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CATIE Dairy Farm in Costa Rica Becomes Nation’s First to Achieve Rainforest Alliance Certification

The Rainforest Alliance announces that CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center)—a commercial farm located 50 miles northeast of San Jose, Costa Rica--has achieved Rainforest Alliance certification for its dairy operations, making it the nation’s first cattle farm to earn the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM seal. To achieve certification, the farm met the comprehensive standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), which promote the humane treatment of livestock, conserve natural resources and protect the rights and well-being of workers and communities.

“This achievement marks a significant milestone in the Costa Rican cattle industry,” exclaimed Ana Lucía Corrales, agricultural certification manager for the Rainforest Alliance. “As the first Rainforest Alliance Certified cattle farm in the country, CATIE demonstrates that dairy farming can be done in a sustainable way that curbs deforestation, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and promotes the ethical treatment of the animals.” 

Located in the lush valley of Turialba, CATIE’s commercial farm covers more than 1,490 acres (603 hectares) of land dedicated to cattle farming, coffee, sugarcane and forestry products. Over 408 acres (165 hectares) are designated as pastureland, accommodating the herd of 324 cattle, including 123 dairy cows. The farm supplies its milk to Dos Pinos, Costa Rica’s leading and largest dairy cooperative. 

“Earning Rainforest Alliance certification is a significant accomplishment for CATIE. As a commercial farm, the environmentally sustainable practices implemented in our dairy operations have to be balanced with the profitability of the farm,” commented José Joaquín Campos, general director of CATIE. “This farm will now serve as a training and education resource that will allow us to demonstrate that it is possible to produce a quality product while conserving the environment.”

CATIE is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, protecting wildlife habitat and conserving natural resources. Forested areas located adjacent to the coffee producing sections of the farm are conserved, providing habitat for a variety of wildlife. The farm now keeps an inventory of mammals and birds identified on the farm, which includes species such as the neotropical otter (Lontra longicaudis), listed as an endangered species as a result of loss of habitat. 

To meet the standards for Rainforest Alliance certification, CATIE also had to adopt socially sustainable practices that respect the rights and well-being of workers and provide resident workers with respectable housing, electricity and water. 

Launched in 2010, the SAN Standard for sustainable cattle production promotes animal welfare, sustainable land-use and climate change mitigation. To achieve certification, farms must provide cattle with access to pastures and ensure that animals are treated ethically. Certified farms must reduce their carbon footprint by providing cattle with an easy to digest diet—generating less methane emissions—treating manure and protecting the trees in pastures and neighboring forested areas. In addition, farms are required to conserve waterways, adopt waste management practices and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities.

Forest canopy - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

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