Johnny Morgan, Morgan, Donna S., Girouard, Ernest
ALEXANDRIA, La. – Cattle producers, row crop farmers and timber owners earned certification credit at a two-day Master Farmer University course on the LSU campus in Alexandria on Oct. 24-25.
The two-day workshop allowed producers to be certified in phases I and II of the Louisiana Master Farmer program without having to go to multiple locations on multiple days, said Ernest Girouard, state coordinator of the Louisiana Master Farmer program.
“The first day began with classroom training for phase I of the program, which included presentations on water quality standards, commodity-specific best management practices, spill prevention, control and countermeasures and other environmental information,” Girouard said.
The second day consisted of a short field tour at the AgCenter Dean Lee Research Station or a tour of Baine Farms, a rice and sugarcane farm near Bunkie.
The second day activities fulfilled the phase II requirements of the program. The tours allowed producers to interact with researchers and specialists and view commodity-specific conservation practices and demonstrations.
Donna Morgan, the LSU AgCenter area agent with the Master Farmer program, led the Dean Lee Research Station tour.
It covered livestock grazing operations and how conservation plans should be structured in the beef industry.
After completing the tour, participants received credit for phase two requirements.
To complete certification, they will need to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the AgCenter to develop and implement the Resource Management System (RMS) level conservation plan, Morgan said.
“The Master Farmer program helps producers across a wide range of agricultural and natural resource enterprises by teaching them more about environmental stewardship, conservation-based production techniques and resource management,” Morgan said.
There are no size restrictions on operations that participate in the program, Girouard said.
“We have some operations as small as 50 acres and some as large as 10,000 acres,” he said. “USDA’s definition of a farm is an agricultural enterprise that has sales of more than $10,000.”
The program can be tailored to any commodity group, Girouard said. “We recently held a phase I and phase II workshop for poultry producers.
“We’re going to provide the service to anyone who asks for it,” he said. “We will provide it for specific operations when they need it.”
The Louisiana Master Farmer program was created in 2000 to help producers address environmental concerns due to production agriculture. Participants include the LSU AgCenter, NRCS, Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association, Louisiana Farm Bureau and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
“The first training was held in 2002,” Girouard said. “That class was held in Vermillion Parish. We had 60 producers attend that class, and I was in that class. We now have 165 producers who are certified.”
One area stressed during the training was the spill prevention, control and countermeasures.
That program started in the oil and transportation industries when those groups were storing huge amounts of fuel in different locations and spills became a huge issue, Girouard said.
“When the Clean Water Act was written, they looked at all industries that used fuel, and agriculture was one,” he said. “We have some farms with up to 30,000 gallons of diesel for instance stored on their farms.”
Other issues discussed at the meeting were sewer system requirements, best management practices for different crops and livestock operations, and nonpoint source pollution.
The Louisiana Master Farmer Program focuses on helping agricultural producers voluntarily address environmental concerns as well as helping them enhance the production and resource management skills they need for the continued sustainability of Louisiana agriculture, Morgan said.
“The next Master Farmer University is already scheduled for Jan. 16-17 in Monroe,” Girouard said. “Then we plan to have one later in southwest Louisiana and another in southeast Louisiana at different times of the year.”Johnny Morgan