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ICC and USDA-NRCS Partner to Advance Agricultural Innovation

Illinois Central College and eight other Midwestern community colleges in the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement (C2A3) will receive a portion of a combined $529,924 over the next four years as part of a cooperative agreement issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS).

ICC has a strong history of pioneering research within a robust ag program. According to the C2A3 website, “ICC’s agricultural program takes the forefront of research and outreach for the agricultural community, both locally and at the state level, with unparalleled research in the areas of sustainability and water quality…” The consortium was developed with the USDA-NRCS and USDA North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (USDA-SARE) and will strive to ensure quality education and training of field practitioners.

“This first-ever community college research grant from NRCS is very exciting. Our students and local agriculture community will now benefit from research being conducted by Illinois Central College’s first-rate agriculture faculty,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. “We look forward to a growing partnership and improved outcomes for our regional farmers.”

A key component of the USDA-NRCS agreement is hands-on research and learning in the field utilizing college land resources to expand best practices. For example, last summer ICC constructed a wetland on its demonstration farm at the East Peoria Campus. ICC ag students are now able to conduct field trials on water conservation at on-campus research plots, the demonstration farm and the wetland.

“The partnership between our college and NRCS will help fund the water testing from the wetland so we can produce solid, scientific data on how well wetlands reduce nutrient loss,” said ICC Agriculture Professor Pete Fandel. “I’m confident this will lead to substantial advancement in water quality and soil-health research within our area.”

The framework of the agreement will enhance and accelerate training and adoption of technologies and best practices for improved agricultural productivity through cooperative activities. While collaborating on applied research projects for student learning, member institutions will partner with one another to share resources, faculty expertise, curriculum, and tools to advance the future of agricultural productivity. Information will also be disseminated to the broader community through field days and other college events and partnerships.

Illinois State Conservationist Ivan Dozier said “NRCS sees these new agreements as an excellent opportunity to build awareness, improve technical skills, and strengthen our shared ability to secure soil resources for agriculture here in Illinois and across the Midwest.”