GREEN BAY, Wis. — Results from the first year of a nationally recognized farm-level sustainability project in southwestern Wisconsin were released today, and the partners in the initiative are encouraged by what they see. The dozen participating farms demonstrated that their conservation practices contribute to significant reductions in environmental pollutants reaching streams and rivers. The analysis is part of a pilot project aligned with a first-of-its-kind framework for sustainability projects that helps farmers determine what conservation practices are most effective for their individual farms and document the environmental and financial effects. The goals: protect the environment, remain profitable and demonstrate to communities, customers and regulators that farmers are taking action on sustainability. “These positive outcomes reflect a commitment among farmers to push ourselves each day to discover what works best on individual farms and fields, for both the environment and our businesses,” said dairy farmer Jim Winn, a participant in the project and the president of a farmer-led watershed conservation group called Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA) in Lafayette County. “It’s rewarding to see, in concrete terms, that we are making a positive difference.” The assessment uses nationally accepted metrics from Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture to address on-farm sustainability indicators, such as greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. A tool called Prioritize, Target and Measure Application (PTMApp) is being used for measuring impact on waterways. The first-year findings in 2020, based on 2019 data, are detailed in a 141-page report. Among them:
- On average, farms participating in the pilot project have adopted five conservation practices per field that Field to Market’s Fieldprint Platform recognizes as having a positive impact on sustainability scores.
- Farms with livestock and those that use manure for most crop nutrient needs scored, on average, better than the project benchmark for greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. Manure replaces the use of inorganic forms of nitrogen, which have a higher energy (fossil fuel) cost to produce and ship.
- Existing conservation on the farms is reducing the amount of sediment reaching local streams and rivers by 28 percent.
- Estimates suggest that by adding cover crops to 50 percent of all fields in the project area, additional pollution reductions of 40 percent (sediment), 28 percent (nitrogen) and 23 percent (phosphorus) can be achieved.