Is it still possible for Illinois agriculture to meet the goals outlined in the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy?  Members of the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP) believe it is possible; and their 2021 Annual Report highlights activities that improve soil health and restore local waters.

Since its founding in 2016 with a focus on supporting Illinois agriculture to meet the goals outlined in the NLRS, ISAP has used data and consistent messaging to increase the technical capacity of ag professionals and farm advisors.  Programs are designed to advance the use of soil health and conservation drainage practices as tools to minimize risk and increase farm profitability.

A snapshot of ISAP’s impact over the past year.

This requires a whole-systems approach and the need to be responsive to new and emerging topics. Over the past year, ISAP has convened discussions on the impacts of climate change on Illinois agriculture, the role of cover crops in addressing phosphorus loss, the use of the Agriculture Conservation Planning Framework to identify priority conservation practices in local watersheds, and connected farmers, farm advisors, and agricultural professionals through our growing Network of Practitioners.

An overview of ISAP’s approach to achieving their mission and vision for Illinois agriculture.

ISAP provided critical leadership in response to rapidly growing interest in ecosystem markets by creating and sharing information designed specifically for farmers and farm advisors.  A total of five webinars were produced in 2021 which featured representatives from 10 market entities, 3 CPGs, and 2 non-profit organizations.  A market comparison table developed in conjunction with the webinars has since been referenced and repurposed in multiple reports and guides for farmers.  This work has allowed ISAP to serve as an honest broker and increase understanding of emerging market opportunities. It has also afforded ISAP a platform to emphasize both environmental and economic benefits of climate smart practices.

Reaching the goals outlined in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy will require a collaborative effort; no single organization can do this work alone. ISAP is proud to convene multiple organizations who are committed to promoting soil health and conservation drainage practices. Through collaboration and leadership, ISAP will continue to help Illinois agriculture achieve water quality goals while supporting healthy soil, clean water, and profitable farms.

ISAP is comprised of 15 organizations working collaboratively to increase the adoption of sustainable and profitable production practices that improve soil health and restore local waters.

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About the Author: Jean Brokish

Jean Brokish is the Midwest Deputy Director for American Farmland Trust and Coordinator for Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership. Jean provides coordination and management support for the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership and both the Vermilion Headwaters Watershed Group and Upper Macoupin Watershed Group. Jean has more than 20 years of experience working in agriculture and conservation. Prior to joining AFT, Jean spent 11 years leading conservation and outreach programs for Oahu RC&D, including oversight for multiple watershed implementation projects, on-farm cover crop research, and the building of Hawaii’s Women Farmer Network. Jean grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin and has a Bachelor of Science in agronomy from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls and a Master of Science in soil science from Purdue University.

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