What's it mean to be MAEAP-verified?
Farming has changed over the years with the additions of more and heavier equipment, various chemicals and the need to take advantage of as much of the land as possible. In the process of producing for a growing population, a few negative products have made their way onto the many acres of crops and pasture. In 1997, the collaborative efforts of farmers, commodity representatives, state and federal agencies, and conservation and environmental groups created the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) to provide opportunities for those who were interested in managing the pollution concerns and its impact on the environment.
Over 20 years later, the program has been appreciated by over 2300 farms of varying sizes that are producing a myriad of agricultural goods. There are three steps to the process of being MAEAP verified: Education, Risk Assessment and Management Changes, and Third-Party Verification.
Within the Education aspect, the participant attends sessions through the program that are offered both online and in the classroom. They will gain knowledge about the program and regulations that affect their operations. There are numerous sessions available on the MAEAP website that can be taken advantage of.
The next step is the Risk Assessment and Management Changes where the farmer will work with a certified MAEAP technician developing a plan for the implementation of improvements needed. The technician has a network of resources and ideas to help design the necessary modifications for the day-to-day running of the operation. They can also suggest ways to care for the environment while continuing to farm the land.
The final phase is the Third-Party Verification which is done by a representative from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). They will come to the operation by invitation from the farmer and evaluate whether the qualifications have been met for the first two phases and that the farm is following the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs). These (GAAMPs) are updated on a yearly basis to reflect the most current technology and practices for promoting positive care for the land and environment.
Producers who are interested in pursuing the verification are offered four different areas of focus; They are cropping, livestock and farmstead with a new topic of forestry, wetland and habitat. The participants are encouraged to work toward any or all of the areas as they tend to be interconnected. A long-term plan will be developed to assist the farmer in the continuation of quality environmental practices.
Once verification is given, the farm receives a sign proclaiming their accomplishments and intentions. If you are interested in upgrading your farm’s environmental management practices, your county extension office or soil conservation office will be willing to point you in the right direction. Additional information can be found at www.maeap.org.