NE1044: Whole farm dairy and beef systems: gaseous emissions, P management, organic production, and pasture based production
Statement of Issues and JustificationLivestock farms face a number of environmental concerns including both water and air quality issues. Stakeholders and regulators agree that attaining the dual goals of profitability and environmental accountability are major challenges facing animal agriculture. Under current economic conditions with increasing input costs and stagnant or decreasing product prices, many farms are struggling to survive. The additional costs of mitigating environmental impacts may accelerate farm exit. Producers need to control or reduce leaching of nutrients to ground water, runoff of nutrients in surface water, release of hazardous compounds to the atmosphere and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These potential impacts are interrelated, so regulations to reduce one environmental problem may aggravate another. A proper assessment of management changes and mitigation technologies requires a comprehensive approach, which integrates all important management decisions, environmental and economic impacts, and their interactions. Traditional experimental methods must be combined with systems approaches to adequately address such complex environmental challenges. Monitoring all the relevant aspects of farms would be very costly, and likely impossible at any cost. A more feasible approach is to use process-level simulation, as recommended by the National Research Council (2003), to evaluate the environmental and economic implications of production systems.
The scope of this work requires a multi-state approach because the needed technical expertise is not present at any one location and because livestock production systems vary so much across the country. In addition, the most pressing environmental problems differ by region. The investigators participating in this project represent various disciplines with a broad range of knowledge and skills from field research to modeling, and all regions of the country. Coordinated efforts through this project will advance our understanding of these issues and identify strategies and management practices to mitigate environmental problems while maintaining farm profitability. The products and tools developed by this project will be used by a wide range of audiences including service and supply dealers, producers, nutrient management planners, policy makers, and extension and university educators.
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