This quarterly electronic newsletter of FARM & HOME ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS is produced by the staff of the National Farm*A*Syst/Home*A*Syst office. The aim of this newsletter is to inform interested readers about voluntary pollution prevention programs around the nation and about new research and policy impacting the management of environmental risk on farms and in homes. We intend for this newsletter to be a forum for news and discussion about ongoing programs and new approaches. For more information, or to contribute to this newsletter, please refer to our website (http://www.uwex.edu/farmasyst), or email editor, Mrill Ingram, (firstname.lastname@example.org). We welcome comments and feedback!
USDA-CSREES, USDA-NRCS, and the U.S. EPA provide support for our programs.
Farm and Home Environmental Management Programs
Room 303 Hiram Smith Hall
1545 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706
This past spring, 34 Wisconsin dairy farmers tested new EMS assessment worksheets on nutrient management, drinking water wells and barnyard and feedlot conditions. As part of the IFAFS-funded "Partnerships for Livestock Environmental Management Systems" project, seven UW-Nutrient and Pest Management specialists and one UW county extension agent conducted pre-pilots of the worksheets. Impressions from farmers were varied. Some thought that the questionnaires were part of a useful learning process. Negative comments arose when farmers felt they were already doing a good job and didn't need to see the information again. Many farmers liked that the worksheets prompted discussion of the environment, even if they didn't like the questions. "The barnyard runoff worksheet made me think about new issues," commented one farmer.
As a result of this pilot test, the Wisconsin project team is rewriting some assessment questions to be clearer, and is also creating shorter, more streamlined versions of worksheets to go along with background EMS materials. This pilot test also revealed that connections between the questions, the environment, and regulations need to be made clear. Money was most often cited as a barrier to implementing changes, indicating that a section on what farms could do for financial help would be useful.
Meeting Over EMS: What are the benefits of an EMS? What is needed to insure that an EMS will be acceptable to state and federal agencies? In search of answers to these and other questions about possible roles for EMS's and approaches for evaluating them, farmers, industry representatives and agency personnel will be gathering at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station in Wisconsin in late September. Attendees will include farmers who have carried out EMSs and representatives from the farm insurance industry and California's successful Dairy Quality Assurance Program. Results of the meeting will be posted on the AgEMS website: http://www.uwex.edu/AgEMS/.
Training the EMS Trainers: In January of next year, people putting the EMS concept to work will provide technical training for "how to do" an EMS. Attendees will include staff in nine pilot states responsible for implementation of EMSs in the "Partnerships for Livestock Environmental Management Systems" project. It will involve representatives from the US EPA and the USDA to speak on how EMS can support existing policies and programs within their agencies. Allen Williams, from Australia Cotton Research and Development Corporation will also attend and will share his experiences in working with the cotton industry in Australia to develop EMSs. An EMS guidebook, currently under development, will provide the basis for the training.Return to Table of Contents
The US EPA determined this summer that the water in New York City's reservoir system does not require filtration. The federal agency is working with New York to undertake several initiatives to guarantee a safe drinking water supply for the city's nine million people, but says that the water currently meets quality standards enabling the state to avoid building a costly filtration system to remove impurities.
One of the key elements of New York's success has been its Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Program. Codified into New York law in 2000, AEM is a multi-agency program that provides farmers with technical, educational, and financial assistance to address environmental concerns on their farms. The AEM Program is voluntary and incentive-based, and provides cost-sharing, educational and technical assistance for all sizes and types of farming operations. The program assists farmers in developing and implementing agricultural plans, and in complying with federal, state, and local regulations relating to water quality and other environmental concerns. The local delivery, combined with state funding support, has resulted in the participation of almost 8000 farms in the state.
Since 1996, the New York state government has been working with communities around the city's upstate reservoirs to lower the chances of pollutants, such as phosphorus from fertilizers, from reaching water supplies. These efforts were initially supported by a whole range of programs, including Farm*A*Syst, which contributed partnerships and ideas to the development of AEM. To read more about AEM, and other nonpoint source pollution prevention "success stories," see the EPA Office of Water's publication on innovative state programs at: http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/Section319III/index.htm.Return to Table of Contents
by Virgil Dupuis, Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Montana When it comes to protecting water quality, demonstration projects can be a very effective tool. Many acres of tribal land on the Salish Kootenai Reservation in western Montana are rented for ranching. A couple years ago, as part of a USDA/CSREES Water Quality (406) project, we implemented a demonstration project for ranches facing riparian grazing issues. These issues include not only impaired water quality and degraded riparian habitats, but also friction between grazing and other interests such as tribal cultural resources. With the cooperation of a rancher, and Jeff Mosely, Extension Range Specialist from Montana State University, the project brought tribal resource specialists together to discuss the historically competitive interests of hydrology, fisheries, agriculture, culture and wildlife. The group made special efforts to consult with Tribal Elders and the Tribal Cultural Preservation Office on how grazing management can reduce impacts to cultural resources. Anti-grazing sentiment can run high with the general public, and our group emphasized to the ranching community the importance of addressing cultural issues.
As part of the project's initiation, a group met on the rancher's property, and Jeff Mosely focused the conversation on the goals people held in common in terms of what should happen in the ranch and riparian environment. The team toured the ranch and looked at the creek together. As a result of the discussion, the rancher changed his grazing patterns, and with $17,000 of re-fencing, altered the pasture system. Among the changes, the cattle now have only a couple of weeks, as compared to four months, of direct access to the riparian area. The revised system has been working great for the rancher, who has stated that he wonders why he didn't do this before. Since this success on one ranch, our group is looking to work with more ranchers who want to work with us on specific grazing management problems.Return to Table of Contents
The New Jersey Healthy Homes Program developed a new Curriculum & Handout sheet: Environmental Health in Childcare Facilities. The group, coordinated by Joseph Ponessa of Rutgers University Extension, also partnered with the Maternal and Child Health Consortia and American Lung Association to develop a half-day program on asthma for childcare providers. The program included presentations by an MD, a registered nurse and a respiratory therapist. Nearly 500 providers were trained. This program has been extremely well received. The curriculum has been developed into a manual and produced on CD Rom. One train-the-trainer session has been conducted to replicate this outreach. New Jersey HH program has also provided training on asthma management and lead poisoning prevention for nearly 300 parents, some Spanish-speaking, in urban areas.
The North Carolina Healthy Homes program, coordinated by Sarah Kirby of North Carolina State University Extension, developed a program kit that includes lessons that correspond to the five areas in the first Healthy Homes booklet. There are corresponding Power Point presentations, handouts, and laminated flipchart materials for each lesson. In addition, the program developed evaluation instruments for use by county educators in assessing the impact of their programs and partnerships. In addition, a display that highlights the entire Healthy Home project, as well as the individual pieces is in final stages of completion. Two in-service trainings are planned.
In Nebraska, Shirley Niemeyer has developed new Asthma education materials -- a display and a Lesson and Leader's guide called Indoor Air Quality: Know the Asthma Triggers. The University of Nebraska Extension program also incorporates model children's playhouses to demonstrate Healthy Home ideas. Very young children have to find dust bunnies (stuffed toy bunnies) in the house while educators teach parents and others about healthy home issues.Return to Table of Contents
Australian producers with an annual income of less than $35,000 are now eligible for cash reimbursements of up to 50 % of the costs of developing and implementing an EMS. The brand-new federal government-funded program is intended to increase awareness and encourage the uptake of EMS. The EMS approach is seen as a key tool for furthering watershed and natural resource management objectives, encouraging sustainable farming practices, and supporting farmers in adapting to new market demands for environmental assurance. Eligible farmers must attend a training course and can receive up to $3,000 to help them obtain advice such as biodiversity and water quality assessments, as well as assistance with plantings and fencing. The money is not available for buying land, vehicles, computer equipment or constructing buildings or roads, or for engaging a consultant to develop the EMS.
Reaction to the program from farmers is mixed. The Queensland Farmers Federation, representing some 18,000 producers in the state, reports that while they see potential benefits of an EMS, the group is not convinced that adoption of an EMS will result in price premiums for products, or that the market is ready to support increased product costs as a result of EMS implementation. Costs of an EMS can include infrastructure and equipment changes, EMS education and training, consultant fees and possible production compromises.
QFF Executive Director Brianna Casey elaborated, "the QFF family is committed to sustainable primary production practices, and recognizes the obligations that come with that responsibility, but our members are not convinced that Environmental Management Systems are the only way to demonstrate and implement sustainable primary production practices." Casey explained that while the incentive money is certainly helpful, it will not come close to meeting the costs of implementing an effective EMS. In addition, she pointed out, many farmers in the state are already utilizing a range of on-farm best management practice programs, ranging from Environmental Codes of Practice to audited Best Management Practice (BMP) programs. "The last thing our members need is duplication of well-established, successful, industry driven programs," she said.
Even in the context of these concerns, Australian producer groups and government agencies continue to investigate the potential of EMS. The Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation and the sugar industry's Canegrowers are among producer groups pursuing pilot studies of the EMS approach, and testing the market waters for the depth of interest in products bearing an environmental performance standard. In addition, ISO 14001 has been selected as the mechanism for implementing certification for all Australian forests managed under the Regional Forest Agreements (RFA). The principle behind the decision to select ISO 14001 was that the EMS framework, encompassing a commitment to continual improvement, will ensure a high level of compliance in the forest. For more information about these EMS initiatives in Australia, visit: http://www.env.qld.gov.au/environment/environment/conservation/h04369aa-12.htm#P218_38438 and http://www.affa.gov.au/ems.Return to Table of Contents
Agriculture Waste Management Specialist from Utah State University, John Harrison, has written an informative article introducing the use of EMS in agriculture in the Journal of Extension, 40(4) August 2002. See: http://www.joe.org/joe/2002august/a5.shtml.
A collection of state innovations in water quality improvements is available at EPA's Nonpoint Source Web site: http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/Section319III.
This resource contains 20 papers assessing the state of science for emerging issues in livestock waste management. Cost is $25 plus $4.50 shipping from MidWest Plan Service, 1-800-562-3618; MWPS@iastate.edu; on the Internet at: http://www.mwpshq.org.
The National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Air Emissions from Livestock Feeding Operations, has posted a report, "The Scientific Basis for Estimating Emissions from Animal Feeding Operations: Interim Report (2002)," available at: http://bob.nap.edu/books/030908461X/html/.
The National Association of Conservation Districts and the Conservation Technology Information Center are hosting a conference on Farm Bill implementation and action plans for disseminating information on Farm Bill conservation opportunities for farmers and ranchers. November 13-14, 2002, Hilton St. Louis Airport Hotel. Contact Gerald Talbert, email@example.com; (410) 247-1973; or visit: http://www.nacdnet.org/FBC/.
The Economic Research Service offers a side-by-side comparison of the new Farm Bill with 1996-2001 farm legislation, including economic analysis and opportunity to sign up for e-mail notifications of future Farm Bill analyses as they become available: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Features/FarmBill/.
A new web site designed to help water utility personnel, state drinking water administrators, and source water coordinators address requirements for Source Water Assessment Programs (SWAPs), has just been launched by the AWWA Research Foundation. The free web site features databases containing comprehensive information for each U.S. state on source water quality, chemical occurrence, data resources, and helpful contacts. Available at: http://www.drinkingH2O.com/swap For more information contact project manager Traci Case at 303-347-6120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article contains information on manure storage and water quality in the June 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.
This Council for Agricultural Science and Technology paper outlines technologies and approaches that poultry, swine, beef, and dairy producers can use to decrease nitrogen and phosphorus amounts that enter the environment. This study focuses on two nutrients and addresses two environmental concerns: volatilization and manure nutrient distribution. Decreasing the nitrogen and phosphorus excreted by poultry, swine, or cattle can minimize these concerns. See: http://www.cast-science.org. Click on the report in the left column under Publications.
Widespread overuse of antibiotics in raising animals for food has helped create "superbugs" -- bacteria resistant to these drugs. Scientists now link this agricultural use to rising numbers of human infections that are harder to treat because they respond poorly to these compromised antibiotics. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has released a guide to help consumers buy meat raised without antibiotics: "Eat Well, Eat Antibiotic-Free," available from IATP's website: http://www.iatp.org/EatWell/orgResults.cfm. Also, visit the website: http://www.KeepAntibioticsWorking.com, a coalition of health, consumer, agricultural, and environmental groups working to reduce the public health threat of antibiotic resistance.
PAM (Polyacrylamide), an environmentally safe industrial flocculent, is also being established as an erosion-control tool. A new study shows that PAM can also decrease coliform bacteria from wastewater. One suggested application of this finding is to use PAM in the cleanup of manure spills. For more information, including general PAM resources, contact the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory, 3793 North 3600 East, Kimberly, Idaho, 83443, or visit them on the web at: http://kimberly.ars.usda.gov/pampage.shtml.
Each year more than 47 square miles of California farmland and rangeland are converted away from agricultural uses. This report from the California Wilderness Coalition examines existing policies and offers recommendations to encourage the preservation of working farmland and natural ecosystems and to promote habitat stewardship on private land while increasing profitability for farmers. Contact California Wilderness Coalition, 2655 Portage Bay East, Suite 5, Davis, CA 95616; phone (530) 758-0380; fax (530) 758-0382; email: email@example.com. Download free at: http://calwild.org/resources/pubs/harvest.php.
The EPA's Environmental Finance Advisory Board has published an article on EMS including sources of information on the internet. Available in EFAB's August 2002 newsletter at: http://www.epa.gov/efinpage/efab/newsletters/newsletter4.htm.
A new, updated edition of Help Yourself to a Healthy Home: Protect Your Children's Health is now available. This popular booklet that helps people identify and address potential health threats at home, covers nine areas of concern: mold, carbon monoxide, asthma and allergies, lead poisoning, drinking water, pesticide use, indoor air quality, hazardous household products, and home safety. You can download the booklet from the Healthy Homes website at: http://www.uwex.edu/healthyhome. The Healthy Home Partnership has also made single copies of the booklet available in English at no cost -- call the Consumer Information Catalog at 1-888-878-3256. To order copies in quantity ($1.00 each, plus shipping) contact the Healthy Home Partnership Office, Room 303 Hiram Smith Hall, 1545 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706, (608) 262-0024, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. A Spanish version will be available soon.
Agricultural Environmental Management Systems. This full-color, 11-page booklet introduces the basics of agricultural EMS. Available in pdf format or hardcopy. Visit: http://www.uwex.edu/AgEMS/resources.html.
MTBE Brochure. Published with support from the EPA Source Water Protection office, this full color educational brochure about MTBE (in gasoline) identifies risks to groundwater, and discusses sources, prevention, and other information. It includes a yes/no checklist in the FAS/HAS style to educate a rural water user through understanding risk factors. Available through: http://www.uwex.edu/farmandhome/wqpaap/pdf/mtbe.pdf Printed copies, with space to add state-specific information are available from FHEM, (608) 262-0024.
Farm*A*Syst/Home*A*Syst Online Library. Looking for assessment worksheets and factsheets? Access the searchable online index of more than 700 items that have been produced for Farm*A*Syst, Home*A*Syst and related programs nation-wide. The index includes both general national-level materials and materials that have been tailored to state-specific contexts. Visit: http://www1.uwex.edu/ces/farmasyst/library/librarysearch.cfm.Return to top of page