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Pork Production: Building an EMS
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Best Management Practices
Environmental Impacts
Building an EMS
Alternative Technologies
Complete List of Links

Building an Environmental Management System

Today's modern swine production operations require sound management and orderly approaches to managing environmental affairs. Increasingly, producers are turning to environmental management system (EMSs), an organized approach to identify and manage activities that could impact the environment, as a management tool.

While manufacturers initially used EMSs, they are emerging as beneficial tools to help livestock producers better manage their environmental performance. Various state and federal projects offer EMS models for pork, beef, poultry, and dairy livestock producers as well as egg producers. Most often, an EMS model is based on the international voluntary standard ISO 14001 adopted in 1996. Since the adoption of the ISO 14001 standard, steady growth has been seen in EMS implementation by organizations representing different sectors, including agriculture and agribusiness.

EMS Overview for Agriculture Producers

An EMS helps producers develop strategies for integrating environmental considerations into production decisions and long-term planning. It is voluntary, flexible, and begins with the producer's knowledge and sense of how to best manage their operations. This approach evaluates production from start to finish and provides a framework for making continual improvement, meeting regulatory requirements, and demonstrating environmental stewardship.

Most producers already have many elements of an EMS in place with plans for managing manure, pests, and nutrients. Also keeping records on soil testing, chemical use and application, mortality management, and worker training constitute a major part of an EMS. With this program, one can identify and prioritize environmental risks and develop an action plan to address them. The EMS sequence of plan, implement, check, and improve offers a common-sense approach to improved farm management and enables one to continually improve his or her operations.

For further discussion of the fundamentals of an EMS for agricultural operations go to the University of Nebraska's Livestock Environmental Management Systems at Additionally, Frequently Asked Questions concerning design, implementation, and maintenance of EMSs for agriculture operations can be found at

EMS Assistance Tools for Pork Producers

As larger farms began to recognize the value of implementing an EMS based on the ISO 14001 model, it became evident that assistance and tools were needed to help smaller farms that might be interested in using this approach. A variety of tools have been developed by public and private organizations. The following were created to facilitate design, implementation, and maintenance of an EMS for agriculture and pork producers:

IERE Sustainable Agriculture Program

IERE is a nonprofit organization with offices in Washington state and Iowa that supports environmental decision making based on factual information. Its EMS is built on international voluntary standards for environmental management (the ISO 14000 series) and has three components:

  • a farm and facility-based environmental management system;
  • ecolabels, which give a marketing edge to environmentally friendly products; and
  • a community environmental board, which links producers and processors to their communities.

Each element can stand on its own feet, but together they make a complete community-based program. Go to for a discussion and examples of creating an EMS for agriculture operations.

EMS for Pork Producers

The North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance has created a helpful tool to build an EMS. This tool displays the 17 elements of the ISO 14001 EMS model. For guidance on a specific element, the user can click on the highlighted element and access sample procedures or tools (e.g., checklists, calendars, sample records/forms). Refer to for this agriculture EMS resource.

EMS for Swine Production Operations

Murphy-Brown LLC and the N.C. DPPEA developed the Environmental Management System for Swine Production Operations tool. By utilizing the information on this site, a user should be able to create an EMS that will bring value to his or her business and be able to recognize the organization's environmental impacts and how to manage them successfully. Refer to to access this tool.

Environmental Protection Agency and Agricultural EMS
EPA encourages organizations to use environmental management systems that improve compliance, pollution prevention, and other measures of environmental performance. EPA will continue to learn more about which EMS elements and applications are most effective, and determine how these systems might be used to strengthen environmental programs and policies. To learn more, refer to

Additional Swine Producer EMS Resources

Publications and resources related to agricultural environmental management systems provided by the University of Wisconsin Farm and Home Environmental Management Programs. and

These links include many EMS resources including EMS guidance and EMS benefits to farm operations.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Pork Production Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange
Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange
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Hub Last Updated: 3/18/2009