Penn State to launch ag stewardship certificate

(Penn State University photo)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences is offering a new undergraduate certificate program — the Agricultural Stewardship and Conservation Certificate. The program will offer classroom and hands-on learning in the sustainability of agricultural soil and water resources.

The program will also help train the next generation of conservation professionals at a time when Pennsylvania’s agricultural producers are under pressure to adopt measures that will protect and enhance water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

About the program

The certificate program will be administered under Penn State’s Environmental Resource Management academic program, noted program coordinator Robert Shannon, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

Shannon said the certificate will include 11 to 14 credits, with courses in soil science, agricultural erosion and sediment control, nutrient management, and best management practice design and implementation.

The program is designed to appeal to students in a variety of Penn State majors, including Environmental Resource Management, BioRenewable Systems, Animal Science, Agricultural Science and Plant Sciences, as well as nondegree-seeking students.

Students will be required to complete an internship or independent study experience working with a local or state agency or technical service provider, said Shannon. The new program also will introduce students to the state’s Nutrient Management Specialist certification and allow them to complete several modules toward the certification required by the state.

Pennsylvania in the Balance

The certificate program is an outgrowth of a 2016 conference, called “Pennsylvania in the Balance,” sponsored by Penn State’s Agriculture and Environment Center. The conference brought together representatives from Penn State, the agricultural industry, government agencies and conservation groups to seek ways to assist the state in meeting its EPA-mandated clean water goals for the Chesapeake Bay.

“Enhanced training to increase conservation planning and technical assistance capacity was among the highest priority recommendations made by conference participants,” said Matthew Royer, director of the Agriculture and Environment Center.

Following the conference, input for the certificate was sought from a variety of stakeholders, including the State Conservation Commission, the state departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Stroud Water Research Center, private-sector technical service providers and others, Royer said.

“This new certification program will provide critical coursework and practical experience to Penn State students interested in entering the field of agricultural conservation, making our students marketable for jobs in the public and private sector and helping to meet growing technical-assistance demands from producers,” he said.

Students interested in pursuing the Agricultural Stewardship and Conservation certificate can contact Shannon at 814-865-6942 or at



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