Expect to see a new designation more often where you buy fertilizer or if you work with a crop consultant. It’s the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification. The voluntary program officially launched in Indiana in November.
Amy Cornell, president of the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, explains that this is a global program that makes sense for Indiana. “We began working on it three years ago and partnered with the Indiana Ag Nutrient Alliance more recently,” she says. Cornell and Ben Wicker, director of IANA, were part of virtual programs announcing the new certification program and offering in-depth training.
IANA is a group of organizations that have banded together to promote better use of soil fertility practices. Wicker, part of a family farming operation in Rush County, is headquartered in the Indiana Farm Bureau Building in Indianapolis. INFB is a major supporter of IANA.
Cornell explains that five retail fertilizer and chemical dealerships piloted the 4R certification program in Indiana. Four of the five became the first four retail dealerships officially certified in the state. They include the CFS outlet at Rossville, The Andersons facility at Waterloo, the Helena location at Berne and the Mitchell branch of the White River Co-op. Co-Alliance also participated in the pilot program. Other retail outlets are pursuing certification. So far, about 110,000 acres served by the four 4R-certified outlets are considered as 4R-certified.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program and their answers:
What does 4R mean? Cornell notes that 4R stands for using the right source of nutrients at the right rate at the right time in the right place. The concept began several years ago. Some organizations, like The Nature Conservancy and certain soil and water conservation districts, particularly in northeast Indiana in the Lake Erie Watershed, have worked with fertilizer dealers in both Indiana and Ohio on these principles for several years. However, this is the first statewide 4R certification program in Indiana.
Who can become 4R-certified? The first step is to become a member of the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, Cornell says. Then you can apply to become 4R-certified, either as a business or individual. There are fees, and certification is a three-year process. It’s a comprehensive, rigorous program, Cornell adds. To achieve certification, a retail business or individual must satisfy 31 standards. The standards fall into four major categories so a business or individual can work through them in an orderly fashion.
Who oversees the program? Once a business or individual is certified, they’re audited on a regular basis to make sure they continue to comply with the standards, Cornell says. A large part of compliance means keeping accurate records on nutrient application for land served by the business or individual. ACI is ultimately responsible for the program.
ACI formed the Nutrient Stewardship Council to oversee the program. It’s chaired by Wicker, head of IANA.
What is the value of 4R certification to farmers? Cornell and Wicker refer people back to the key process within certification. The three steps involve initial training and ongoing education, monitoring of 4R implementation, and nutrient recommendations and application. If businesses and consultants are receiving this training, they will pass it on to farmers and will advise farmers about best management practices.
Where can a person get more information? The ACI website has a drop-down tab about 4R. Visit inagribiz.org.