Bruce Schultz, Girouard, Ernest | 4/1/2015 11:37:45 PM
News Release Distributed 04/01/15
BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Master Farmer Program was honored by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation at the Governor’s State Conservation Achievement Award Banquet on March 28.
Receiving the Louisiana Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator of the Year Award were Louisiana Master Farmer Program Coordinator Ernest Girouard and team members Donna Morgan, Allen Hogan and James Hendrix, all AgCenter extension agents.
“It’s recognition of the work we do in helping farmers adopt the environmental and conservation practices that protect Louisiana’s natural resources,” Girouard said. “It’s great to be recognized for the conservation effort with farmers in our state.”
Girouard said the program is unique because it involves a partnership of the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and the Louisiana Farm Bureau.
Rogers Leonard, AgCenter associate vice chancellor for plant and soil sciences, said the program is a national model for voluntary education and compliance with natural resource and environmental conservation.
“The past successes of this group are clear, and the future of the Louisiana Master Farmer Program is bright,” Leonard said. “Thousands of Louisiana farmers and their family members have participated in the educational programs, providing an awareness of environmental issues and opportunities to see conservation practices in action.”
Leonard said the AgCenter started a Master Farmer University last year to streamline the instructional component. Also, the Master Farmer team organized listening sessions with officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to hear comments on proposed changes to the Clean Water Act.
The Louisiana Wildlife Federation cited the program’s effectiveness with helping farmers in their conservation efforts.
To date, more than 200 Louisiana farmers have achieved full Master Farmer certification. An additional 2,496 farmers are enrolled in the program and currently undertaking various phases of the educational and conservation plan implementation process. The participants farm more than 1.7 million acres.
A farmer must complete all three phases of the program to be called a Master Farmer and another six hours of annual continuing education credits.
In 2013, the LSU AgCenter 4-H program in St. Mary Parish received the Governor’s Conservation Award for an educational project aimed at helping St. Mary Parish residents avoid troublesome encounters with black bears.