PROJECT LEADS: Dr. Mark Cooper, UC Davis, and Dr. Deanne Meyer, UC Davis, UC ANR, and Denise Mullinax, CDRF, CDQAP, 2020
• Project produced multiple Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) farmer-to-farmer learning opportunities: three webinars, four topic-based practice highlight videos, five producer experience highlight videos, seven quick-fact sheets, and an AMMP topic-specific web page.
• The development and delivery of the project objectives enabled producers, consultants, and other interested parties to obtain up-to-date information about AMMP practices, exchange knowledge and experience of AMMP processes and practices, and identify key barriers to adoption of AMMP practices.
BACKGROUND, OBJECTIVES, FINDINGS AND OUTCOMES
Since 2017, multiple alternate manure management practice projects have been installed on dairy operations through California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP). It is essential that dairy producers continue to adopt strategies for achieving the 40% methane emission reduction goal. Likewise, it is important for dairy farmers to understand the benefits and challenges that changes to manure management will have on resource allocation, operational changes, economic opportunities or costs, and whole-farm environmental impacts and benefits, as well as the consequences of selecting specific practices within their operation.
The objectives of this project were to create environments for farmer-to-farmer AMMP practice focused learning, to identify existing barriers to adoption of AMMP practices, and to recommend strategies for improving future adoption of AMMP practices.
Farmer-to-farmer information sharing is key to producer knowledge base and comfort. This exchange provided an opportunity to learn about AMMP practices and ask questions of other producers who have adopted specific practices. It encouraged in-depth analysis and potential adaptation to individual farm needs. Initial plans for farmer-to-farmer focused learning had to be modified to reflect the reality of accessing facilities and developing quality products during a pandemic. The research team pivoted and replaced their plan for four dairy tour extravaganzas with three webinars.
In each of the three webinars, participants received updated information about program eligibility, the process of applying to AMMP, and important issues to consider when applying to and implementing AMMP practices. Host participants were present at webinars to answer questions and engage in farmer-to-farmer conversation. In addition, webinar participants could use the question-and-answer feature in Zoom.
In addition to the three webinars, this project produced four topic-based practice highlight videos, five producer experience highlight videos, seven quick-fact sheets, and an AMMP topic-specific web page. The success of their outreach plan was evaluated through surveys presented to webinar participants, technical service providers and consultants, and producers.
Practice based highlight videos paired photos with brief but informative scripts to create short videos specific to primary practice categories. Producer experience highlight videos used interview questions based on the AMMP practice implemented and knowledge of producer experiences during the AMMP application and implementation process. Key focus areas included why the particular practice was selected, site-specific considerations including general economic factors, and specific implementation experience. Each producer was asked to provide tips to others that were considering application for that AMMP.
Quick-fact sheets summarized information taken from AMMP applications submitted between 2017 and 2019 with additional information gained from producer interviews. These documents were posted on the AMMP specific web page and publicized through the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) and University of California Cooperative Extension Dairy newsletters. Additionally, social media, newsletter articles, dairy trade associations and dairy trade magazines further amplified information.
The largest proportion of webinar attendees (43%) were those who were aware of AMMP but who had not yet applied or helped others apply, suggesting that learning about AMMP and the AMMP application process was a significant motivation for attending the webinars. The three leading barriers for completing AMMP applications were identified by consultants as getting in touch with producers, getting quotes from vendors and contractors, and permitting and/or project readiness concerns. The surveys also found that the primary motivators for producers to apply to AMMP were funding for implementation, improved manure management, and that there was no cost share required for the program. When consultants and Technical Service Providers were asked to pick options from a list as to what could improve the AMMP program, the two options selected by all respondents were that the reviewer feedback on applications be shared and that an interactive message board between Technical Service Providers and CDFA be maintained.
The development and delivery of the project objectives enabled producers, consultants, and other interested parties to obtain up-to-date information about AMMP practices, exchange knowledge and experience of AMMP processes and practices, and identify key barriers to adoption of AMMP practices.