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New Rainforest Alliance Standard Targets Cattle Farming

The Rainforest Alliance has launched a new certification aimed at helping cattle farms improve their environmental and social performance.

The new certification standard from RA and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to help farmers mitigate a slew of environmental problems associated with cattle production, such as deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

It is targeted specifically at farms where cattle have access to pasture and are located in the tropical regions of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

The standard, which was finalized in July, emphasizes integrated management systems, animal welfare, sustainable pasture management, animal welfare, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"This can be accomplished by giving the animals a diet that is easier to digest -- generating fewer methane emissions -- treating their manure and conserving trees on pasture lots, in forest reserves or as live fences," Oliver Bach, Rainforest Alliance standards and policy manager, said in fact sheet on the new standard.

Cattle farms certified to the standard can then the RA seal for marketing purposes and to differentiate their products from competitors. They also may potentially open up a revenue stream from the underlying ecosystem services, such as generation credits for carbon sequestration or watershed protection.

The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of NGOs that creates the criteria for the Rainforest Alliance Certified program -- began developing the standard in November 2007 because existing initiatives failed to address all sustainability challenges from Latin American beef production.

The United Nations estimates that 26 percent of the Earth's surface is used for animal grazing.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user BinaryApe.

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