What is an EMS?
The term stands for Environmental Management System. It is a voluntary, flexible business management system that helps farmers develop their own strategies for integrating environmental considerations into the daily operations of a farm. An EMS builds on existing management strategies, such as emergency, pest, or nutrient management plans.
- Improves environmental performance
- Facilitates regulatory compliance
- Protects property value
- Documents stewardship efforts
- Improves neighbor and community relations
- Reduces livestock health risks
- Enhances management
- Protects health and well being of family and employees
The USDA’s Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems is supporting a 5-year project, “Partners for Livestock Environmental Management Systems.” This project is piloting Environmental Management Systems on beef, dairy and poultry operations in nine states.
The EMS ensures a concrete and useful plan for addressing routine and emergency environmental concerns while improving overall management. The EMS provides a framework for making continual improvements, meeting regulatory requirements and demonstrating good environmental stewardship.
How an EMS works?
An initial part of the EMS process is to clarify the farm environmental “policy” — how a farmer identifies and addresses environmental concerns. All farms have an environmental policy — this process makes explicit how it influences on-farm actions. The EMS process uses this policy to guide a farmer through planning, implementing, evaluating and reviewing key farm management decisions that may affect the environment. The EMS sequence of plan, implement, check and improve, offers a common-sense approach to improved farm management and enables continual improvement of an operation.
Who uses an EMS?
The EMS approach is widespread in other industries and is increasingly recognized as a legitimate approach to environmental management inagriculture. The EMS approach is being supported by the state of North Carolina in an agreement with the state’s pork producers to managetheir environmental risks. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the United Egg Producers, have included the EMS as part of a project to achieve mutually beneficial environmental performance.
EMS in Georgia
As a pilot state under the National Partnerships for Livestock Environmental Management Systems, Georgia is evaluating the development and implementation of EMS’s for dry litter poultry farms.Currently, EPA and the livestock industry are interested in determining if EMS’s could be a valuable part of a regulatory structure that is environmentally and economically sustainable.
With the help of Gold Kist Farms, 20 to 30 farms are being identified to participate in the project. The following three methods have been identified under which volunteers can develop an EMS:
- Consultant produced EMS, where a professional consultant trained in EMS will work with the farmer to develop documents and plan;
- Extension produced EMS, where as an Extension professional will assist a producer in developing an EMS by using his own expertise, as well as several existing or specially developed assessment tools;
- Minimum assistance/self produced EMS, this method will rely on an assistance provider with minimum EMS training, yet access to specially designed EMS development tools.
The three methods will be evaluated on several criteria such as farmer acceptance, scope of the EMS, and acceptability to regulatory agencies. These results along with assessment tools and EMS guidebooks will be the primary outputs of the project.
Georgia’s Poultry Statistics*:
- Georgia’s poultry industry contributes over $13 billion to the state’s economy.
- Georgia is the top poultry producing state in the country.
- Poultry represents 51.42% of GA’s total farm cash receipts
- On the average day, Georgia’s poultry industry produces:
- 24.6 million lbs of chicken meat
- 8.2 million table eggs
- 5.7 million hatching eggs
- GA has 104 counties producing over a million $ of poultry, at the farm level
*Prepared by Georgia Poultry Federation
For more information on EMS’s and the national project, visit the University of Wisconsin’s Agricultural Environmental Management Systems website.