WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service is partnering with Northcentral Technical College and eight Midwest community colleges to support hands-on student learning in the field, to develop future conservation-minded farmers and ranchers, and to cultivate more graduates interested in pursuing careers with NRCS. 

Representatives of the Community College Alliance for Agriculture Advancement, or C2A3, and NRCS held a virtual ceremony to celebrate the formal signing of a national memorandum of understanding to develop a cooperative framework to enhance and accelerate training and adoption of technologies and best practices for improved agricultural productivity and natural resources stewardship.  

“NTC is excited to be a partner of C2A3 and the NRCS,” said Dr. Greg Cisewski, dean of NTC’s School of Agricultural Sciences, Utilities and Transportation, in a news release. “This collaborative agreement will allow NTC to educate our students and assist producers in growing more crops while improving the soil health. 

‘The partnership will also bring pollinator plots to NTC this spring, which re-establishes native habitats for many pollinator species important to crop production.” 

All C2A3 member institutions, including NTC, have college farms and are able to use their land resources for the implementation of conservation practices on the ground to help educate and inform students and producers. The goal of the cooperative agreement between the entities is to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices through the education of current, two-year agriculture students, and disseminate information to the broader community through field days and other college events and partnerships.  

In addition, the colleges are using the network to share resources, knowledge and expertise. Collectively, they are working on a grant through USDA’s North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, which seeks to increase awareness, knowledge and skills related to soil health, cover crops and no till agriculture. The development of content such as videos and case studies for the classroom is a critical component to help illustrate concepts of profitability, sustainability and productivity. These assets will be shared across the network for the benefit of all member institutions. 

Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, said during the signing event, ideas that come from partnerships like C2A3 and NRCS will assist he and his colleagues in Washington make decisions in a time of limited financial resources as they write the next Farm Bill. 

“You’d be surprised how many members of the committee don’t have any real feedback from the rural world in terms of what we’re doing with these programs. And hopefully by doing things like this we can provide more of that to our committee members,” Peterson said in the release. “I think we’re going to have to change things in agriculture going forward with concerns about climate change and water quality and all of these other issues are going to have to be addressed because our urban and suburban colleagues are demanding it. … I just want as much information as I can have as we’re making these decisions and what (C2A3 colleges) are doing is going to help us get them.”       

In addition to NTC, C2A3 member institutions include Central Lakes College (Staples, Minnesota), Clark State Community College (Springfield, Ohio), Illinois Central College (Peoria, Illinois), Ivy Tech Community College (Lafayette, Indiana), Northeast Community College (Norfolk, Nebraska), Northeast Iowa Community College (Calmar, Iowa), North Dakota State College of Science (Wahpeton, North Dakota), and Richland Community College (Decatur, Illinois). 

For more information on C2A3, visit agalliance.net