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Corn+Soybean Digest

Online Calculator Helps Growers Measure Natural Resource Management

Corn farmers and growers producing soybeans, cotton and wheat now have access to a free, confidential online tool that will assess how some of their operational decisions affect natural resource management and stewardship. The calculator was created by the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture’s Field to Market initiative, of which the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is a member.

The Field to Market Initiative is proving to be a very important and practical source of information for growers,” says Garry Niemeyer, an Illinois grower and NCGA corn board member active in the Field to Market Initiative. “NCGA is proud to have been involved in this effort, and we are pleased to see the progress corn farming has made to become a more sustainable practice in the U.S., reducing impacts while helping feed and fuel the world.”

The Fieldprint Calculator provides an easy way for growers to assess their current land use, energy use, water use, greenhouse gas emissions and soil loss and explore various scenarios that may help further improve their farm’s use of natural resources. Future versions will also include functions to assess their operation’s efficiency and financial return.

“We sought input from a diverse group of growers associations, agribusinesses, food companies and conservation groups as we developed the calculator, but we want to hear more feedback and questions from growers who try the tool to continue improving and building on the calculator’s current capabilities,” says Sarah Alexander, director of sustainability and leadership programs for the Keystone Center.

The Fieldprint Calculator is directly correlated to the national level outcome indicators identified through The Environmental Resource Indicators report released by Field to Market earlier this year. The report evaluated national-scale metrics over the past two decades for land use, water use, energy use, soil loss and climate impact for corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat. The report also showed that crop production has become increasingly efficient by relying on fewer inputs to produce more food and fiber. The Fieldprint Calculator is a tool to help growers identify opportunities to continue the reduction of agriculture’s environmental footprint while also providing basic metrics to communicate sustainable practices to a consumer audience interested in making sustainable food and fiber choices.

Using a simple question-and-answer format, the calculator confidentially collects information from growers related to resource use or impact and compares the use with the production, or outcome. The calculator, directly correlated to Field to Market’s national level outcome indicators for corn, cotton, soybeans and wheat, provides benchmarks of an operation’s sustainability against the industry index. It also allows growers to securely save data to compare year-to-year changes, which can help determine the value and impact new practices are having. Ultimately the site will give growers access to an online community where they can learn from experiences of other growers, as well as gain expert advice.

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