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Minnesota Soybean Business

Fully certified: Council invests checkoff resources in CAA program

March-April 2022

Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) offers real-world preparation.

Now, thanks to support from the soybean checkoff, Minnesota farmers are helping to train the next generation of agriculture professionals.

In December 2019, the college added the Certified Crop Advisor program to give agronomy students another tool to prepare for their post-graduation careers.

“It’s really important for our program because we’re a teaching college and the students that come out of our program need to be qualified for the real-world job opportunities,” said Dr. Gerald Toland, Jr., SMSU professor of Economics and Agribusiness.

SMSU Assistant Professor of Agronomy Dr. Adam Alford runs the recently-added CCA program. The CCA exam prep program runs for four weeks, once a semester. It runs one night a week and works with the students’ schedules.

During the two-hour period, students and faculty cover soil fertility, soil and water management, integrated pest management and crop production and anything else that could be on the state and international exams.

After passing the exams, students can start logging the required hours of experience to be fully certified. There is yearly continuing education for CCA’s.
The CCA program is most beneficial for seniors at SMSU who have completed more of the science courses to be better prepared for the exam. However, all levels can participate.

“When going for a job, everything is equal and then they’ve got on their resume that they passed the CCA test,” Alford said. “That puts them a leg ahead of their competition.”

The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) has funded the CCA program since 2020.

“We support a lot of research. Cutting edge research. Hard-to-understand research,” Council Director of Research David Kee said. “It takes people with a certain level of education such as CCAs to explain results to farmers.”

Phase I was to assist students to be prepared for the CCA exam and to facilitate job placement in agriculture. The first year, seven students took the exams, and one person passed the state test. Both the state and international exams are required, but the exams can be retaken as needed.

Southwest Minnesota State University offers a wide range of agriculture-related courses.

During phase two in fiscal year 2021, the goal was to increase awareness of the program on social media, add a virtual option and to improve the success of the students.

In the second year, out of 12 students, five passed the international exam. Alford and four students passed both the state and international exam. Alford took the exams so he could enhance the CCA program with firsthand knowledge of what students need to know.

The checkoff funding from the Council supports the program and the students with partial coverage of the exam fee. Alford said his department appreciates the Council investing in the future.

“There’s not really a lot of education grants out there, so when there is an opportunity to apply you have to, especially for a smaller university like this,”
Alford said. “We’re really grateful that we got the funding. It’s a good program.”

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