Accelerating Adoption of 4R Nutrient Practices
Groups Identify Barriers
With respect to agricultural producers, the two groups agreed that the major barriers to increased adoption of 4R nutrient stewardship practices by farmers are perceived cost, resistance to change and the farmer’s profit motive. The groups agreed that the best way to overcome these barriers was to convey information about the 4Rs through on-farm demonstrations or field days. There also was a growing sentiment from the agricultural retailers that precision agriculture could not only help reduce the fertilizer run-off, it could play a critical role in enhancing both agricultural retailer and producer profitability.
Because of the two groups’ differing objectives, agricultural retailers tend to focus on clients’ business objectives and economic considerations, and although conservation districts consider these elements, their assistance tends to focus on conservation objectives. Given that major barriers to adoption are perceived cost and operators’ profit motive, there is significant opportunity for these two groups to collaborate to better integrate economics and profit objectives into 4R education and outreach efforts.
Both groups rated the likelihood of increased federal and state regulation on the use of commercial fertilizers high, but the agricultural retailers rated the likelihood of new regulations somewhat higher than their conservation district counterparts.
Positive Environmental Impact
One of the most important findings of the survey was that agricultural retailers and conservation districts rated “having a positive environmental impact” very high. This shared interest coupled with the unique ability to help improve nutrient stewardship lays the foundation for greater collaboration between agricultural retailers and conservation districts.
The seven 4R Nutrient Stewardship Stakeholders believe that encouraging agricultural retailers and conservation districts to work closer together on nutrient stewardship will help ensure the greatest possible success of the voluntary approach to achieving public environmental objectives. The agricultural retailer and conservation district 4R nutrient stewardship partnership could help farmers make increasingly positive impacts on water quality while helping to ensure that farmers continue to make their own production decisions; that the agriculture retail industry continues to be profitable; and that the need for regulatory actions is minimized.