Environmental Stewardship at NDA
Farmers in a very real sense are the original environmentalists. NDA members in particular have a deep and abiding stake in enriching the land on which they operate and conserving the resources they consume. NDA dairy farmers are personally committed to treating the land where they are raising their families and building their multi-generation legacy with the highest respect. Given that commitment, NDA farmers are engaging in a wide range of practices to enhance the land, conserve resources, and mitigate environmental impacts. They continue to embrace an innovative spirit married to respect for cows and land as the basis for building an ever-more sustainable dairy food system we can all trust. Social and environmental responsibility has been NDA farmers’ heritage and today it is the lifeblood for the legacy they continue to pursue for their children and grandchildren.
Perhaps most importantly, farmers are managing impacts on water and land from animal waste. Animal waste is in fact a nutrient within the environmental cycles. Every NDA farm in Washington, Oregon and Idaho has a formal “Nutrient Management Plan.” In line with the regulatory review schedule, NDA farmers (outside Montana) have participated in inspections and responded to all legal requirements within a framework of continuous improvement. For NDA producer-owners, though, this commitment to nutrient management is more than a matter of compliance and regulatory obligations. For them, nutrient management is an essential commitment to doing the right thing – to contributing wisely to natural environmental cycles that assure a sustainable future for us all.
NDA farmers are actively pursuing a range of strategies and practices, including better agronomic application of nutrients, the containment of all nutrients, using pump-back stations, planting cover crops in the winter to reduce soil erosion, preventing run-off and leeching, and regular soil testing.
Beyond their top priority of nutrient management, energy consumption is also an important aspect of environmental stewardship and economic improvement for our producer-owners. Several NDA dairy farm members are actively switching over to LED and other energy-efficient lighting and installing highly efficient heat exchangers and variable speed drive pumps. Some are working hard to increase the percentage of milk solids in their cows’ milk, in order to reduce the energy consumption per pound of protein and simultaneously to require fewer trucks on the highways. Across the Northwest, several NDA dairy farmers are installing solar panels on their barn roofs. Efficiency has always been a farm tradition; now it is being married with innovation and urgency to help further strengthen NDA members’ environmental stewardship.
In addition to the hard daily work of effective environmental and resource conservation and efficiency improvements, many NDA farmers are also pursuing a range of exciting environmental innovations, like water filtration systems and methane digesters (see “Spotlights”). Taken together, these activities demonstrate the enduring commitment NDA farmers have to ensuring responsible environmental stewardship.
Water conservation and improving water quality is also a key focus for NDA dairy farmers. On many NDA farms, water is re-used up to 7 times, being down-cycled in each use from sanitation purposes through flushing operations. Several of our producer-owners are working in partnerships with their local water improvement districts to upgrade ditches, wells, streams, and culverts to improve water quality. Others are pursuing innovative partnerships with local tribes, environmentalists, and area farmers to improve watersheds. As a result, geese are returning to over-winter on some NDA farms and salmon runs are being restored.
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