I have been following the sustainability and profitability discussion with great interest, as we are in the
process of implementing a project to offer consumers the opportunity to support environmentally sound dairy
farming while preserving economic viability for regional farmers.
The project is known as the Environmental Quality Initiative, and has been created by the Dairy Network
Partnership (DNP). The DNP is a collaboration of agencies and organizations including the Chesapeake Bay
Foundation, The Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Rodale
Institute, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. We have been joined by Sunnydale Farms and Natural Dairy
Products Corporation to link consumers with farmers in an effort to protect our shared natural resources.
The Environmental Quality Initiative involves a one-year test market of a "mark" designed to alert consumers of
their opportunity to directly participate in environmental protection, and to support the sustainability of
farming in our communities. The EQI mark will be placed on a new line of milk, called "Chesapeake Milk",
created by the DNP to carry the message to consumers that their purchases can make a difference. With each
purchase of a half gallon of Chesapeake Milk, five cents of their purchase price is deposited into a
"stewardship fund", which is returned to particpating farmers in two ways:
* Farmers are evaluated using the Environmental Farmstead Evaluation (adapted from the national Farm*A*Syst).
Those who have achieved a threshold score indicating excellence in environmental management qualify for an EQI
premium on their milk checks.
*The second portion of the stewardship fund will be distributed as cost-share for those farmers interested in
implementing best management practices to qualify them to recieve the preimium. The DNP works with interested
farmers in conjunction with NRCS, conservation district and other technical experts to develop a plan that
meets site-specific needs and fits operational goals for sustainable economic and environmental improvements.
This project is completely voluntary, non-regulatory, and consumer driven. It is designed to enhance
profitability as a reward for something valuable to all of us, for now and for the future. We recognize it is
one step of many that must be taken on the road to profitable, sustainable agriculture in our communities.
For more information, check out the site at www.eqinitiative.com
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