A method is provided for use of an information management system
to produce quotations and related information on optimized inputs
and services for the production of food, feed, fiber, livestock,
and the like, and to execute customized commercial service agreements
including a performance guaranty or insurance policy. The system
includes a database of historical input and service performance
and a decision support system to optimize future performance. The
commercial service agreement includes protocols for applying inputs,
performing services, and assessing performance. Related information
includes input management plans; savings, rebate or cost-share information,
applications or credits; information or forms for permits or regulatory
compliance; and emissions trading credits or executed trades. The
system administers a remedy if performance standards are not met.
This method has broad application to plant and livestock production
in reducing nutrient and pesticide inputs and pollution, and in
reducing economic risks for producers and input/service providers.
We claim as our invention:
1. A method of managing information concerning implementation of
best management practices in agricultural production, the method
comprising the steps of: a. gathering management data in connection
with inputs and services for the production of food, feed, or fiber;
b. transmitting the gathered information to at least one database,
each database including information on the performance of those
inputs and services under a variety of circumstances, places, and
conditions; c. analyzing and storing the gathered information; d.
transmitting the analysis and a quotation for inputs and/or services
including a service loss guaranty or insurance policy on the performance
of those inputs and/or services; e. preparing and executing a commercial
service agreement for the inputs and/or services; f. providing information
related to the inputs and services; g. monitoring status, progress,
yield, and other performance measures related to the inputs and/or
services; h. providing a remedy in the event of performance failure;
and i. updating the database with the performance data obtained.
2. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the inputs include a control
chemical selected from a group comprising insecticides, fungicides,
herbicides, and nematicides.
3. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the inputs comprise soil
4. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the inputs comprise nutrients
selected from a group comprising animal or green manure, commercial
fertilizer, and feed supplements.
5. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the inputs comprise one
of seeds, plant species, and livestock species.
6. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the inputs are selected
from a group comprising control chemicals, soil amendments, nutrients,
seeds, plant species, and livestock species.
7. The method defined in claim 1 wherein no inputs are specified
or quoted, but where a quotation is provided solely for a performance
guaranty or insurance policy.
8. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the services comprise
application of inputs.
9. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the services comprise
at least one of sampling, testing or monitoring of weather conditions,
production conditions, pest populations, soil types, nutrient levels,
and prescribed burning of vegetation.
10. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the services comprise
recommending at least one of input types, amounts, application timing,
and application method.
11. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the services comprise
at least one of recommending and implementing tillage practices.
12. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the services comprise
at least one of recommending timing and method of, and performing,
controlled burning of vegetation.
13. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the services comprise
at least one of recommending timing and method of, and performing,
destocking of livestock.
14. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the services comprise
a combination of at least one of application, sampling, testing,
monitoring, and recommendation of inputs.
15. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the commercial service
agreement includes one of a sales commission and a fee for service
to a third-party vendor who will deliver and/or apply the quoted
products and services.
16. The method defined in claim 1 wherein federal crop insurance
coverage or other insurance on the production that may cover all
or a portion of a service loss is gathered and considered and referenced
in one of the quote, the commercial service agreement, and information
17. The method defined in claim 1 wherein input and service cost
savings, cost-shares, rebates, tax credits, and subsidies available
to one of the producer and the input or service provider are included
or referenced in a quotation, and information or application forms
for obtaining same are included in the output, entered into the
database, or automatically submitted for redemption on behalf of
the producer or the input or service provider.
18. The method defined in claim 1 wherein emissions trading credits
available to the producer or input or services provider are included
or referenced in a quotation, and information or application forms
for obtaining those trading credits are included in the output,
entered into the database, or automatically executed on behalf of
the producer or the input or service provider.
19. The method defined in claim 1 wherein permit or regulatory
compliance requirements applicable to the producer or to the input
or services provider are included or referenced, and information
or application forms for obtaining those permits or meeting those
compliance requirements are included in the output, entered into
the database, or automatically executed on behalf of the producer
or the input or service provider.
20. The method defined in claim 1 wherein at least one of the databases
includes recommended input application and service practices, or
links to a decision support system that outputs recommended input
application and service practices back to the database for transmission
to the producer or the input or service provider.
21. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the information provided
comprises one or more of information on crop insurance or other
coverage; cost savings, cost sharing, rebate, subsidy, trade opportunities,
permit or other regulatory requirements, application forms, executed
applications, executed trades; and optimized input and service recommendations.
22. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the service loss guaranty
or insurance policy comprises a remedy for losses resulting from
failure of the recommended inputs or services.
23. The method defined in claim 1 wherein at least one database
includes a current cost for reinsurance coverage on the service
loss guarantee or insurance policy and the method considers that
cost when determining a quotation for inputs and services.
24. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the information system
communicates electronically with insurance or reinsurance sources,
obtains a current price for insurance or reinsurance, and considers
the current reinsurance price in determining a quotation for the
service loss guaranty.
25. The method defined in claim 1 wherein information about the
status, progress, yield and/or quality of the plant or livestock
production are entered into the information management system to
predict expected losses, determine service guaranty or insurance
policy payments to the producer, manager or input/service provider,
or report to regulatory agencies, providers of cost shares or subsidies,
emissions credit trading facilities or others.
26. The method defined in claim 1 wherein information about the
status, progress, yield and/or quality of the plant or livestock
production is gathered remotely via satellite, aerial, infrared,
digital or other photography or imaging.
27. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the gathered information
is transmitted to and received by a computer network, handheld computer,
portable computer and/or wireless device.
28. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the gathered information
includes location information generated using a global positioning
system (GPS)-based device.
29. The method defined in claim 1 wherein a third party comprising
one of a regulator, cost share or subsidy provider, or emissions
credit trading facility is given direct access to data from the
database for a fee or other consideration.
30. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the user of the information
system is one of a producer and a manager of food, feed, fiber,
or livestock production.
31. The method defined in claim 1 wherein the user of the information
system is one of an input provider and a service provider to producers
and managers of production.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates generally to farming and production
methods for selecting and applying inputs, such as pesticides, fertilizers,
feed supplements, and seed, and providing services, such as monitoring,
sampling, recommending, or applying custom inputs or tillage, that
optimize long-term farm production results and provide a remedy
if performance fails to meet specified standards.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 In the agricultural production of food, feed, fiber, ornamental
plants, dairy products, livestock, and the like, inputs are often
overused to avoid less-than-optimum production outcomes. Such overuse
of inputs, however, has well-documented negative impacts on water
supplies, environmental quality, and human health. Historically,
farmers have routinely over-applied inputs as "insurance"
to guaranty maximum yields.
 Over the past 30 years, however, a large public investment
has created hundreds of Best Management Practices ("BMPs")
designed to help farmers apply these inputs only when they will
generate a net economic return. These BMPs, including Integrated
Pest Management (IPM) systems, optimize production returns over
time, but may not provide maximum production and income in any one
year. Further, most BMPs are designed to apply to an entire state
or to a group of states and are not customized to specific locations
or fields within those large areas. BMPs also typically are not
continuously refined, because no system exists for assessing performance
when a BMP is actually used.
 BMPs are also not widely adopted in large part due to risk.
BMPs can reduce yields in years when rare, unpredictable weather
events occur. Most farmers will not accept those occasional relative
losses, even though BMPs will save them money over time. Newly developed
and newly modified BMPs are perceived by many farmers to be more
risky than they actually are, simply because they are new.
 Input sellers and service providers who recommend or implement
BMPs lose input sales revenue when BMPs are used and risk loss of
customers when BMPs fail relative to those not using BMPs. Therefore,
very few input and service providers recommend BMPs. Most farmers
rely on input sellers and service providers as their primary source
of advice on how much and what types of inputs to purchase and apply
and for what services to use, and when.
 Current crop and livestock insurance policies typically
do not cover losses due to BMP failures, because of their high deductibles.
Most losses arising from BMP failures are small and well within
 One insurance policy specifically designed to cover BMP
failure is known to exist; that policy, a pilot federal crop insurance
endorsement, is available only to corn farmers in four states (IA,
MN, PA, and WI) who plant non-irrigated corn for harvest as grain,
following a crop other than corn, and who also purchase one of two
types of federal crop insurance (Multiperil or Crop Revenue Coverage)
policies. Only one of these endorsement policies was sold in its
first year of availability, and that one covered just 10 acres.
Only one of the 14 crop insurance companies eligible to offer the
BMP endorsement is doing so.
 One input and service provider is known to provide a guaranty
of a "clean, marketable crop" to a select group of customers
who follow its recommendations. That guaranty does not provide an
objective measure of input or service performance and an IMS is
not used to monitor and track performance, develop quotes, prepare
and execute a commercial service agreement or provide related information.
 By calling for reduced inputs, BMPs have been proven to
reduce pollution including contamination of water supplies with
pesticides and nutrients. For example, excess nutrient use in the
Mississippi River watershed or basin has been blamed for the large
"dead zone" observed in the Gulf of Mexico, caused directly
by hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the water). Experts estimate that
BMPs, if widely adopted, could reduce nutrient use in the Mississippi
basin by 40%, which is also the reduction called for by gulf water
experts to eliminate that dead zone.
 Numerous entities with vested interests in reducing pollution,
including government agencies and private stewardship groups, offer
financial incentives for input users to follow BMPs. These incentives
include cost sharing, rebates, subsidies, and tax credits.
 No information management system (IMS) in food, feed, or
fiber production is known that is designed to identify or secure
these potential opportunities to minimize or defray costs.
 An increasing number of regulatory agencies also require
conformance with BMPs to obtain permits to operate facilities such
as for livestock production, or to use potentially polluting inputs
such as fertilizers.
 No IMS in food, feed, or fiber production is known that
is designed to identify these requirements, to prepare applications,
or to document compliance as part of the transactions for purchasing
regulated inputs or services.
 Emissions credit trading markets for greenhouse gases responsible
for global warming may also provide an opportunity for BMP users
to defray the cost of implementing BMPs. The Chicago Climate Exchange
initiated greenhouse gas emissions credit trading with the first
auction in September of 2003; continuous trading is anticipated
to commence in December 2003.
 No IMS is known that is designed to identify trading opportunities
available to individual food, feed, fiber, or livestock producers,
to prepare applications, or to execute trades as part of transactions
to purchase regulated inputs or services.
 The following is an example of problems seen in the current
state of the art:
 The average corn producer in Wisconsin applies 38 lbs. more
nitrogen and 75 lbs. more phosphorus per acre per year than would
be applied under BMPs published by Wisconsin state agencies. In
most years, these extra nutrients are not needed, and at the smaller,
BMP rates of application these inputs will produce the same yields.
However, at BMP rates, yields may fall short of maximum potential
in years when excessive spring rains cause nutrients to leach through
the soil or wash away in runoff. BMP yield may also fall short of
maximum in years when ideal growing conditions occur and the corn
crop can take advantage of more nutrients than are made available.
In addition, in specific areas of the state, published BMPs are
generally known by crop advisors and producers to fail more often
than in other areas due to local soil types and weather conditions
there. State experts do not have a facility to monitor performance
in all areas of the state and to make appropriate adjustments to
the published BMPs for those areas.
 Average nutrient application rates to corn in Wisconsin
are above BMP rates because most farmers will not accept occasional
reduced yields, despite the fact that BMP rates of application will
save them money over the course of several years. Wisconsin has
enacted new regulations requiring, by 2008, each farmer in the state
to create and implement a nutrient plan, using BMP rates of nutrients.
The state has no IMS to record or audit these plans, however. Several
federal, state, and local programs in Wisconsin offer cost sharing
for farmers to use nutrient BMPs, but no IMS is available to identify
and secure these opportunities. Emissions credit trading opportunities
are not yet available to individual corn farmers in Wisconsin.
 Wisconsin corn farmers have multiple additional opportunities
to reduce inputs, costs, and pollution including IPM sampling and
monitoring techniques for reducing pesticide use for corn rootworm,
black cutworm, wireworm, and other insect pests and diseases; for
reducing herbicide use with half-rate applications coupled with
accurately timed, light cultivation; and for reducing soil erosion
through reduced tillage techniques. No IMS exists to manage these
multiple opportunities, to help replace input sales revenue lost
to input and service providers, or to reduce risk of failure to
both producers and input/service providers.
 Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an improved
method for increasing producers' adoption of BMPs in their production
of corn and other food, feed, fiber, and livestock. An efficient
IMS is needed to address and quantify economic risks to producers
and to input sellers and service providers, and to continuously
improve the efficacy of BMP systems.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A commercial service agreement that specifies the inputs
and/or services to be provided, procedures to be followed, and expected
performance standards can include a guaranty or insurance policy
that reduces or eliminates the risk to the input seller or service
provider and to the producer. The cost of the guaranty or insurance
policy can be determined by examining and analyzing data on the
performance of the input or service over time in a variety of circumstances
and conditions. Input and service providers who offer the guaranteed
or insured commercial service agreements to their customers can
protect themselves from risk, and earn revenue from sales of the
agreement and optimized inputs and services related to execution
of the service agreement. These revenues can replace those lost
by reducing sales of inputs. One such commercial service agreement,
created by the present inventors, will be piloted in 2004.
 An IMS would greatly improve the efficiency of managing
inputs and services according to BMPs. This management would include
estimating expected losses due to BMP failure; quoting prices for
inputs, services, and performance guaranties; generating and executing
commercial service agreements; generating required forms and applications;
processing claims and issuing payments or other remedies for BMP-related
losses; continuously improving decision-support systems designed
to optimize inputs and services; and continuously refining the accuracy
of loss estimates.
 A method is provided for use of an information management
system (IMS) to deliver quotes for inputs and/or services to a producer
or manager of any of food, feed, fiber, ornamental plants, and livestock,
to deliver related information, and to execute a customized commercial
service agreement for providing those inputs and/or services. The
service agreement includes a service loss guaranty or insurance
policy on the performance of those inputs and/or services.
 The IMS includes a host computer system housing or linked
to a database or databases of historical input and service performance
data from a plurality of producers in an area of interest. These
data will include those developed and published by researchers at
universities and in industry, as well as new data generated from
users of the system. The host computer system may include or be
linked to one or more decision support systems designed to determine
the optimum application of inputs and/or services.
 A customized quote for inputs and/or services and any related
information is generated by the IMS based on historical data contained
in the database, information contained in the decision support systems,
and general and site-specific information provided by the producer,
manager and/or input or service provider in their request for a
quote. This customized quote and information is transmitted to the
producer, manager, or input/service provider in the form of a commercial
 The commercial service agreement includes a protocol for
applying the inputs and performing the services, and a protocol
for assessing service losses to be covered by the service loss guaranty
or insurance policy. The related information provided to the producer
or input/service provider may include input management plans; savings,
rebate or cost-share information and/or application forms; information
or forms to document applications for permits or compliance with
regulations; and available emissions trading credits or executed
emissions credit trades.
 The IMS allows performance data to be entered, stored and
applied to effect continuous improvement of the BMP systems recommended,
accuracy of expected loss estimates and price quotes.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 shows a flow chart of the present invention.
 FIG. 2 shows a relational diagram of steps of the present
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 A wide variety of inputs are generally used in the production
of plants and animals, to improve production performance. These
inputs include nutrients required by the production for growth and
development; pesticides and medications to reduce injury from insect,
mite and nematode pests, diseases and weeds; amendments to soil
such as lime and organic matter to improve soil condition; and growth
regulators such as plant or animal hormones to accelerate or otherwise
modify production. Often these inputs are inexpensive relative to
the value of the production. For example, a pesticide application
to an acre of apple trees may cost $20 vs. $7500 for the value of
the apple crop produced on that acre. Unnecessary or excessive applications
of inputs are often viewed by producers and input suppliers as "cheap
insurance" and so are applied regardless of true need for the
coming growing season, which is typically difficult to predict with
certainty. However, by over-applying inputs, producers increase
costs, reduce income, increase risks to human health, and pollute
 In addition, a variety of mechanical operations are used
to improve production performance, such as tillage or cultivation,
pruning, controlled burning of vegetation, and mechanical application
of inputs. Often specific protocols are designed to implement these
mechanical operations, or new mechanical operations and equipment
are developed, to optimize performance of the production and/or
to minimize impacts on human health and the environment.
 A large public investment has been made in the development
and recommendation of a broad array of Best Management Practices
(BMPs) and other scientific practices developed for many specific
types of production. These practices are designed to improve economic
outcomes over time, in many cases by minimizing inputs most often
including nutrients and pesticides, but also including fuel and
personnel time. These practices are well established in theory and
often are well proven in research trials on small plots; less often
they are proven in on-farm, field-sized trials.
 Unfortunately, BMPs and other scientific practices that
are designed to optimize economic performance and improve impacts
on health and the environment over time may result in short-term
losses in any single time period such as one growing season. For
example, a corn grower in Wisconsin may typically apply 160 lbs.
of commercial nitrogen fertilizer at a cost of $14 per acre, when
state agencies recommend a BMP rate of 120 lbs., after crediting
the nitrogen contribution from a preceding crop of soybeans. Additionally,
the farmer may apply 75 lbs. of phosphorus fertilizer at a cost
of $18.75 per acre, when the BMP recommendation may be that none
is needed. By following the BMP rates for these nutrients, the farmer
saves $22.27 per acre in fertilizer cost and in most years will
generate the same yield of corn. However, in some years, as when
spring rains cause some of the nitrogen to be lost to leaching and
runoff, the yield may be less when the BMP rate is applied. At a
price of $2.25 per bushel, any yield shortfall greater than 10 bushels
per acre would create a short-term economic loss. This event may
occur only once in ten years, during which a net economic gain of
$200.43 per acre would have been earned (9 times $22.27). Most farmers
will not accept a short-term loss to obtain the long-term gain.
The Economic Research Service of USDA estimates that 47.4 million
acres of corn receive at least 25% more nitrogen than is normally
needed and called for by BMP.
 Performance data for nitrogen and phosphorus BMPs for corn
indicate average expected loss in a peak-production year of $6 per
acre. A performance guaranty priced at $12 per acre could preserve
$10.27 of the fertilizer savings annually, and restore a neutral
economic return in the one year in ten that yields at BMP fertilizer
rates fail to meet yields at the higher rate.
 Referring now to the drawings, which are for purposes of
illustrating a preferred embodiment of the present invention only,
and not for the purposes of limiting the scope of the invention,
FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a preferred system and method for implementing
the present invention.
 FIG. 1 is a flow chart of information managed in accordance
with one method of the current invention. As applied to the current
corn example, for instance, information on a specific corn field
or fields would be collected, as at 1, and transmitted, as at 2,
via computer, hand-held portable device, wireless device, phone,
fax, email, postal mail, or hand delivery and entered into a database.
This information will include size and location of the field; soil
types within the field; previous, current, and/or expected yields;
previous, current, and/or expected fertilizer types (including manures)
and application rates and timing; previous crop and crop yield (and
quality if alfalfa or soybeans); phosphorus soil test type and results
and the lab performing the test.
 The IMS will be used to analyze and store these data, as
at 3, and to correlate and compare them to those of fields with
similar profiles within the database, that data having been collected
and entered from university research studies and other farmers'
fields. The database may contain the frequency of lower yields resulting
from the application of reduced, BMP rates of fertilizer from a
plurality of corn producers, production histories, geographic locations,
years, climates, weather patterns, soil types, fertilizer types,
and BMP systems used. The database may also include weather forecast
information for the coming production season. The BMP rate of fertilizer
application will be calculated for the site and site-specific conditions
using a decision support system, and the expected performance of
the BMP rate will be predicted. The IMS will be used to consider
previous history of yields for similar fields and conditions, and
if available in the database, for that specific field, producer,
and input/service provider, and the forecasted weather if available.
Related information on cost shares, subsidies, rebates, cost savings,
permit requirements, and emissions trading opportunities for the
specific location will also be identified and collated.
 A quote will be prepared and transmitted, as at 4, back
to the user in the form of a customized service contract that will
include a price for the fertilizer, application services if requested,
and guaranty or insurance policy on performance. The quote will
include expected savings using the BMP application rates vs. previously
used rates on the specific field, or average rates for the region.
The quote will take into account or reference related information,
as at 6, including any available cost shares, rebates, subsidies,
tax credits, trade opportunities, or plan or permit requirements.
The service contract will specify a protocol for applying the fertilizer,
including establishing a check, or control strip through the field,
that will be fertilized at a rate greater than the BMP rate, and
a protocol for comparing the yield at harvest between the check
strip and an adjacent strip fertilized at the BMP rate.
 The user will accept or reject the contract, or specify
desired changes and resubmit for re-quoting. Once accepted, as at
5, the IMS will be used to prepare the appropriate forms and documents,
including protocols for implementing the BMPs and monitoring and
documenting performance, along with any forms required for cost
 To test the performance of the BMP for each farmer, in this
example, the farmer would designate two adjacent strips in his or
her field and have them prepared, planted, and treated identically
in every respect except for the amount of fertilizer applied--the
same BMP amount as used on the balance of the field in one strip
and a "conventional", excessive amount in the other, "check"
strip. Therefore, any difference in yield between the BMP strip
and the conventionally fertilized check strip can be reliably attributed
to fertilizer rates of application. The producer will report yields
from one pass of the harvesting equipment through the check strip
and the adjacent BMP strip, as at 7, and if yields are lower on
the BMP strip, may immediately cease harvesting of the remainder
of the check strip and the BMP strip and at least portions of the
balance of the field and request a formal yield assessment.
 If the formal yield assessment of the remaining portion
of the check strip and adjacent strip and remaining field portions
by an independent adjuster confirms that the performance standard
has not been met for the BMP application, a cash or credit remedy
will be given, as at 8, in accordance with the terms of the service
contract. Performance data will be added to the database, as at
9, and used to improve the IMS and decision-support system's ability
to recommend fertilizer amounts and improve predictions of expected
losses and pricing.
 In use, in another form, the invention provides that a producer
will submit information on other BMPs in addition to or in place
of nutrient BMPs, for example, the number of corn rootworm beetles
observed on plants or captured in monitoring traps the previous
season in a specific field or fields. The IMS will be used to provide
a quote for corn rootworm management inputs and services such as
seed varieties genetically modified to suppress corn rootworm populations
or a soil insecticide, or no management inputs and services, plus
a guaranty or insurance policy ensuring that corn rootworm larval
feeding damage will remain below a specified threshold. A protocol
for assessing corn roots for damage against the performance standard,
and determining if a remedy is to be made and the form of that remedy,
will be specified. The size and configuration of any refuge, created
for the purpose of maintaining individual corn rootworms susceptible
to the control measure specified, may also be determined and defined
in the service agreement.
 In use, in yet another form, the invention provides that
a producer will submit information on the species, variety, condition,
acres, soil types and location of food, feed, fiber or ornamental
plant production. The IMS will be used to determine a variable rate
of nutrients, pesticides and/or other inputs to be applied to match
the within-field variability in input needs (variable rate application),
set performance standards and assessment protocols, and quote prices
for the input, the variable rate application, and/or the performance
guaranty or insurance policy.
 In use, in still yet another form, the invention provides
that a producer of potatoes will submit information on the variety,
acres, and location of potato production. The IMS will be used to
determine when fungicides should be applied to reduce the possibility
of early blight or late blight disease infestation, set a performance
standard and assessment protocol for disease severity and incidence,
and quote prices for the fungicide, application of fungicide, and/or
performance guaranty or insurance policy.
 In use, in a further other form, the invention provides
that a producer of field crops will submit information on the species,
variety, acres, and locations of field crop production. The IMS
will be used to determine which tillage method is optimal for production
and soil conservation, set a performance standard and assessment
protocol, and quote a price for the tillage operation and/or performance
guaranty or insurance policy.
 In use, in a yet further other form, the invention provides
that a producer of livestock will submit information on the species,
breed, age, sex, condition, and/or number of livestock held on grazing
or pasture land. The IMS will be used to analyze past performance
and past, current and forecasted weather, and determine an optimal
stocking rate, set a performance standard and assessment protocol,
and quote a price for stocking or de-stocking services and/or a
performance guaranty or insurance policy.
 In use, in still yet another further form, the invention
provides that a producer of livestock will submit information such
as the species, breed, age, sex, condition and number of livestock
fed, and the amounts of nutrients supplied in animal feed. The IMS
will be used to analyze past performance and determine a BMP rate
of nutrients to be included in the animal feed, set a performance
standard and assessment protocol for production of meat, dairy products,
eggs or other product, and/or for reproductive success, and quote
a price for the animal feed and/or performance guaranty or insurance
 In use, in a final other form illustrated here, the invention
provides that a manager of forested land will submit information
on tree age; condition; species composition; ground cover; time
since last harvested, pruned or cleared; acres, and location of
the forest land. The IMS will be used to analyze past performance
and previous, current, and forecasted weather to determine the optimal
time, if any, for prescribed burning to manage the vegetation and
reduce wildfire risk, set a performance standard and assessment
protocol, and quote prices for management of the burn and/or a performance
guaranty or insurance policy.
 Referring now to FIG. 2, a symbolic relational diagram of
the present invention, the information management system includes
a decision support system(s) 10 external to the host computer system
11 used to determine optimized rates and protocols for inputs and
services. An internal performance database 12 contains historical
and current performance data for a range of inputs and services,
including expected frequency and severity of losses due to failure
of the optimized practice, or BMP, specified. Internal decision
support systems 13 may be used in place of, or in addition to, the
external systems 10.
 In generating output to be returned to the user, applicable
cost share, rebate, tax credit or subsidy providers and opportunities
14; emissions credit trading facilities and potentials 15; and/or
regulatory or permit providers and requirements 16 may be identified
and considered when preparing the output. These providers may be
given direct access to information stored in the database on executed
service agreements, and/or the IMS may be used to provide this information
including completed applications and forms. These providers may
retrieve information about a specific location, or summary information
about a plurality of locations, on a gratis or fee basis. Providers
may use this information to improve BMP recommendations, monitor
performance of BMPs, cost share, rebate, tax credit, subsidy, and
trading or regulatory programs.
 The host computer will house the database of performance
information 17 generated from each executed contract. These data
will be used to improve the accuracy of performance predictions,
and of the recommended BMPs generated by the decision support systems.
 Quotes 18 will be provided to users within draft commercial
service agreements along with other information 19 which will specify
inputs to be provided, services to be performed, protocols to be
followed when applying inputs and performing services, performance
standards, and assessment protocols. Additional information on cost
shares, rebates, tax credits, subsidies, emissions credit trading
and regulatory requirements will also be referenced and/or factored
into the quote. The IMS will be used to administer remedies 20 in
the event performance fails to meet the predetermined standard according
to the assessment protocol specified.
 Users may include input/service providers 21, producers
22 or managers of production. Input and/or service providers will
use the system to generate quotes they can offer to their customers
and predict their margins or commissions on inputs, services and/or
the guaranty or insurance policy. Producers or managers of production
will use the system in conjunction with an input/service provider,
or directly to purchase inputs and services with guaranteed or insured
 Users will transmit information 19 about the specific production,
inputs and services to be included in the quote and service agreement,
review draft agreements generated using the IMS, suggest revisions,
and reject or accept and execute finalize agreements. They will
also monitor performance of the production at its location 23 or
via remote sensing 27 and request a formal performance assessment
if necessary to determine the extent of remedy required, if any.
 Third-party insurance or reinsurance providers 24 may link
to the system to receive requests for quotes and provide quotes
for coverage of the performance guaranty. A GPS locating device
25 may pinpoint the location of the production, or specific locations
within the production, such as the location of a check or comparison
strip for measuring input and/or service performance. Transmission
of information 26 between users and others will be by in-person
conversation, phone, fax, mail, courier, electronic mail, computer
network, or wireless device.
 In view of the foregoing, it is contemplated that the various
efficiencies of the methods of the present invention provide substantial
incentives for adoption of BMPs and other scientific methods by
producers, managers, and input/service providers. These users are
protected from short-term economic losses when BMPs and other scientific
methods fail, while preserving the long-term benefits.
 Additional modifications of and improvements to the present
invention may also be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the
art. Thus, in particular the combination of steps and devices described
and illustrated herein is intended to represent only a few embodiments
of the present invention and is not intended to limit alternative
steps and devices. Rather, the invention is as broad as indicated
by the appended claims.