I judge a meeting by how many story leads it provides. The Ohio Certified Crop Advisers Crop Production Conference and annual meeting at the Fawcett Center Jan. 7-8 offered a bunch.
Although total attendance was about 80 less than last year, the program was outstanding and I look forward to sharing many of the presentations in future Ohio Farmer issues. Look for "The seven wonders of the world of corn," by agronomist Fred Below of University of Illinois and North Carolina State University's John Havlin's analysis of how U.S. yields will have to exceed 300 bushels an acre to meet the projected demand by 2050.
This is the 15th year for the organization which was created to provide professional technical service providers when the farm bill of the day mentioned a need for this kind of private help. The role of technical service providers didn't develop, but the demand for reputable agronomists has picked up the slack.
The group's main focus is providing a test that certifies advisers are trained in four areas: nutrient management, soil and water, pest management and crop management. To become a CCA you must pass two exams, one prepared by the International Association of CCAs and a tri-state test created for participants in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. In addition to passing the tests you must either have a plant science related degree and two years of work experience in agronomy or four years of work experience in the field. The test is reviewed every two years by a panel of CCAs and each CCA must acquire 40 hours of approved instruction over a two-year period. The instruction comes in four areas, soil and water, plant management, crop management and nutrient management. A minimum of five hours is required from each area with balance coming in any of the other disciplines.
"With more than 150 meetings a year, it's not hard for a CCA to get the hours needed to remain certified," says Brain Peach who administers the program.
"The program has raised the level of professionalism in agriculture," says Joanne Kick-Raack, OSU Extension pesticide education director, who helped design the national and state tests. "It's a proactive approach," she says. "If we can voluntarily provide expertise, then a mandatory program is not necessary."
Harold Watters, an OSU Extension agronomist who was also among the organization's founders, agrees. "Testing was important at first, but now the key is continuing education for advisers."
Watters says private industry has come to expect their agronomy staff to be CCAs. As such they need to stay ahead of the rapidly changing field. "Once you could get a bonus for being certified. Now it assumed you have it and are taking the courses you need to maintain it."
It seems to me that the program is working two ways. It keeps the advisers up to date with technical information and it provides OSU Extension a teaching outlet that gets their latest research in the hands of a key group that helps with the decision making on many Ohio farms.
When it comes to learning, more is better.
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