What is STAARS?
STAARS is a national, farmer-led initiative to improve farm profitability, energy efficiency, and environmental performance, while collecting, analyzing and reporting data documenting current on-farm resource management and sustainability.
Nearly 500 soybean growers and their Technical Service Providers (TSPs)/Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs) are engaged in this three-year project. Linkages with land grant universities, state and federal ag agencies, and local watershed stakeholders add another layer of participation, helping reduce overlap and optimize outcomes for all involved.
How does it work?
CCAs/TSPs will work with participating farmers using an online management, analysis and reporting tool for agriculture called ADAPT (Agricultural Data Analysis and Planning Tool), developed by Iowa Soybean Association and consultants, to evaluate their soybean, corn, and other rotational crop production practices and apply principles of adaptive management for continual improvement. ADAPT analyzes direct and indirect energy use and other agronomic and environmental impacts of each crop production practice under local conditions and provides centralized documentation and reporting for the farmer's use. Anonymous data for all participants can also be aggregated and analyzed by state or for the whole group to evaluate sustainability of current practices and document trends.
Where is STAARS located?
Emerging from Iowa Soybean Association's CEMSA (Certified Environmental Management Systems for Agriculture) and energy pilot projects, STAARS is working with 60-100 farmers in each of these soybean-producing states: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and South Dakota.
How is STAARS supported?
Principal partners in launching and funding the initiative are the United Soybean Board and Qualified State Soybean Boards (QSSBs) in all six participating states. Funding is being sought to enhance the capabilities of ADAPT and leverage the work being done with soybean checkoff support to bring additional value to participating farmers, US agriculture, state and federal agencies, and agriculture's customers – both individual consumers and biobased industries.
Why is STAARS needed?
Many drivers prompted STAARS' initiation and motivate its participants and supporters. Each member of the soybean and rotational crop value chain might have a different take on which is the most important "why" for this initiative.
- For individual farmers, tools and systems that help them improve production, efficiency, and profitability – reducing input costs, conserving natural and financial resources, preparing for new income or cost share opportunities, opening access to new customers – might be the most important reason.
- For agricultural organizations, the ability to document, improve, and report on the sustainability of domestic crop production annually might be primary reasons.
- For bio-based industries, such as biodiesel, using agricultural feedstocks, the ability to demonstrate with current, accurate data the Life Cycle Analyses of crop production – and to track trends in continual improvement – can mean the difference in access to markets in many states and foreign countries.
- For individual consumers and their elected officials, knowing current facts about agriculture's sustainability and its ability to improve environmental performance through new opportunities for efficiency are increasingly important.