Certified Ag Consultants can bring manure management expertise to the farm team
April 30, 2008 by Leonard Meador
It can be very difficult for a
livestock producer to focus on making the most net profit possible and
to try to keep up with all the regulatory and ecological constraints
that face American agriculture today. Every livestock operator knows
only too well, for example, how manure management has changed and how
it continues to evolve.
It can be very difficult for a livestock producer to focus on making the most net profit possible and to try to keep up with all the regulatory and ecological constraints that face American agriculture today. Every livestock operator knows only too well, for example, how manure management has changed and how it continues to evolve.
Many producers are looking increasingly to certified agricultural consultants as a way to keep on top of stringent regulations, to be environmentally responsible and to ensure their operation is achieving the highest possible profit. The consultant advises clients on business decisions about the current operation of, and future opportunities for, the client’s enterprise. Consultants may focus on manure management, financial matters, business structure, human relations, business succession planning, personnel management, or production and operations issues.
A consultant will take a systems approach to the decision-making process and incorporate profitability, regulatory compliance, time management and total resource planning. The producer can then choose from several options that they wish to implement, rather than try on their own to incorporate all the aspects of resource planning. They can concentrate more on production management and allow someone more focused on resource issues to develop a pick list to add to a plan.
Consultants often have an experience level that is broader than that of most producers. No doubt about it—livestock and crop producers are exceptionally talented with production and animal husbandry practices. But planning and process methods are often where the producer can see benefits from the services of a consultant. The consultant can bring an organized method of process and advanced training to the development of a nutrient plan, for example.
The consultant will benefit the producer financially by being more efficient with time and often will satisfy regulatory requirements without having to resubmit an incomplete plan. Consultants have a wealth of knowledge that could give the producers opportunity to implement ideas that perhaps they would not have discovered on their own. A totally objective viewpoint is good for us all because it forces us to discount favorite activities that may well be monetary losers.
A manure management plan drawn up by a consultant will incorporate the entire production system including how the manure is conveyed, stored, treated, utilized and even reused. Each of these steps benefits from a different level of expertise. With a certified professional who belongs to a professional society, the producer can be assured they are getting the best and latest technology advice.
A typical producer-consultant relationship is long term—perhaps an initial project such as a nutrient management plan and then continuing support for that plan. The plan would be written, supported by phone or verbal support with an annual review and report.
Any consulting activity should include a written report. Some relationships involve having a consultant on a retainer contract where they are on a scheduled visit program for the farm and look after a specific area, such as regulatory compliance or product tracking or marketing. Some are just task related where a consultant is hired to do a specific task and then it is finished.
How does a farm operation determine if a consultant has experience in the area of manure management? Ask for references. Ask to see a sample of the work. Get a written contract with the deliverables specifically defined. There are consultants that specialize in manure management. A producer can go to the American Society of Agricultural Consultants website and query the database of consultants to find the expertise they require.
Founded in 1963, the American Society of Agricultural Consultants (ASAC) is a non-profit organization oriented to raising the standards and image of professional agricultural consultants. ASAC is the only association representing the full range of agricultural consultants and has more than 500 practicing consultants in the United States and Canada.
The specific purpose of ASAC is to foster the science of agricultural consulting in all its varied fields; to promote the profession and maintain high standards under which the members conduct their service to the public; hold meetings for the exchange of ideas and the study of the profession of agricultural consulting; and maintain a Code of Professional Ethics in the broad field of agricultural consulting.
All members uphold rigid standards involving training, experience, knowledge, performance, and the ability to provide independent and objective consulting services.
Agricultural consultants provide the highest quality management consulting services to businesses of rural America. Consistent with other agribusiness professionals, the consultant values honesty and fair dealing in a manner which promotes the personal growth of their customers, employees and shareholders.
Leonard Meador of Global Eco-Tech is chairman of the Membership Promotion Committee of the American Society of Agricultural Consultants. The association’s website is www.agconsultants.org. Meador can be reached at email@example.com.