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Across the United States and abroad, innovative producers, processors, trade organizations and others in the agricultural sector are exploring the promise of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) to improve their environmental and business performance. An Environmental Management System helps farmers develop their own, personal strategies for reducing environmental risk on their operations by integrating environmental management considerations into production management decisions. It is a voluntary, flexible approach and is based on a producer's own sense of how best to manage an operation.

Partnerships for Livestock Environmental Management Systems is a 4-year project to explore the potential of agricultural Environmental Management Systems to help prevent non-point pollution and resolve community and regulatory concerns. The project goal is to develop and evaluate environmental management tools and procedures with which livestock producers can address local priority water and air quality issues. The tools being tested address farm environmental planning, including air and water resource impact analysis, and setting priorities for alternative practices or infrastructure; implementing environmental best management practices and documenting standard operating procedures; monitoring environmental results and reviewing regular performance checklists; and review the total system to phase in a new round of improvement goals.

This paper reports preliminary results from the evaluation of nine states' EMS pilot tests with beef, dairy or poultry producers. Each of the nine states (Iowa, Montana, Texas, Idaho, New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Virginia) has approached differently the educational task of helping farmers recognize the value of an EMS and embrace its development and implementation. The evaluation seeks to tease out which educational approaches and strategies worked best by studying both the educators' practices and the farmers' responses and perceptions. The paper also comments on the project's involvement with stakeholders and its evaluation of their perceptions about the barriers to and benefits of environmental management systems implementation.

This project has been funded through a USDA Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) Grant, and additionally supported by the Environmental Protection Agency Non-Point Source Control Branch, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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