A program aimed at helping farmers adapt more environmentally sustainable practices is expanding fast.
The S.T.A.R. program started in Champaign County two years ago. Forty-two other counties are now on board, including Peoria, Mason and Tazewell.
Here’s how it works. Farmers fill out a worksheet to grade their current soil and water conservation practices. Then they send it in.
Bruce Henrikson is the project coordinator. He said many central Illinois farmers don’t initially make the grade.
“Frankly, it’s very difficult to get to a five-star field. In fact, the average farmer that does what most people do in central Illinois for farming practices or field practices is probably going to get a one-star rating," Henrikson said.
Henrikson says S.T.A.R. assists farmers with methods like coverage crops and low tillage to help reduce nutrient loss and environmentally-harmful runoff into waterways.
About 180 farmers participated in the program this past year.