EDITOR'S NOTE — The following article was written by Bruce W. Niederhauser, president of the North Carolina Agricultural Crop Advisors.

In North Carolina, professional, licensed crop consultants directly impact more than 250,000 acres of crop production annually. Indirectly, the information they provide positively affects many more farms.

An independent crop consultant is in the business of providing advisory services for a fee as a primary source of income and is not affiliated with the sale of any products. Services that are provided include detailed soil sampling, lime and fertilizer recommendations, in-season evaluation for the control of weeds, insects and diseases, contract research and livestock waste management.

Licensed crop consultants are in a unique position to give objective and economical advice to growers on a timely basis. A producer should see improved yields and lower production costs as a result of following the professional recommendations that are provided.

In North Carolina it is a requirement to be licensed by the state in order to provide agronomic advice for a fee. To be a voting member of the North Carolina Agricultural Consultants Association (NCACA) a consultant must provide the consulting service for a fee, be licensed by the state, possess a four-year college degree in an agricultural field, have two years of experience and not be engaged in the sale of agricultural materials.

To be effective, an agricultural consultant should be learning and finding up-to-date information on crop management principles and techniques. To do this an agricultural consultant needs to be in contact with county Extension agents, university specialists, industry representatives, and fellow consultants.

It is important that an agricultural consultant use effective, economical and environmentally sound farming practices. A good agricultural consultant will be involved at a state and national level to help increase the public awareness of the role independent professional consultants have in modern agriculture.

In North Carolina, the NCACA (North Carolina Agricultural Crop Advisors) has 25 voting members, seven associate members, three affiliate members and 18 supporting members. During the year the NCACA meets twice to learn from one another, become informed by industry and be educated by university specialists

As in hiring a person for any professional service, it is sound management and financial practice to know the qualifications of the person being hired for these services. A farm is a big financial and lifetime investment and farmers considering hiring a crop consultant to help make management decisions should ask questions to make sure they are independent and professional, and ideally licensed.

For more information about North Carolina crop consultants contact he NCACA Web site at: http://www.naiccaffiliates.org/ncaca/ or contact Bruce@tas.nccoxmail.com.