Environmental Champions Program
Welcome to the Environmental Champions Program (ECP).
The ECP is an innovative voluntary program designed by farmers for farmers to help improve on-farm environmental management and deliver on the industry’s environmental goals.
Designed specifically for rice based farming systems, the ECP was developed in collective agreement with growers, industry, local NRM groups, irrigation companies and the Australian Government.
It aims to assist rice growers improve both the environmental and economic performance of their farms, which in turn contributes to the social fabric of our communities. The ECP does this by facilitating grower to grower learning opportunities and recognition of achievement through a five level accreditation program.
With NSW DPI agronomists no longer providing production advice to farmers in our region, the ECP will be integrated within the rice industry’s levy funded extension framework. Levy funds have been invested to update and streamline the delivery of the program, so growers will receive environmental management information as part of the industry’s broader production advisory service.
The rice industry delivers a range of government funded environmental projects through the ECP network. Recently, these have included projects on stubble management, on-farm soil testing, measuring greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging biodiversity in the home paddock, and protecting the endangered Australasian Bittern.
Structure and delivery
The ECP is a farmer-driven accreditation program that provides a supportive environment for farmers to share knowledge about adaptive, best practice resource management and industry recognition for participants’ achievements. ECP accreditation standards are designed to ensure that farmer achievements are not only beneficial for the environment, but also make practical business sense.
The five achievement levels cover performance across the industry’s key areas of water, air, soils, habitat and community.
Level 1: Basic industry standards
Level 1 is the entry point for the ECP. Participants need to demonstrate regulatory compliance in all relevant areas (water, air quality and environmental offsets).
Level 2: Planning beyond current on-farm practices
Accreditation at Level 2 requires demonstrated strategic farm planning to improve resource use management by providing a platform for adopting best management practice. This includes farm risk assessment, planning for irrigation layout and soil health improvements, energy auditing and habitat planning.
Level 3: Implementing best practice management on farm
Accreditation at Level 3 requires demonstrated adoption of best practice management within three or more of the industry’s five key areas of water, soil, air, habitat and community. Guidance on best practice management is contained in the industry’s environmental policy statement.
Level 4: Fostering innovative practices
Accreditation is gained at Level 4 by developing and/or trialling innovative farm management practices to improve performance in one of the industry’s five key areas of water, soil, air, habitat and community. The areas of soil health and water use efficiency are particular areas where on farm trials of innovation would be beneficial.
Level 5: Driving industry wide environmental improvements
Accreditation at Level 5 will be granted to those who have achieved significant industry or community benefit by spreading the adoption of innovative practice change. This includes developing innovative practice from concept through to effective and widespread adoption, developing partnerships with a range of groups to achieve significant environmental improvements, or developing innovative systems that enable broad participation in environmental stewardship activities.
Lessons learnt from the ECP
The ECP was developed in the early 2000's and formal commencement of the program began in 2002.
The ECP has achieved notable results during this time and in 2012 the RGA, with the support of the Murray CMA, worked together to collate the outcomes and lessons learnt from the program since its inception.
The project involved gathering input from ECP participants, the rice industry and partner organisations to reflect the ECP’s achievements and potential future direction.
Click here to read about the outcomes and lessons learnt.