Pork farmers’ livelihoods are tied to the land, and they understand their responsibility to protect the environment. Over the last decade, America’s pork producers have played a leading role in advancing animal agriculture’s environmental and conservation efforts. Respect for the Earth and its natural resources is part of our nation’s agricultural heritage — and pork producers are dedicated to preserving that legacy.
Responsible environmental management is fundamental to any successful farming operation.
Pork producers take proactive steps to address environmental responsibility and work cooperatively with government, scientists, conservationists and members of their local communities to address these issues. Industry efforts have led to the development of best management practices in manure management and use, collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address air quality, and the implementation of comprehensive nutrient management plans on farms across the country. Additionally, the industry’s Environmental Stewards program recognizes individual pork producers for their outstanding efforts in environmental management and conservation.
Producers are subject to a host of federal and state environmental regulations. The U.S. pork industry has worked with officials at all levels of government to develop additional, science-based rules to address reuse and management of valuable manure-based nutrients.1 Areas of environmental regulation include groundwater, surface water, air quality, animal and manure disposal, land and soil quality and land use. Pork producers are obligated to meet or exceed all regulatory standards.
Although the carbon footprint associated with pork production is a small fraction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the industry has embarked on a multiphase plan to assess the industry’s footprint. Led by the National Pork Board, a group representing the pork food chain is working to assess the industry’s carbon footprint from feed to fork with a goal to identify areas where producers can continue the trend of producing more pork using few resources in an ever-more eco-friendly and economically sustainable way.2 In 2011, the industry introduced a carbon footprint calculator that allows pork producers to assess the carbon footprint of their farm facilities and can help point the way toward achieving greater efficiencies.
Q: How are pork producers good stewards of the country’s natural resources?
A: Producers know that environmental stewardship is not only good business but also it’s the right thing to do. People in the business of animal agriculture have always been keenly aware that environmental conservation is in their long-term interest, and they understand the importance of being good neighbors and stewards of the land. Accordingly, America’s pork producers have funded innovative research and technology and developed education and management training programs that promote responsible environmental practices. The industry actively seeks to safeguard land, air and water potentially affected by pig farming operations.
Q: What do pork producers do to minimize their impact on the environment?
A: The pork industry has a long history of proactively addressing environmental stewardship. As a result, pork producers utilize various management practices to control and mitigate potential emissions from their operations. These practices range from using natural vegetative wind breaks, plant buffers or fan filters to minimize the movement of dust and odor, to innovative methods for storing and handling animal waste and reusing it as fertilizer for cropland. Ongoing research in this area will lead to even more environmentally sound practices for producers to utilize.
Q: How do pork producers manage animal manure safely?
A: Elements in pig manure all are naturally occurring compounds that biodegrade or easily dissipate. For thousands of years, farmers have practiced sustainable agriculture by using manure as fertilizer to grow crops; some of those crops were then fed to animals, continuing the beneficial cycle. Modern pork farms use manure storage and handling structures that safely contain manure at the production site until it is applied to cropland as fertilizer. Agricultural scientists continue to develop innovative methods for applying and reusing animal manure safely and responsibly.
Q: What is a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP)?
A: A CNMP is a conservation plan specific to an individual farm. It outlines practices and management activities designed to ensure both production and natural resource conservation goals for a specific farm are achieved.
Q: What do pork producers do to minimize odors from a pork facility?
A: Pork producers want to be good neighbors and control odors as much as possible. Pork producers use a number of options to minimize odors. For example, storage systems that are protected from the wind will release fewer odors than those that are exposed to airflow across the manure’s surface. A process known as anaerobic treatment is very effective at controlling odor. Simply covering collected waste is also very helpful. And pork producers use natural windbreaks such as strategically planted trees to reduce the spread of odors from facilities.3
Q: What is the pork industry doing to conserve energy?
A: The pork industry seeks to be a responsible consumer of energy resources. As business people, pork producers naturally want to minimize their energy costs; they have built-in incentives to transport animals, feed and other supplies as efficiently as possible. They also conserve energy usage at production facilities by using natural sunlight vs. artificial light and proper insulation to minimize heating and cooling costs. The industry’s new carbon footprint calculator also helps producers in their quest to conserve energy and be as efficient and eco-friendly as possible.
Q: What environmental regulations apply to pork production?
A: Areas of environmental regulation include: groundwater, surface water and air quality; animal and manure disposal; land and soil quality; and land use. Typically, permits are required at state and local levels for construction of structures ranging from animal housing units to waste storage systems. Operating permits for manure handling also may be required. As in other industries, pork producers must meet or exceed all local, state and federal environmental regulations, as well as worker health and safety requirements.
Additional information about safeguarding natural resources in pork production can be found at the following resources:
Video: The Stink Called Manure
Video: Environmental Stewards
To learn more about responsible animal agriculture, visit porkcares.org.
1National Pork Producers Council: www.nppc.org/Issues/EnvironmentEnergy.htm
2National Pork Board: www.pork.org/filelibrary/CarbonFootprintSciTech%20final.pdf
3National Pork Board: www.pork.org/Resources/146/PlanningSitingDiversion.aspx