Growers take up international environmental standard by Gavin Tinning, NSW Agriculture

GRAINGROWERS IN the northern grains region have been developing environmental management systems (EMS) for a number of years. Ground Cover 37 reported how this has led to some world-first achievements in the attainment of international environmental management certification (IS014001) for businesses on the Liverpool Plains.

(Grower Jim McDonald, who attained the certification a year ago, reports at right on his experience during the following 12 months.)

"Graingrowers from the Liverpool lains through to Central Queensland have been involved in the EMS project for a number of reasons, including a desire to gain community and market recognition for their land management and to improve the management of natural resources within the constraints of the farm business," says EMS program coordinator for NSW Agriculture and environmental systems specialist Genevieve Carruthers.

According to Ms Carruthers, the challenge of continual improvement, encouraged by an EMS, attracted growers who regard themselves as being at 'best practice' level. The combination of selfassessment and scrutiny of current farming practices has shown that improvements are still there to be made, but also demonstrate the value of current management practices.

Where used, external audits have proved invaluable to encourage the development of a complete management system and to identify areas for future improvement.

Questions about time and cost, particularly if independent certification is sought, are presently limiting the uptake of EMS by graingrowers.

It would be valuable if ...

An identifiable market supply chain would encourage greater levels of participation, with growers able to make a business decision about the value of developing a management system, while realising the benefits of tighter management and gaining a clearer understanding of the business's impacts on the environment.

A national network of environmental management facilitators would help tackle the current issue of producers feeling unable to commit time to developing an EMS, and would assist in the collection of natural resource information that both maps the state of the environment and better informs us about the effects of current farming practices.

The program has developed some useful support material for graingrowers to assess their current management and develop an EMS. This material and updates on the progress of EMS work in the northern region can be obtained from Ms Carruthers at NSW Agriculture.

Program 4 Contact: Ms Genevieve Carruthers 0266261237; 0427 102934 email: genevieve.carruthers@agric,

Region North