Deana Knuteson


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"How NISSA Achieves and Promotes Sustainable Soybean Production"

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Deana Knuteson

  1. 1. NSSIThe National SoybeanSustainability Initiativehow this tool achieves andpromotes grower-led sustainablesoybean production Deana Knuteson, Shawn Conley, AJ Bussan, and Jeff Wyman: University of Wisconsin-Madison
  2. 2. Outline for Today What is the National Soybean Sustainability Initiative (NSSI) Program Why NSSI How did it start What is the soybean tool Research outcomes and benefits How does NSSI link with the National Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (NISA) Conclusions and next steps
  3. 3. What is NSSI Mission Statement: NSSI’s mission is to develop a roadmap of soybean management systems that will help producers to achieve verifiable sustainability outcomes, improve the environmental services and productivity of their farms, help their rural communities thrive, and satisfy performance expectations of the value chain. These efforts will operate at the farm level; incorporate a framework of tools and technical information from a wide base of expertise and programs; and, with the support of regional and national experts, communicate sustainable soybean management systems. Developed out of the need for matching what growers were doing with market demands “Informed pushback” Document changes on the ground
  4. 4. WHY NSSI Producer-driven  Not top down, regulatory or market pushed approach Complementary to other sustainability programs, not redundant  Non competitive, yet complimentary Streamline sustainability efforts with customer expectations  Lets tell them how we can do it Communications Conduit  Discuss gains already achieved and changes overtime
  5. 5. What is Sustainability? The USDA defines sustainable agriculture as “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having site specific application that will, over the long term:  Satisfy human food and fiber needs;  Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;  Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;  Sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and  Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.
  6. 6. How and why did it start USB approached UW about developing informed sustainability system for soybeans to define US production  Grant received in Sept 2011 Focus of program to  Create baseline for farm and industry  Determine advances that have already occurred  Push for continual improvements  Stay ahead of regulatory curve  Ensure market access  Identify research questions for future advancement  Promote positive image of agriculture to larger community
  7. 7. Specific Grant Objectives & Progress Objective 1: Establish a Midwestern Sustainable Soybean Working Group  Have met in person, via conference calls and webinars, and via monthly e-mail updates Objective 2: Identify and prioritize sustainable outcomes and suitable practices for soybean  Review of National and International Standards  For Example: Renewable Energy Directive, Round Table for Responsible Soybean, Field to Market, and ISCC 202 Sustainability Requirements for Biofuels  Developed “Element Chart” to compare and contrast each Objective 3: Develop and implement a sustainability assessment tool for Midwestern soybean
  8. 8. Specific Grant Objectives & Progress Objective 4: Establish and incorporate farm based goals for sustainable soybean  Discussions within working groups, looking at outreach to specific growers for feedback and farm goals  Have submitted a NRCS – CIG Grant to implement Objective 5: Target research toward improved sustainability  Submitted NRCS-CIG Grant to implement  Use Principal Component Analysis Objective 6: Nationalize sustainable soybean systems.  We are using Midwest workgroup as model, plan to explore national models in future
  9. 9. Soybean Sustainability Tool Found at
  10. 10. Soybean Sustainability Tool Protocol written to harmonize standards questions from other tools  As defined from our review of international and national standards Worked with UW-Extension Specialists to create research based, best management practices for Midwest region Individual specialists evaluated the questions to align them with current outcomes based decision tools  All fertility and soil management questions were derived from Snap Plus, which incorporates soil loss predictions from RUSLE2 and nutrient management planning requirements for the state of Wisconsin
  11. 11. Soybean Sustainability Tool Can be found online ( or on paper – contact me
  12. 12. Soybean Sustainability Tool - Catgories Cash Grain Whole Farm  Farm Production and Management Decision  Soil and Water Quality (soil, fertility, water, irrigation)  Scouting  Information and Production  Pesticide and Fertilizer Handling and Worker Saefty  Pest Management  Resistance Management  Ecosystem Restoration- Natural Community  Chain of Custody  Farm Operations and Sustainability (Economics, Human Resources, Energy/Recycling, Community Outreach)
  13. 13. Soybean Sustainability Tool - Catgories Soybean Specific  Soybean Production and Management  Weed Management  Insect Management  Disease Management
  14. 14. Soybean Sustainability Tool Anonymous – can’t be track to specific grower  We do ask for state and county Not intimidating to grower No scoring Does NOT ask for specific field records  No pesticide applications  No fertility applications  No tillage  No specific energy or fuel requirements DOES ask to choose practices which can or have been implemented to affect change Can be printed off so grower maintains their data for comparisons overtime
  15. 15. Examples
  16. 16. NSSI: Importance of data “Soybeans from XYZ are more sustainable than soybeans from the United States”How can this be said?  Simply, they have industry system in place to document on farmWe need data from growers to develop the USbaselineCan be used to refute other claims and use on-farmdata for verification  Will not pit grower against grower OR region against region
  17. 17. Practice vs. Metrics METRICS: PRACTICE: Quantitative Linkage between measurement/modelingpractices implemented on vs. of practice outcomes the farm and targeted often not possible orresearch on farms to link applicable at the farmpractices to measureable level; measurement outcomes outcomes difficult to understand What growers can change on their farm is practices!!
  18. 18. Practice vs. Metrics Can and should be complementary &Both can show trends toward continual improvement PRACTICE: METRICS:Farm based level with National or regionalindividual changes due to scale, focus on big- informed decisions at picture changes using farm level models to calculate a “value” for sustainability
  19. 19. How NSSI Sustainable? Encourage continual improvement Use as educational tool Work in conjunction with local “experts” and research- based faculty Give credibility to current ag programs and to prioritize new research Document improvements already made  Look back at past 5-10 years and use this as public and market tool Consolidate sustainability documentation and surveys Document economic sustainability by determining key drivers and cost of changes and implementation
  20. 20. Research Outcomes and Benefits Looking to develop on-farm demonstrations of desired practices Compare to “conventional” practices Determine change in criteria as a result of practice  E.g. GHG emissions savings from tillage? To fulfill this, we have submitted an USDA-NRCS CIG grant in April of 2012
  21. 21. Management of Whole FarmWe don’t just grow soybeans, but manage a farm!
  22. 22. National Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture: Beyond Soybeans Federation of producer-driven sustainability initiatives Implementing sustainable farm and crop management systems that are regionally appropriate and can effect change at the farm level Satisfy the performance expectations of all segments of the value chain
  23. 23. Key to NISA (soybean as model) Producer driven  We are not telling producers and/or producer groups how to implement their sustainability programs, but helping guide them in the process  Encourage producers and producer groups to be at the table in all discussions and in the development of sustainability tools Not pitting producer against producer  Ensuring process is valid without discussing difference in farm system. No comparison of producer to producer, but documentation of overall changes overtime Keep it simple  Probably not going to make money, so lets keep it simple, make it useful to all producers and market needs and work toward harmonize efforts Producers need to do this  Or else, supply chain partners will drive it, but it would be better if producers have the voice in what the programs will look like
  24. 24. Keys to NISA (soybean as model) One voice in agriculture  Have expected outcomes of what sustainable agriculture can entail  Used for discussion in regulatory, governmental, supply chain and market needs Communication Mechanism  Share the good story of agriculture to all that need to hear it Education for producers and producer groups  Know your business better, use better messaging, and document changes in your system  NISA will help educate producers on why this approach is important and how it can benefit the group as a whole as well as the individual producer
  25. 25. Other NISA Models Whole Farms  Cash grains, vegetables, fruits – possible all ag Grains  Soybean  Corn Vegetables  Processed vegetables (snap beans, sweet corn, carrots)  Fresh potatoes Fruit  Cranberry Animals (starting in WI)  Pork, Dairy, Beef, Poultry, Chickens, Eggs
  26. 26. NSSI –Take Home Message We are working on developing sustainability protocols “WITH” growers, not “FOR” growers Bottom up approach so growers can capitalize on changes that have already happened, and strive for practices that will effectively create changes in the future Use the researchers to determine exact measureable changes which occur from the different practices that growers are doing Lets effectively communicate the message
  27. 27. Progress- NSSI Created regional workgroup Developed tool ( Harmonized national and international questions Working on promotion and outreach for local and national efforts
  28. 28. Next Steps - NSSI Encourage growers to enter data online  Looking for 2000+ growers in Midwest region Track changes overtime and determine changes which have already occurred Link research needs and efforts to data Expand beyond Midwest region Communicate the message!!  Link to market partners  Public messaging  Informed Pushback
  29. 29. QUESTIONS