The Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts (AISWCD) Executive Director, Dr. Michael Woods, shared highlights of the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy’s Non-Point Agriculture Sector at the NLRS Partnership Conference Wednesday January 25. Woods noted

  1. nutrient loads are still increasing for the non-point sector,
  2. there is urgent need to continue work in research, education, outreach, and technical support;
  3. sustained partnerships are fundamental to long-term impact and
  4. response to weather will continue to influence NLRS efforts.

USDA/NRCS Chief, Terry Cosby, noted that to achieve the goal of increased field level conservation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service wants to hire 3,000 additional staff as part of the Inflation Reduction Act funding. Healthy soils and cleaner waters are essential, and this expansion of the workforce will aid producers and landowners across the nation. The push is also an opportunity for individuals seeking fulfilling employment to join the agricultural conservation workforce.

With leveraged state investments to address NLRS and expand the state’s commitment to conservation capacity building, the Illinois Department of Agriculture in partnership with NRCS, Sangamon County SWCD, and AISWCD has successfully increased the state’s conservation workforce by 40 conservation planners working across the state. To support the conservation planners and elevate awareness of how Agroecology + Innovation Matters to achieving the NLRS efforts and increase field level conservation, the capacity building project also employees a team of coordinators to provide education, grassroots organizing, communications, soil health awareness, and talent acquisition. This innovative capacity building initiative is showcasing how public investments paired with conservation districts are working together to provide healthy soils and clean waters across Illinois.

Visit the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency website to see the slides and presentations and working group meeting reports from the day.

For stories about farmers and producers implementing conservation practices to reduce runoff and nutrient flows into Illinois waterways see the Agroecology + Innovation Matters website.

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