A good number of no-tillers probably know how much money their no-till systems are saving them in the way of inputs, fuel and labor and stabilizing or increasing crop yields. But some have voiced frustration to our editors that their bankers don’t give them much credit for it.

At a recent forum on agricultural production at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Emily Bruner, Midwest science director for American Farmland Trust, presented some case studies from four farms on the tangible benefits of soil health improvements.

The methods included a partial budget analysis using labor statistics, ag prices, machinery cost estimates, production costs and fertilizer prices, along with a nutrient tracking tool and the COMET-Farm carbon and greenhouse gas accounting system.

The figures for three row-crop farmers were pretty impressive:

  • They found yield improvements of 2%-15% that were attributable to soil health practices;
  • The annual change in per-acre net income for three row-crop farmers was $42 per acre per year.
  • Their average return on investment for soil health improvements was 169%, ranging from 35% to 343%.
  • They were saving $18 to $35 an acre on machinery, fuel and labor costs
  • They were saving $17 to $66 an acre per year on fertilizer costs, especially with phosphorus and potassium applications.

AFT says these results should arm no-tillers with some valuable information when they visit bankers to secure more financing for farm expansion.

We heard rumblings in late September that bankers in both the U.S. and Canada expect to see more farm bankruptcies than they've seen in decades at year end, once harvest finishes up. So it would seem growers who are doing what they can to reduce their costs and maximize income should get maximum consideration.

One assistant bank vice president recently told me, “We pay attention to agronomic practices and notice what this provides to the farm operation. We track it strictly on the income statement. “Remember, we look at numbers.”

When farmers become more up to speed on sustainable practices or products, “they’re able to then go and take their demands to community banks, who are able to help give them the capital they need to implement some of the new practices they're looking to learn or explore,” said Noah Yasif, assistant vice president of economic policy and research for Independent Community Bankers of America, at the same event hosted by the feds.

In our February magazine we’re sharing comments from no-tillers on this question: Does your banker(s) give you any credit for, or see any appreciable monetary value in, the no-till system you've implemented? Why, or why not?

I would really like to get your comments on the experiences you’ve had, so please feel free to email me your observations.