Form.

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