The Iowa Manure Management Action Group (IMMAG) was a concept born in 1997 to provide a comprehensive vehicle to deliver manure management information. It is hard to imagine, but at that time web pages were just beginning to be used as vehicles to share information, and even harder to imagine is the fact that while information on manure management existed, it was difficult to access, and it was just not a topic that garnered much positive attention.
IMMAG began as state-level technical committee comprised of public and private-sector entities with the objectives to 1) provide access to comprehensive information on manure management issues; 2) develop relevant educational materials and 3) provide them in a format that could be easily accessible.
Now, 15 years later, what was supposed to be short-term, one-year effort, has turned into a major outreach and education effort for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and their partners. In addition to the web page, IMMAG has hosted many field days and training workshops over the years as well as coordinated the development of countless fact sheets, newsletters and other educational pieces.
As the livestock sector in Iowa changed in the 1990’s it became apparent that a mechanism for information delivery was needed that could quickly evolve to keep livestock producers in tune with changing regulations, up-to-date with current research and understand best management practices to help assure manure’s value as a crop nutrient resource and help protect Iowa’s natural resources.
IMMAG was a concept born in 1997 to provide a comprehensive vehicle to deliver manure management information, develop and deliver educational programs, and design tools and resources that could be used by producers, technical agencies, educational institutions, researchers, consultants and the general public. IMMAG originated as a state-level technical committee under the leadership of the Iowa NRCS that brought together the state agencies, land-grant institution, commodity groups, environmental groups and private sector interests who proceeded to identify challenges and needs for manure management information.
After an initial needs assessment was completed, members of IMMAG agreed the highest priority was the development of an integrated Web site for all manure management information. A Web page would allow the most flexibility in keeping materials up-to-date. The members also agreed that producers and others not having internet access would be able to request printed materials from the site made available through the commodity organization. Once all existing materials were organized and included on the IMMAG Web page, a needs assessment was conducted by ISU Extension and the commodity group to determine information gaps and the kinds of new material that needed to be developed. Materials were not limited to print resources, but also included development and delivery of nutrient planning workshops, field days and tools. Along with a needs assessment, the Web site was thoroughly evaluated by members of the environmental groups and the general public to determine how accessible the information was and how easy it was to use and comprehend.
During the past 15 years, the Iowa Manure Management Action Group has distributed monthly newsletters (originally printed, now e-newletters); created 40 fact sheets; hosted over 50 field days and workshops, coordinated 3 multi-day manure clinics for producers and professionals; written over 200 popular press articles, supported and developed material for nearly 600 Extension meetings; and developed 9 video presentations.
The biggest lesson learned from this educational outreach program was and is the success of integrating the state agency, land-grant university and livestock commodity group message to assist livestock producers. This partnership allowed the development of a consistent message among all involved when it came to manure management so producers and their technical staff were using the same recommendations and planning processes across all programs. Other important things learned include 1) longevity of programs are crucial to producer awareness and success; 2) a defined mechanism for intergrating research into extension programming is crucial for producers to make informed choices related to best management practices; 3) leveraging financial support to serve all clients helps level the playing field in terms of client access to educational materials, events and access to technical assistance and 4) when provided with appropriate training and resource materials, it is possible to develop an entire service industry to assist producers with manure nutrient management planning.
Many internal discussions have identified the need to continue to support this effort even with the availability of other national programs that serve as clearinghouses for manure management information. Future needs for program implementation include coordinating long-term financial support for continued programming and a needs assessment that is relevant to current production practices. Future needs for program delivery include more field days and hands-on type experiences for producers and their service providers.
Angela Rieck-Hinz, Extension Program Specialist, Iowa State University, email@example.com
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