Here's help with new regs
Farmers who use environmental management systems (EMS) to help manage their operations are finding significant efficiencies in addition to improved risk management, reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "A well-prepared EMS can help farmers - regardless of scale - manage for changes in environmental regulation," says Ruben McCullers, Region 7 EPA environmental scientist.
Iowa farmer Nick Meier has participated in EMS for several years. "It has really helped us look at the economics of our farming operation and the potential costs savings," says Meier, who farms near LaPorte City. "We've eliminated two field passes for every crop, resulting in a reduction of fuel bills of nearly $5,000, as well as machinery wear and tear that has been estimated at another $2,500.
"We've also reduced nitrogen use from 140 pounds per acre to 120 pounds per acre with little to no impact on yield, for a savings of $3,500. With a sidedressing evaluation planned for next year, the savings could increase," he says.
The Iowa program is called Certified Environmental Management Systems for Agriculture (CEMSA). Administered by the Iowa Soybean Association, CEMSA helps farmers integrate emerging tools and technologies with information and support from technical experts. It goes beyond the implementation of best-management practices and into identifying and benchmarking outcomes and setting objectives that perform.
The CEMSA program helps each farmer evaluate the environmental risks unique to his or her farming operation, prioritize them, and design an action plan that specifically addresses them.
An original participant in the CEMSA pilot, Ray Gaesser, who farms near Corning, Iowa, says farmers understand they have a responsibility to be good environmental stewards.
"CEMSA helped us examine how everything interacts on our farm - from tillage practices to fertilizer management - and how we work with seed, chemicals, and grain storage," says Gaesser. "It helped us to do more than just look at the environmental aspects of our farming operation. It gave us a way to step back and make sure we were doing something about it.
"CEMSA is an ongoing opportunity for every farm, because the perfectly performing farm does not exist," says Gaesser.
There is no charge for participating in the CEMSA program. But farmers may incur costs for evaluation and testing (i.e., sample collection, sample analysis, trial implementation) or through making management changes to the operation. Farmers can expect to spend approximately 20 hours working with a consultant or Iowa Soybean Association staff.
"Now that I've seen the evaluation work in my farming operation, I think it's something every producer really has to look at," says Meier.
"When I can do something on my own land and within my own management system, I can apply what I know on the rest of my acres with confidence," he says.