Farm Progress

Ask A CCA: Program has had 25 years of success in Ohio.

November 29, 2018

3 Min Read
FILLING A NEED: The CCA program was created so farmers could have access to a crop adviser who understood nutrient and pest management, crop production, and soil and water concerns.Polifoto/Getty Images

By Harold Watters

Several years ago there was a group of us waiting for the proctors to give the go-ahead to open a test booklet. Many of us had not taken a test like this since college entrance exams. And for those with no college, it was a totally new experience. We were taking the first certified crop adviser exam in Ohio.

About 200 of us were spread out in a big room to deter peaking at a neighbor’s answer sheet. There were lots of nervous people in the room. We were the first; we had to be the best. Right?

It was 1994, which means Ohio this year is celebrating 25 years of involvement with the CCA program.

The CCA program got its start from industry leaders who wanted to accomplish two things:

• make sure advisers selling to growers had continuing education

• let regulatory agencies know those who sold to farmers were qualified to give sound advice

Where did this program get its start? There is an association little known outside the crops, soils and production world, the American Society of Agronomy (ASA). It has been in existence since the early 1900s as an offshoot of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At that time, mostly professors and university personnel were members. At least it used to be.

Today, the society includes about 4,000 industry agronomists and university faculty. Their goal is to feed the world, and not screw up the environment doing it. The society also has about 13,500 CCAs, which outnumber the academics who started the certifying piece of the program back in 1977.

Why CCAs? The American Society of Agronomy already had a certification program for certified professional agronomists (CPAg) and certified professional soil scientists (CPSS), but those were degreed programs — meaning you had to have a degree in your discipline and a lot of experience in your area of expertise.

The retail agronomist, who called on farmers regularly to sell seed, fertilizer and chemicals, often did not have a degree in agronomy, but more likely in ag business or no degree at all. Still, they were good at understanding the growers’ needs and good at placing their company’s products in the right place. Thus, the CCA program was developed. There was no degree required, but you had to pass an exam, show experience from the employer and grower standpoint, and sign an ethics statement.

The program was approved in 1991 and, with a lot of industry help, got underway in a couple of test areas in the heart of the Corn Belt, like Iowa. It came down to the edge states like Ohio a few years later.

Who wanted certification? In Ohio, I remember the ag retail industry pushing for certification and helping us prepare for the exam. When I went into the exam, I saw familiar faces — Joanne Kick-Raack for one. She was instrumental in preparing the exam, with help from Ohio State people like Jay Johnson, who was the state soil fertility specialist.

Part of what industry and ASA wanted was a well-rounded crop adviser working with growers who understood nutrient management, crop production, pest management, and soil and water concerns. That meant having experts in those areas writing the exam, but also teaching those continuing education classes.

CCAs are required to have 40 hours of continuing education every two years, which makes the program sustainable.

Who manages the CCA program? The difference between the CPAg and the CCA is that the CCA is local. In Ohio, the Ohio CCA Board runs the operation of exams, approval of continuing education programs and reviews of credentials of those seeking to be a CCA. It’s the CCA’s local knowledge, understanding and solutions to our problems, in our soils, with our crops that make the Ohio CCA program great.

Watters, CPAg, CCA, is with the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at OSU Extension. Contact him at 937-599-4227 or [email protected].

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