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An Analysis of Environmental Management Approaches with Six Midwestern Dairy Farms: Informing Progress Toward a Sustainable Agriculture Mrill Ingram & Karl Hakanson, UW-Madison
Driving through Wisconsin and Minnesota you pass similar looking dairy farms that are managed in very different ways, each with different emphasis and approaches to environmental and business management.
Is this an organic farm? Is it a Biodynamic Farm? A large permitted dairy? Or is it a “conventional” farm?
Is this a “sustainable” farm? Is it an “unsustainable” farm? Is it more or less sustainable than the neighbors?
This research project studied six dairy farms managed under six different environmental programs. The main objective was to learn from successful farmers what the necessary conditions for bringing about a more sustainable agriculture might be.
Project Goals • How do different programs and policies focus on the environment? Gaps? Overlap? • What do successful farmers engaged in these different programs have in common? • How might an environmental management system (EMS) improve/inform these programs? Methods 1. “On-paper” comparison of the six program’s rules, regulations, standards. 2. Case studies of six exemplary farms. 3. Development of EMS on each farm to explore sustainability.
PART I: How might agricultural-environmental programs and policies be directing farmers to act toward the environment?
Agricultural environmental management programs
Six Ag-Environmental Programs -- USDA Certified Organic (NOP) -- Food Alliance Certified (FA) -- Holistic Management (HM) -- Demeter Certified Biodynamic (BD) -- WPDES Permitted (CAFO) -- Soil & Water Conservation programs (S&W) How are these different programs informing agricultural sustainability?
Biological / Physical Environment Dimensions of Ag- Farmer Responsibility / Environmental Program Oversight Programs Community Scrutiny / Support Ag-environmental programs require attention to certain biological and physical environmental aspects and rely on various elements of community involvement and individual farmer performance.
Program dimension: Biophysical Environment • • • Soil Quality Water Quality Air Quality Resource Conservation Wildlife & Biodiversity Crops and Livestock
Program dimension: Farmer Responsibility / Program Oversight • • • Records, Reporting, Inspection Plan requirements Certification Application costs; time Goal setting Flexibility Continuing education Continual improvement Consequences of noncompliance
Program dimension: Community Scrutiny & Support • Employee health and safety • Employee participation • Neighbor relations • Farmer networking • Product quality • Wider community input • Governmental oversight
Findings: Program Emphasis § Biological & Physical Dimensions o o Soil erosion & water quality (state/fed programs) Soil organic matter (“alternative” programs) Wildlife/biodiversity (Food Alliance, organic) Animal welfare (biodynamic, organic, Food Alliance) § Farmer Responsibility & Program Oversight o o o Record keeping (all) Continual improvement (HM, Food Alliance) Goal setting (HM) § Community Dimensions o o o Worker health and welfare (Food Alliance) Wider community input (Food Alliance, CAFO) Consumer health (organic but especially BD) Wildlife/biodiversity (Food Alliance, organic) Animal welfare (biodynamic, organic, Food Alliance)
Findings: Program Gaps Important biophysical dimensions of sustainability currently receiving little attention from the six programs: Energy conservation Air quality Water conservation Resource conservation
Agricultural sustainability is being pursued in positive dimensions: • • • Increasing the ability of farmers to be better decision-makers Providing a stronger philosophy of serving one’s community Recognizing the value of specific measures to manage soil, water, biodiversity Human health & safety Livestock welfare
Conclusion from Content Analysis: Distinctions between “sustainable” and “unsustainable” programs hard to draw
PART II: Case Studies of Six Farms What are common traits of successful environmental management?
Three “C’s” of Sustainable Agriculture Commitment environmental stewardship is business excellence Community no farm is an island Continual Improvement Requirements are the starting point
Certified Organic Farm
Food Alliance Certified Farm
Holistic Management Farm
Certified Biodynamic Farm
Permitted (WPDES) Farm
Soil & Water Conservation Farm
PART III: Develop environmental management systems on each farm to further explore sustainability Plan Do Check Act EMS: A self-directed process of continual improvement, environmental stewardship & business efficiency.
The EMS Process for this study Conduct “Environmental Aspects Inventory” Prioritize two aspects to work on Assess current status of aspects Develop objectives and plan for improvement Implement plan, document actions Monitor and document results
Identification and Prioritization of Environmental Aspects Farm Other Priority Food Alliance Energy use: milk house Runoff: winter-spring pastures WPDES Operation efficiency/SOPs Worker safety Soil & Water Energy Use: dairy barn Soil Conservation & Nutrient Mgmt plans Organic Fuel Use: row crops Upland & riparian bird habitat Holistic Mgmt. Energy Priority Feasibility of wind power Runoff: milk house Biodynamic Fuel use: straw handling Compost management
Benefits of EMS • Development of standard operating procedures • Framework to systematically consider various aspects of environmental management • Considering new ideas and approaches • Taking care of known issues that need attention • Taking the time to plan • Consideration of energy conservation and efficiency • Attention to family and employee communications • Working with new people, advisors, specialists • Working with a “coach” to move process along
Barriers to EMS Implementation • Time constraints; additional administrative and record-keeping requirements; takes away from time-sensitive tasks • Incentives/results/proof of benefits lacking • Coach/consultant/personnel necessary to keep process/projects on track not available • “Paperwork”, meetings, planning not valued – It’s not farmwork; getting something done • ISO/certified EMS not scale-neutral • Perception that “an EMS” is yet another program or set of practices to adopt
Recommendations on EMS • Emphasize key parts of the process --assess, prioritize, plan, monitor, communicate-- not “EMS” per se • Introduce processes into management approaches already in use • Create documents, instructions that emphasize action • Create simple record keeping, monitoring protocols • Identify ways for existing personnel, consultants, service providers to serve as process coaches • Focus on “what’s in it for me? ” --Benefits must be real • Engage all “stakeholders” in improving environmental management, especially specialists, staff • Stress need for effective communications at all levels
Policy Implications • Voluntary EMS has limitations as a stand-alone program. It should be coupled with complementary incentive or regulation programs. • Supply chain pressure and civil society pressure can also play a role in providing incentives for environmental management. • EMS as a process tool can be “married” with existing programs. • Farms/communities can assess highest environmental priorities and utilize parts of the EMS to move farmers toward greater sustainability.
Grateful thanks to the funding provided by the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)! www. sare. org/ncrsare www. usda. gov www. csrees. usda. gov
Investigators: Mrill Ingram mingram@wisc. edu Karl Hakanson klirhn@centurytel. net Contact: Sharon Lezberg 608 -265 -3473 slezberg@wisc. edu Environmental Resources Center University of Wisconsin–Madison 445 Henry Mall, Room 202 A Madison, WI 53706 http: //www. uwex. edu/farmandhome/