February 27, 2018

Contact: Leah Ellensohn, 712-541-3493
[email protected]

WASHINGTON – Iowa farmers and ranchers interested in improving their working lands conservation efforts—and thereby improving topsoil and nutrient retention, as well as safeguarding Iowa’s waterways—have a new, free tool available to them through National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET) modernizes conservation planning and helps farmers and ranchers better identify their conservation goals. After a quick RSET evaluation, participants receive easy to read results. They can take to their local NRCS office to discuss which practices will best help them improve their soil health and reduce runoff. After implementing these practices, RSET can continue to evaluate how they are working for the participant’s operation.

Aaron Lehman, a fifth-generation family farmer in Polk County, was one of the first farmers in Iowa to test the tool, and was impressed with the process. “It was very easy to take a snapshot of our farm from a conservation standpoint,” said Lehman. “From there we could evaluate the potential benefits of additional conservation practices on that individual field. It takes a lot of guesswork out of conservation planning.”

Lehman noted that he is anxious to go through the process on additional fields and talk over the results with the rest of his family in order to decide what practices would work for them. “Each field is different and that is what makes this process really special,” he said. “The tool looks at the unique qualities of each field.”

Lehman added that the confidentiality of the information that goes into the tool and comes out of it is important. “We can make the best decisions for our farm without worrying where the information is going. It stays with us on our farm,” he said.

About the Evaluation

Leah Ellensohn, an Iowa State University graduate and the Resource Stewardship Outreach Specialist at NFU, leads the RSET project in Iowa. When a farmer enrolls in RSET, Leah meets the participant on his or her farm. The farm-specific information is entered into RSET, and the farmer receives a resulting “score,” to see how the farm compares to county thresholds. This information is completely confidential, and will not be used for anything outside of the farm evaluation.

Once the evaluation is complete, the farmer receives easy-to-read results. These can be taken to the local NRCS office and used to inform what conservation practices and tools will work best for the farm. And the tool can continue to be used after implementation of specific practices to see how well they are working for the farm and the environment.

Many Uses

The easy to read evaluation presents new ideas which can be shared with everyone involved in a farming operation. Young farmers can use this tool to as they begin farming new land. They are given a snapshot of the condition that the farm is in, and where improvements can be made. People who rent land can use this tool to talk to landlords about new practices that will improve the productivity of their fields. The visuals provided with the tool make the options clear and the conversation easier.

The process is also a great tool for farmers who are already practicing conservation on their farms. The RSET gives farmers an idea of how efficient their conservation practices are. The goal is to continually lower the amount of environmental impact that our agricultural practices have and, at the same time, improve soil health. This tool shows you how close you are to that goal!

How to Enroll

Leah is currently enrolling farmers and ranchers in Jasper, Marion, Story and Polk counties. If you live in any of these counties and would like to enroll in RSET, contact Leah now at [email protected] or call (712) 541-3493.


This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 69-6114-17-015.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About NFU
National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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