Certified clean green by Julian Lee

WITH all the flak Aussie farmers catch regarding the environment, it's pleasing to announce that two graingrowers are the first in Australia and some of the first in the world to be certified under an international standard for environmental management.

Jim McDonald and Peter Jones in NSW have received ISO 14001 certification after implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) developed by NSW Agriculture and supported by the GRDC and Land and Water Australia. The three-year $278,000 project aims to develop generic EMS guidelines that all farmers can customise for their own use.

Project officer Gavin Tinning of NSW Agriculture said EMS was all about a systematic way of identifying priorities and setting targets.

"EMS doesn't tell you what you should do - for example, whether or not you should use pesticides - but gives you a procedure to follow to work out what are the environmental impacts of most concern on your property.

"In the long run it will help streamline management by integrating pesticide records, quality assurance, farm safety, legal obligations, property management plans, sub-catchment planning and more," Mr Tinning said.

Management benefits

Jim McDonald of Quirindi, NSW, said he found that was true. He gained immediate benefits in studying his whole farm operation and looking at Quality Assurance (QA) areas, such as CATILECARE and Graincare together (see story below).

"EMS provided the framework for getting sensible farming procedures in action in a systematic way," he said. In the past, certification has been limited to large-scale operations due to the expense of documentation and auditing. However, Mr Tinning believes Mr McDonald and Mr Jones have shown that EMS now puts certification within the reach of "small enterprise farmers".

Mr McDonald got into EMS because he believes there are a range of consumers who will pay preferential prices for a product that has been produced under a sustainable system.

"We're farming in a conventional way (not organic) and got into this to generate more economic return. It is the way things are going," he said.

Project supervisor Genevieve Carruthers supports this view and said environmental management may assist in maintaining a market share, particularly where environmental standards could be used as trade barriers, such as in Europe.

With this in mind, Mr McDonald has documented the processes and procedures that he uses. "This will let other people know how I run my business and therefore whether it is up to scratch or not," he said.

Fanners interested in being involved in the EMS project should contact Ms Carruthers.

Program 3.1.1 Contact: Ms Genevieve Carruthers 0266261237 email genevieve.carruthers@agric.nsw.gov.au Mr Jim McDonald 02 67461091; 0429461091