AMES, Iowa -- A recent report from Iowa State University (ISU) compares two voluntary environmental improvement programs for livestock. A survey was conducted one year after the implementation of the Western Iowa Livestock External Stewardship Pilot Project (WILESPP) and Livestock Environmental Management System (LEMS) to identify the outcomes of the two different approaches regarding voluntary environmental programs.
The WILESPP was undertaken to test whether the livestock industry, working together with state and federal agencies and producers, could design, implement, measure and document voluntary environmental stewardship. The goal of this project was to develop and implement a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) for each participant. This pilot project emphasized the need for consultation, cooperation, communication and planning among meat processors, livestock producers, government officials and extension.
Iowa was one of 10 states involved in the LEMS program and worked with beef feedlot producers. The pilot involved teaching producers from an environmental perspective how to assess their operation, set priorities and objectives and develop an action plan to achieve their objectives.
The programs differ fundamentally in that the CNMP is a prescriptive process completed for the producer by consultants while the EMS is an educational process in which the producer develops his or her own plan.
“The survey was sent to 19 WILESPP participants including hog and cattle producers. Nineteen surveys were sent to LEMS participants, which were all feedlots,” says John Lawrence, ISU Extension economist. Overall, there was a 48 percent return rate of the surveys.
“On most of the questions, there was very little difference in the response between the two groups,” says Lawrence, adding that “all the participants surveyed are currently using their EMS or CNMP plan. Eighty-four percent have referred to the plan in the last three months, but only 28 percent have updated their original plan.”
Joe Lally, ISU Extension program coordinator, notes that the survey showed that all the participants believe that, because of the programs, they have a better understanding of environmental regulations and are complying with these rules and regulations better than before. In addition, “ninety-five percent of the participants believe that they practice better stewardship because of the programs, and all of the participants intend to continue using the plans they developed in these projects,” he says.
The survey also showed that 46 percent have seen improved crop yield or performance since using their plans, while 45 percent have seen improvement in soil conservation through less erosion and runoff. Half of the LEMS participants have seen an improvement in animal performance.
Looking to the future, 55 percent of the LEMS participants stated that there are additional changes they are planning to implement in regard to their plan, and 29 percent of WILESPP participants plan on doing additional work. “Both groups believed that the producer was the person most responsible for environmental protection, followed by the DNR, NRCS and then commodity groups,” says Lally.
Participants in both programs offered suggestions to improve the program. LEMS participants stated there was too much paper and the program should ‘get to the basics’. WILESPP participants agreed, and the program should work closely with the DNR to make sure there is one system that fulfills requirements for all organizations.
Perhaps the most positive indication of the success of the programs was that all participants believe that the programs had value. Their individual goals were met by participating, and they would recommend it to a neighbor.
“Overall, the results of the survey indicate that both programs were successful in moving producers toward improved stewardship and practices that will better protect water quality,” says Lawrence. “Activities that involve agencies and organizations with common goals and/or that allow producers to learn together and from each other are still effective methods of achieving behavior change and an improved environment.”
For more information, view the full report at http://www.econ.iastate.edu/faculty/lawrence/Acrobat/Voluntary_Environmental_Improvement_Programs_CNMP_EMS.pdf.