The Louisiana Master Farmer Program is being fine-tuned with changes to enable more agricultural producers to achieve certification with completion of the program’s three phases.

“Over the past several years, many farmers had reached the second level but did not move forward to complete the third and final phase,” said Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for Extension. “This change will allow the LSU AgCenter to help additional farmers reach the final step and become certified.”

Coreil’s remarks were made at the Rice Research Station Field Day on June 28.

The change will allow an alternative certification route through a state resource conservation plan provided by the LSU AgCenter. This will supplement the existing resource management system option with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which will continue to be available to farmers.

The Louisiana Master Farmer Program is aimed at helping farmers become more knowledgeable about environmental stewardship and resource management through a voluntary certification process. Under state law, certification as a Master Farmer deems a producer to be in compliance with state soil and water conservation and environmental regulations.

In Phase 1 of the program participants go through eight hours of classroom instruction. Phase 2 involves visiting model farms to witness first-hand conservation practices in action. In Phase 3 the farmers must develop and implement a conservation plan.

“The Louisiana Master Farmer Program has become more significant because of the new Kellogg Master Rice Grower Program,” Coreil said. “The Kellogg Co. is offering to pay a premium to farmers who grow rice in a sustainable manner. The highest levels of incentive will be given to farmers who complete the Master Farmer certification.”

The Kellogg program is part of the company’s sustainability effort developed in response to consumer demand.

“More consumers are focusing on where and how food is produced. The Louisiana Master Farmer Program and the Kellogg Master Rice Grower Program assure the consumer that producers in this program are following sound agricultural and environmental practices.”

The State Resource Conservation Planning alternative being implemented by the LSU AgCenter has been approved by state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.

Ernest Girouard, director of the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, said an additional employee will be assisting with the certification initiative. “Alan Hogan, who recently retired as county agent in Jefferson Davis Parish, will be coming on board and providing additional support to existing staff in their efforts to write and help producers implement their farm specific conservation plans. His expertise in production agriculture will add value to our Master Farmer Team and add significant Master Farmer Program certification achievement capacity.”