Last year The Fertilizer Institute organized a group of national stakeholder organizations who were associated with agricultural service providers with an interest in identifying opportunities for increasing 4R nutrient stewardship efforts. Collectively these organizations represented retailers, agronomic service professionals and conservationist. To establish current efforts and to better identify opportunities for engagement a sub-group of those organizations developed and carried out a 4R Survey of Agricultural Retailers and Conservation Districts. Specifically, The Fertilizer Institute partnered with the Agricultural Retailers Association, the Certified Crop Advisors, the National Association of Conservation Districts and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives to perform the survey. The survey was developed with assistance from the Blackwoods Group and was provided to retailers and conservation districts represented by the supporting organizations.
A fact sheet highlighting results of the survey is available. Key findings have been highlighted in presentations and other media outlets. The results were presented at the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit in Des Moines, Iowa and were presented again at the annual meeting of the Soil and Water Conservation Society in Reno, Nevada. Additionally, articles (July 2013 and December 2013) have been published in Ag Professional, a magazine of the Agricultural Retailers Association.
The survey was provided to about 2600 conservation districts and about 2600 agricultural retailer locations with about 500 and 400 responses from the conservation districts and retailers, respectively. With regard to awareness of the 4Rs, 97% of the responding retailers were aware of the 4Rs. However, only 73% of the responding conservation districts were aware of the 4Rs. This signifies there is an opportunity for increased engagement.
Regarding working relationships between these stakeholder groups, the survey indicated that these two groups do not know each other very well and they do not generally work together to help agricultural producers plan or implement nutrient stewardship practices. Again, this signifies an opportunity for increased engagement.
However, while there are differences, these stakeholder groups agreed on priority issues for their organizations – customer loyalty and positive environmental impact. And, they further agreed on barriers to farmer implementation of new practices – perceived cost, resistance to change, and the farmer’s profit motive. These responses provide a place to start with common ground.