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Certifications: We don’t need no stinking Certifications . . . Or do we?

What is the value of certification/accreditation for Agricultural Consultants?

I have been asked by consulting clients what the “CAC” tagged with my name on correspondence and other business documents stands for / means.  I explain that it is an acronym for Certified Agricultural Consultant.  Follow-up questions normally ensue – “What did it take to earn it”, “What organization is the certifier”, and similar inquires.  A complete account of the CAC and the American Society of Agricultural Consultants (ASAC) typically leaves a positive impression of the efforts required to obtain the CAC.  But on occasion, clients have pointedly asked, “Why should I care. . . .what does it mean to me as your client?”
I submit that this is a more than fair inquiry - - what value is an accreditation / certification like CAC to an Agricultural Consultant’s clientele?  I would argue that a significant portion of the value is derived from the organization issuing the certification - in much the same way that a degree from a prestigious university carries greater clout than that from a lesser-known institution.  Likewise, the path traveled to earn the certification is important.  I explain to clients that my path to certification required attending a battery of courses specific to the Ag Consulting industry, passing an exam as well as having a certain amount of prior consulting experience.  I am quick to point out that holding a CAC beholds me to operating according by ASAC’s Code of Ethics – a code of business ethics that protects the consulting client.  

While holding a certification like the CAC does not ensure my abilities as an Agricultural Consultant, it certainly exhibits the fact that I desired and worked for a solid foundation from which to offer consulting services. Additionally, it clearly affirms that I am bound to conduct my consulting business in an ethical manner.

With this personal prelude, are certifications valuable? To Ag Consultants?  To ag consulting clients?  The short answer is yes – and I am not alone in holding this position.  Multiple sources promote professional certifications as valuable to consultants (e.g. Predictive Index and MBO Partners).  In a similar vein, engaging an agricultural consultant carrying professional credentials provides a layer of comfort – especially if the client is unfamiliar with the consultant – versus someone without such credentials.

In summary – earning professional accreditations / certifications is a valuable and worthy effort for agricultural consultants.  They differentiate the ag consultant from the competition; grow knowledge and skills; establish professional credibility; and via maintenance, keep one up to date with tools and technical strategies.  By promoting and marketing these earned credentials, the ag consultant should be able to leverage for enhanced earning potential.

Russell Morgan, CAC
ASAC Member
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American Society of Agricultural Consultants (ASAC)

Traci Schermerhorn, EVP
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Ankeny, IA  50021
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