S.T.A.R.

ABOUT S.T.A.R.

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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 2017 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 many counties in Illinois 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 the field form is reflective of the specific and varying resource factors in the state. Once the field form is completed by a participant, 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; 


  • Increased net farm income
  • Promoting a positive image of farmers and agriculture in your community
  • Inspiring other farmers and landowners to take action in helping to meet nutrient loss reduction goals 
  • Decreasing nutrient loss
  • Promoting producers for new farmland leases
  • Assisting producers in securing local conservation cost share
  • Assisting producers in obtaining future market incentives for crops grown using conservation cropping practices.
  • Assisting producers in obtaining documentation in support of water quality issues
  • Supporting the work of Illinois' soil and water conservation districts

S.T.A.R. Steering Committee


  • Megan Baskerville, Upper Sangamon River Watershed Manager Illinois | The Nature Conservancy 
  • Megan Dwyer, CCA, Nutrient Loss Reduction Manager | Illinois Corn Growers Association
  • Kris Reynolds, Midwest Deputy Director | American Farmland Trust
  • Dr. Emily Bruner, Midwest Conservation and Stewardship Program Manager | American Farmland Trust
  • Elliott Lagacy, Regional Representative | Bureau of Land and Water Resources, Illinois Department of Agriculture 
  • Dr. Carol Hays, Principal | The Strategic Collaboration Group, Inc.
  • Ivan Dozier, Illinois State Conservationist | Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Mike Wilson, Incoming Board Chair | Illinois Certified Crop Advisor Program
  • Bruce Henrickson, S.T.A.R. Program Coordinator | Saving Tomorrow's Agricultural Resources 
  • Steve Steirwalt, President | Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • Grant Hammer, Executive Director | Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • Joe Rothermel, Chair and Farmer | Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Erin Bush, Resource Conservationist | Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Renee Weitekamp, Administrative Coordinator | Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District


S.T.A.R. Science Advisory Committee


  • Dan Schaefer, Director of Nutrient Stewardship | Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association
  • Lowell Gentry, Principal Research Specialist in Agriculture | University of Illinois Natural Resources and Sciences
  • Doug Gucker, Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms | University of Illinois Extension
  • Dr. Emily Bruner, Midwest Conservation and Stewardship Program Manager | American Farmland Trust
  • Eric Miller | Piatt County farmer and SWCD Board Member
  • Dr. Emerson Nafziger, Professor Emeritus | College of ACES, University of Illinois
  • Brett Roberts, State Conservation Agronomist | Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service 
  • Erin Bush, Resource Conservationist | Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District 
  • Joe Rothermel, Chair and Farmer | Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District

NEW: 2018 RESULTS FACT SHEET

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