Today I travel to North Platte to participate in a staff retreat for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. The NDEQ is the state regulatory agency that oversees environmental quality in Nebraska. One of its responsibilities is to oversee the NPDES permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) relative to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s).
As a CAFO, I hold a NPDES permit. It is my job to make sure that I manage my farm in compliance with my permit — It is the NDEQ’s job to audit my management performance to ensure that I am doing an appropriate job. The EPA also has the jurisdiction to come to my farm and conduct an audit as they are the federal agency that oversees the performance of both the NDEQ and any individual NPDES permit holder.
Ideally, our ability to work together as a team leads to realistic and effective care of the natural resources that exist on my farm. The relationship between a government regulator and a cattle farmer is a unique one as we sometimes bring different perspectives to the goal of environmental protection. However, I can certainly recognize the need for environmental stewardship and have found the NDEQ to be a fair partner in my quest to grow sustainable beef.
I have been invited to speak to the group about Low Stress Cattle Handling and how this animal welfare philosophy plays a role in the sustainable cycle of my farm. Over the years, I have found that increasing animal comfort and limiting stress are key factors to improving efficiency as my cattle work to grow beef. The amount of natural resources (feed and water) that it takes to grow beef are the primary determinants of the environmental footprint of my cattle farm — Therefore, it is always my goal to set my animals up for success to be efficient convertors of those natural resources.
I am excited to address and interact with this group for a myriad of reasons, but perhaps the biggest is my constant desire to create an atmosphere of collaboration amongst groups as we all strive to be good stewards. It is true that my farm has an environmental footprint — it takes resources to grow food and my farm causes a change in the distribution of those resources. What makes me a good caretaker is garnering the necessary knowledge of how to raise beef in the best way to protect my farm and use it’s resources wisely.
Each and every one of us has an environmental impact, together we can strive for harmony — both amongst ourselves and with our planet…