Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources (S.T.A.R.) is a FREE statewide tool to assist farm operators and land owners in evaluating their nutrient and soil loss management practices on individual fields. The S.T.A.R. program encourages farmers and landowners to use management practices and decisions that will reduce the nutrient and soil losses on their fields, and in return, they are provided recognition with a field sign recognizing their level of commitment to conservation. Ultimately, this program will help reduce the nutrient and soil losses from farmland over larger areas, and specifically the various water sheds, while engaging key stakeholders from all corners of the ag sector - retail, commodity, agency, and farmers.
S.T.A.R. was created by the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District, a not-for-profit government agency located in central Illinois. The program was developed in 2016 as a means to contribute to the important goals outlined in the state's Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS), a plan developed jointly by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Since it's creation, the S.T.A.R. program has been adopted in several areas of the state by a multitude of organizations, including many soil and water conservation districts.
The program utilizes a field form that requests information from a farmer or non-operator landowner concerning individual fields for a given crop year. The S.T.A.R. evaluation program assigns points for each cropping, tillage, nutrient application, and soil conservation activity on individual fields in addition to other “best management practices” as established by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). S.T.A.R. relies on the expertise of a science committee, made up of university researchers and other experts, to model ranking systems and ensure field forms are reflective of the specific and varying resource factors from region to region. Once the field form is completed, the information is entered into a spreadsheet that assigns various points for the different practices used on that field. The summary of those points is then compared to a scale of points to give that field a “Star Rating” of one to five stars.
The potential benefits to participating landowners and farm operators are numerous, and include;