Over the past 15-20 years, the agriculture industry has evolved and become increasing complicated. These complications can result in very high rewards while also creating significant environmental impacts and financial risk. There are currently 13,000 Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs), including 1,200 from Illinois. If you don’t currently consult with a CCA on your soybean management practices, you should consider it because individuals who hold this certification have demonstrated the commitment, education, expertise and experience to make a difference in a client’s business.
As a CCA, I take great pride in being one of the select few who carry this title. Passing the CCA exams is not an easy task, with only 40 percent of those taking the exam passing and becoming certified. This certification is self-elected and I aggressively attend as many CEU offered meetings or events as I can throughout the year to stay current on the latest research and information. I take the responsibility seriously when I sign the CCA code of ethics and strive to live and advise by these high standards, as do so many fellow CCAs.
CCAs are required to obtain 40 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in a two-year cycle in nutrient management, soil & water management, integrated pest management, crop management and professional development. These CEUs are opportunities for active CCAs to stay engaged with modern practices and potential issues in order to properly advise farmers, clients and landowners on good agronomy practices. At the end of the day, a CCA doesn’t know all of the answers, however it does give them a license to learn to help producers make sound agronomic decisions that will reduce risk.
1. The way a CCA thinks
a. Fully understanding the Nitrogen Cycle
i. What types of products should be applied?
  • What is the risk associated with a given application?
  • What are the environmental and economical implication of this application?
  • How should these products be protected?
ii. What are the political implication of this topic?
  • Nutrient reduction strategies
  • Watershed concerns
b. Fully understanding weed management
i. Why is it important to use a quality soybean residual instead of relying 100% on a post application?
ii. How will these products cause resistance in the future?
iii. When should these products be used to minimize carryover issues?
c. Understanding Early Planting Soybeans
i. When planting early, a crop is vulnerable to disease risk
ii. Should a seed treatment be used?
iii. Should seeding rate be reduced?
d. Understanding Yield
i. Why did this product underperform?
ii. What is the limiting factor of this field or season?
iii. When was yield lost?
2. Becoming a CCA:
b. Complete tri-state exam
c. Complete international exam
d. Complete education/advising requirements
e. Sign the code of ethics
3. CCA Specialty Certifications:
a. 4R Nutrient Management
b. Precision Agriculture
c.Resistance Management
d. Sustainability
4. Locate a CCA:
a. Not all industry representatives are required to hold a CCA, so follow the below link to search for a CCA in your region.
You can learn more about the CCA certification process here.

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About the Author: Todd Steinacher

Steinacher is an ISA CCA Soy Envoy alum and currently supports ISA on agronomic content as well as serving as an Illinois CCA board member. He was recently awarded the 2020 IL CCA of the Year & the 2021 International CCA of the Year. He has over 15 years agronomic experience, currently working with AgriGold and GROWMARK previously. Steinacher has an associate degree from Lincoln Land Community College, a B.S. in agronomy and business from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in crop science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.