New grant-funded positions provide support for conservation practices

YORK — The Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District has recently added two staff positions which will assist producers in adding conservation practices to their acres. Both positions are entirely grant-funded and will serve a similar function, though their funding sources and titles are distinct.

Seth Norquest will serve as the precision conservation specialist, funded through a partnership between the Illinois Corn Growers Association and USDA-NRCS. Norquest is new to the NRD, but not new to the area. He has spent the last few years as a research technologist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, working with the On-Farm Research Network. Prior experience also includes research and sales with local co-ops. Norquest holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNL in agronomy and crop science.

Norquest will be working with producers to enroll acres in the Precision Conservation Management Program, which serves farmers by providing economic analysis of on-farm conservation practices. The program aims to help farmers understand the economic values of adopting practices such as cover crops, nutrient timing, and tillage practices. Along with applied economics, water quality outcomes and carbon sequestration values are generated. PCM is funded by the USDA-NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

Kaleb Fritz will serve as the integrated water program coordinator, funded through a partnership with the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture and USDA-NRCS. Kaleb joined the NRD in August 2023 as a water conservationist, working with producers to improve irrigation and nitrogen management to protect water quality and quantity. Previously he worked for Green Plains Inc in quality assurance. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Chadron State College.

In this new position, Fritz will work one-on-one with producers to identify agronomic solutions to address water quality and quantity issues, assist producers with enrollment in conservation programs, host Conservation Program Forums for ag industry leaders, and generate materials to highlight conservation.

If you are a producer or land owner in the Upper Big Blue NRD area and are interested in funding and support for adding conservation practices to your acres, you can reach out to Norquest and Fritz at (402) 362-6601 or via email at snorquest@precisionconservation.org and kfrtiz@upperbigblue.org.

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