Business/Policy

May 15, 2017, Raleigh, NC – PrairieChar, a Kansas company developing a system to convert animal manure into useful products, won the $10,000 cash prize and $3,500 in legal and financial advice at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center's 2017 Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase.PrairieChar Chairman and CEO Robert Herrington said he started the company because his wife made him buy her a horse farm. He suffered a broken back when a tree fell on him as he was clearing a pasture. Lying in bed recuperating, he called friends in California and asked them to send him business plans to review. One caught his eye."We're in the manure business," Herrington said of what has become his new adventure. "We take something you don't want and turn it into something you do."Manure is a cost center in the cattle, swine and poultry industries. It causes disposal and environmental problems. In North Carolina, one of the top swine producers in the nation, manure from swine and poultry adds up to 40 billion pounds a year. Swine manure put into lagoons causes odor and environmental problems that Herrington believes can be solved with PrairieChar's technology.PrairieChar, which Herrington said was engineered to be a scalable, cost-effective solution, is developing machines the size of cargo containers that can be placed next to a manure pile. The manure never has to be transported more than 300 feet. The company's revenue-share model means it gets the manure for nothing and farmers turn a cost center into a revenue stream.The machines turn the manure into two valuable sterile products, he said. The process eliminates emissions into the air and removes soil and water hazards. One product produced is a "100 percent OMRI organic fertilizer that can reduce conventional fertilizer needs."The other is a sustainable, renewable coal substitute that produces an ash that is actually valuable instead of being an environmental hazard like coal ash. It is 90 percent pure phosphate that can be sold for 25-cents to one-dollar a pound."We can change the way we're dealing with environmental issues," Herrington said. "We could convert manure into 33 million tons of our products annually."It would also create jobs paying $50,000 to $70,000 annually in rural America, he added.The machines cost $550,000 to build. The company recently opened a Series A round looking for $5 million. Although the company currently plans to begin operations on cattle manure in Kansas, Herrington said that if enough of its funding comes from North Carolina, it will target swine manure "sooner rather than later."
May 10, 2017, Bonduel, WI – While AgSource Laboratories is not "older than dirt," the organization does have a 50-year history of analyzing soil and contributing to the overall health and productivity of thousands of acres of land.What started as a county extension milk lab has grown into a full service agronomy lab, complete with nutrient management planning and GPS soil sampling services.AgSource Laboratories, in Bonduel, Wis., became a part of AgSource (then called ARC, Agricultural Records Cooperative) in August 1967. That first year, the lab processed just 5,301 soil samples. Today, the lab can analyze that many samples in under two days."We're very proud of the lab's long history," notes Steve Peterson, AgSource Vice President of Laboratory Services. "Bonduel has been a great community to work in. Thank you to our friends in Bonduel and thank you to our customers for 50 terrific years!"Over the years, the laboratory has specialized in forage, soil, plant tissue and manure testing. While forage testing is no longer offered, agronomy services have expanded to include VRT fertilizer recommendations, GPS soil sampling and nutrient management planning."Every day in the lab is different, which keeps things fun," comments Peterson. "It should be interesting to see how we continue to adapt and grow in the future."AgSource Laboratories, in Bonduel, Wis., will officially celebrate 50 years of soil testing services this August 2017. Customers, friends and community members are welcome to attend several special events this summer at the laboratory, located at 106 North Cecil Street. Stay tuned for more fun, 50th celebration announcements.• June Dairy Month Ice Cream Social – Wednesday, June 14, 2-4 pm• Anniversary Celebration Open House – Wednesday, August 16, 2-5 pmFor more information, visit, http://agsource.com/
March 29, 2017, Des Moines, IA – Ben Puck, owner of Puck Custom Enterprises (PCE) in Manning, Iowa, was recently named Iowa’s 2017 Small Business Person of the Year.
February 3, 2017 – Kuhn North America, Inc. is looking for customers and dealers to submit high-quality photos of their Kuhn branded equipment to be featured in an upcoming calendar. Photos need to be in .JPEG format (minimum of 2,000 pixels wide, 300 dpi) and should be submitted to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .'; document.write( '' ); document.write( addy_text41974 ); document.write( '' ); //--> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it All entries are due to Kuhn North America, Inc. no later than June 30, 2017. Up to 15 entries will be selected as winners at the discretion of the Kuhn North America marketing department. Winning entries will be announced the week of July 3, 2017. Winning contestants will each receive a calendar featuring their winning photo and a $75 gifts and gear promotional gift certificate. The odds of winning will depend on the number of eligible entries. If you have questions, please contact the Kuhn North America at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or send a message to the Kuhn North America Facebook or Twitter pages. To view the full contest rules, please visit the following website: http://www.kuhnnorthamerica.com/us/news-kuhn-calendar-photo-contest.html.
December 8, 2016, Smithfield, VA – Smithfield Foods, Inc. recently became the first major protein company to announce a far-reaching greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal throughout its entire supply chain, from feed grain to packaged bacon. By 2025, Smithfield will reduce its absolute GHG emissions by 25 percent. When achieved, this goal will reduce emissions by more than four million metric tons, equivalent to removing 900,000 cars from the road. Smithfield collaborated with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in setting its goal. "We are proud to lead the industry and set another first by launching an endeavor that is both environmentally beneficial and economically feasible," said Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer for Smithfield Foods. "While we will have unique challenges meeting this goal as the world's largest pork processor and hog producer, our size and scale also means that, if successful, we can make a significant, positive impact. Our mission is to produce 'Good food. Responsibly.' This announcement is yet another acknowledgement of our commitment to doing just that." Smithfield collaborated with the University of Minnesota's NorthStar Institute for Sustainable Enterprise to estimate its GHG footprint, creating a robust model that can assist other protein companies in analyzing their own footprints. EDF served as an adviser in the development of the commitment. "There is much work ahead for Smithfield to reach its goal," said Fred Krupp, EDF president. "Success will require collaboration with farmers and others in the agricultural industry. We encourage companies to follow Smithfield's leadership to make ambitious commitments to improve air and water quality. It's important that the private sector play a role in protecting our natural resources." This commitment impacts operations across Smithfield's supply chain, on company-owned farms, at processing facilities and throughout its transportation network. In its grain supply chain, Smithfield is collaborating with EDF to improve fertilizer efficiency and soil health, which will reduce nitrous oxide emissions from grain farms. On its hog farms, Smithfield will incorporate renewable energy and reuse projects that utilize technology such as anaerobic digesters and lagoon covers. Smithfield aims to install these technologies on at least 30 percent of company-owned farms. Smithfield will also continue to adopt measures that improve animal efficiency, resulting in improved feed conversion and productivity while reducing carbon emissions. At its processing facilities, Smithfield will continue to improve energy efficiency through refrigeration, boiler and other equipment upgrades. Smithfield is optimizing its logistics network to better manage its animal and product transportation while reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions. The absolute greenhouse gas emissions reduction will be measured from a 2010 baseline. Efforts toward this goal already underway will be included in the final results.
August 10, 2016 - Successful businesses depend on good employees. And finding good employees can be a tough task for farmers looking to maintain or expand their businesses. That was the message that Bernie Erven, Ohio State University professor emeritus, shared during the Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference Jan. 24 at the Lansing Center. “Employee relations is one key to the growth of Michigan agriculture,” says Dale Rozeboom, Michigan State University Extension specialist and one of the conference organizers. “We invited Dr. Erven because we know that farmers often struggle when trying to hire and keep the best possible talent.” Erven kicked off the conference by challenging attendees to think of a business that was thriving while its people were failing. He wasn’t surprised when none of the 75 people in attendance could come up with an example. “No one single thing is more important than the people you hire,” he says, adding that far too many farmers try to keep everything in the family, even when it’s not in their best interest. “In agriculture, the hardest thing many people have to do is decide which family members to invite into the business.” He suggested that business leaders develop a job description before making assumptions about family members’ fit in the organization. “Before you even think about whom to hire, do a job analysis. Outline the job qualifications and put together a job description,” he says. “Too often the rule is ‘Anybody who needs a job in this family gets hired.’ But businesses that succeed hire only if they have a need in the business and the person fits.” Next, he says, it’s important to build a pool of applicants. That means taking a long, hard look at how you spread the word about open positions. “Talk to existing employees and find out why they like working for you,” he said. “If you want to hire seniors, for example, find out what they want and focus on that in your communication.” As a final step, Erven says that interviewing is key to hiring success, even when hiring family members. “Who else gets a job without an interview?” he asked the crowd. “An interview with family members can uncover a lot of information, both good and bad.” And with outside candidates, he said that being a good interviewer is critical. “There is no worse place to lose outstanding applicants than in a poor interview,” he pointed out. “It’s up to you to come across as a person they want to work for.” Erven was one of six professionals chosen by Michigan State University Extension to discuss important concepts necessary to keep Michigan agriculture on a growth curve. You can see his suggestions for being a great interviewer, as well as other presentations by experts from across the country, on the Michigan State University Extension website, www.msue.msu.edu. Click on “Agriculture” and look for “Growing Michigan Agriculture Proceedings” in the Resource channel in the lower right section of the site. This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
June 2, 2016, London, OH – A little over two months remain before this year’s edition of the North American Manure Expo (NAME), being held August 3 and 4, 2016, near London, Ohio. Registration is free and available online here. Two action-packed days have been planned. On August 3, attendees can choose from one of three tours, including dairy, beef plus composting and nutrient management. Pit agitation and solid/liquid manure separation demonstrations will also be held at a local dairy in the afternoon. The Manure Expo grounds open at 3 p.m. with educational sessions involving a presentation from Livestock Water Recycling, Puck Pump School plus information on small farm manure management and cover crops. On August 4, the grounds will open at 7:30 a.m. and feature a full day of educational sessions covering everything from anaerobic digestion to water quality. Manure application demonstrations, including solid and liquid manure spreaders, compost turners, subsurface drainage plus spreader calibration, are also planned. The event is being held at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center, home of Ohio’s Farm Science Review, located near London, Ohio. For more information on the 2016 North American Manure Expo, including a detailed agenda of tours and educational sessions plus directions to the Molly Caren Agricultural Center, please click here. The North American Manure Expo provides a perfect opportunity for custom applicators and livestock producers to advance their knowledge of manure-nutrient utilization while showcasing the latest technology in manure handling, treatment and application. The 2015 expo, held in Chambersburg, Penn., was a winner of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. The 2016 edition of the show promises to be just as exciting and educational. The 2016 North American Manure Expo is being hosted by The Ohio State University and the Midwest Professional Nutrient Applicators Association. The event is owned by the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin. Annex Business Media, publisher of Manure Manager magazine, serves as the show manager.
February 3, 2016, Chambersburg, PA – A roughly four-hour forum on the Wilson College campus Saturday on so-called “factory farming,” drew 75 people or more. The basic problem voiced was how to feed a growing world population with diminishing resources without turning much of the planet into a poisonous, stinking mess. READ MORE
February 2, 2016, Columbus, OH — Scientists are actively pursuing answers to how nutrients are moving and leaving farmers’ fields in the western Lake Erie basin, and the results could be a little surprising. Mark Williams, a Columbus-based soil drainage researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gave Ohio Farmers Union members an update on research regarding tile drainage and surface runoff. READ MORE
July 31, 2015, Aledo, IL – In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 500 farmers died on the job, while another 70,000 suffered disabling injuries. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) was in Aledo July 30 to attempt to keep area farmers from becoming one of those statistics. Brad Kruse of NECAS emphasized manure pit safety during his about two-hour presentation. As part of the presentation, he brought the NECAS Confined Space Manure Pit Simulator. READ MORE
February 3, 2015, Green Bay, WI – As the animal agriculture industry evolves, the handing of manure is becoming more complex with waste streams processed for energy, fertilizer, bedding and potable water production. To keep abreast of the latest technologies and techniques in animal waste management, University of Wisconsin-Extension invites you to the 2015 Midwest Manure Summit being held February 24 and 25, 2015, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay, Wisc. During this two-day event, industry leaders will discuss manure separation and treatment technologies, including: water recycling systems, liquid-solid separation systems, anaerobic digesters, odor management, manure irrigation, and more. Nationally recognized speakers include: Dr. John Chastain, associate professor, Agricultural Waste Management, Clemson University who will be discussing Planning a Solid-Liquid Separation System to Meet Manure Treatment and Management Goals Dr. Kevin Janni, professor, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota speaking on Manure Odor Management Dr. Mark Powell, soil scientist, USDA-ARS, US Dairy Forage Research Center presenting on The Rations We Feed Dairy Cattle Impact Manure Chemistry and Nutrient Dynamics in Soil, Water and Air Doug Renk, biological commissioning engineer, BIOFerm USA, discussing Compact, Containerized Anaerobic Digester: On-Farm Energy Creation for Small-Medium Dairies Dr. Ariel Szogi, soil scientist, USDA-ARS, Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plant Research Center will be presenting on Nutrient Recovery Technologies from Animal Manure Farm tours of two local dairies, one utilizing a methane digester for manure treatment and energy production, round out the second day the summit. Early bird registration for the 2015 Midwest Manure Summit is $195 for the two-day conference, which includes printed proceedings, lunches, transportation to and from the featured farms, and refreshments. One-day registration and late registration (after February 16, 2015) is also available. A complete agenda, speaker list, and registration details can be found in the brochure or on the summit website at http://www.midwestmanure.com. Questions regarding the Midwest Manure Summit can be directed to its co-chairmen: Liz Binversie, Brown County UW-Extension agriculture educator, at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 920-391-4612, or Eric Ronk, Calumet County UW-Extension agriculture agent at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 920-849-1450 Ext: 2. The 2015 Midwest Manure Summit is sponsored by UW-Extension, Bauer North America, DAIRYBUSINESS, Komro Sales, Manure Manager, AgSource Laboratories, Livestock Water Recycling, Inc, and Puck Custom Enterprises, Inc.
October 2014, Miami, FL – Unless you're one of few people who didn't recoil in horror at Two Girls, One Cup, it’s likely you don’t find poop particularly sexy. But the folks at Miami’s Fertile Earth Foundation are working to show the public that “waste” has a purpose, and embracing its awesomeness can help save the planet. Starring 12 super-sexy, eco-conscious ladies slathered in South Floridian shit, the 2015 Ladies of Manure calendar is coming soon. READ MORE
March 11, 2014, Twin Falls, ID – Researchers are beginning to put that principle to work to help create “designer” manures to prevent build up of macronutrients in the soil, but feed costs will limit how widely the practice is adopted. Increasing potassium and sodium levels, which are both salts, increases the concentration found in urine but also does not impact milk content, explained Rick Norell, University of Idaho extension dairy specialist in eastern Idaho, during the UI nutrient management conference held recently. READ MORE    
December 23. 2013, Stanislaus County — They have helped save endangered geese, and controlled manure and reduced water use, all the while producing food in and near Stanislaus County.Six operations in the region are among 45 recognized statewide by the American Farmland Trust in a report called Profiles in Stewardship. The Washington, D.C.-based group highlighted efforts by farmers and ranchers to protect the environment and livestock. READ MORE
November 8, 2013 – Making plastic from renewable resources is no new feat.But for the past six years, scientists at the University of Idaho have been working diligently to tap into one biomass resource that has yet to be exploited in the plastics industry: dairy manure. READ MORE
Customers often ask custom manure applicator Eric Dresbach to point out where he has land applied the manure from their hog or dairy farms because when they inspect the job, they can’t smell it. He takes that as a compliment. It means that his philosophy of providing good training for staff and delivering quality service for more than 25 years is working. He believes that if applicators want to be treated like professionals, then they have to behave like professionals. He adds that the JCB tractors, Houle honey wagons and Dietrich shanks, which he uses exclusively in his fleet to apply the manure exactly where it is needed to maximize nutrient value to crops, also deserve a lot of credit. Dresbach owns W.D. Farms Inc, located in Circleville, Ohio, about 25 miles from Columbus. They custom apply between 30 and 40 million gallons of liquid manure annually, typically transporting the manure to fields five to eight miles from the manure source, and have worked in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Normal business radius is about 200 miles from home base. The company employs five to 10 people, depending on the time of year. After finishing college in 1980 with a degree in agronomy from the Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI), a branch of Ohio State University, Dresbach began farming in partnership with his dad and brother. “The early ’80s was a tough time for a beginning farmer, so I started a grain and fertilizer trucking company called W.D. Farms in the fall of 1985,” he says. He bought out his partner in 1995 and at that time began focusing entirely on custom manure application. “Our specialty is liquid manure,” says Dresbach. “It can be anything from up close ‘pump and dump’ with tractors and honey wagons to where we put it in a semi, run it up the road, transfer it to a honey wagon and then apply the product. We have become a very good traveling circus because of this practice.” The majority of the company’s business is done with hog producers. He and his staff also provide their services to the dairy industry. They typically inject hog manure and broadcast dairy manure. Dresbach prefers to describe his company as a custom provider of “organic nutrient recycling” rather than custom manure application because this description presents manure as having value as a natural fertilizer. But he also recognizes that it requires careful management. “We always do what is right no matter what and always assume someone is watching.” That’s the first principle that the company has posted on its website, closely followed by, “we believe in good housekeeping at all times.” Dresbach knows that his service isn’t the cheapest among custom manure applicators in his area, and that can be a tough position to take in a weak economy with the agriculture industry struggling. But he is more interested in building a clientele of repeat customers who understand the value in his service than in racing around a field doing a mediocre job just to pad his bottom line. “In the long run, we’re the cheaper option,” he says, “but in the short run, it’s more dollars today but you have someone who cares.” He agrees with local agriculture extension experts who say that the value of the manure depends on the quality of the application. When the manure is properly injected, the nitrogen is retained in the soil and neighbors are happy because there is minimal odor emanating from the field. “I tell my employees that I don’t care if you are over the hill and behind the woods and you are faced with a situation where you could do it right or fast and easy,” says Dresbach. “You do what’s right.” Dresbach is the president of the Midwest Professional Nutrient Applicators Association, representing manure haulers in Ohio and Indiana. He is also a past board member of the Great Lakes Bio-Solids Management Association (USEPA Region 5). He, his tractor operators, and two of his three teenage children who are actively engaged and interested in being part of the business, have taken training to receive their Ohio certified livestock manager licenses. The Ohio Department of Agriculture requires this license for anyone handling more than 4,500 dry tons per year or 25 million gallons of liquid manure. Dresbach’s daughter has also started college at ATI, working toward her degree in agriculture business. W.D. Farms Inc. has a fleet consisting of three 7,000-gallon Houle honey wagons with Dietrich shanks for incorporation, pulled by 8310 and 8250 JCB Fastrac tractors. Each piece of the company’s fleet has been carefully selected for the value it brings to help W.D. Farms operate efficiently while performing quality service for customers. “We’ve been very happy with our new 8310 JCB tractor because we get about 15 percent better fuel economy and 42 miles per hour road speed,” says Dresbach. “It’s not unusual for us to move 50 miles at a time, so the road speed is huge and the suspension improves the quality of life for the operators.” The company has been using Houle honey wagons for about 16 years and staff appreciate the suspension-less steering system on the wagons. Dresbach describes it as a hydraulically captured loop system on the three-axle wagons, which allows it to roll over the terrain better, keeping the load more level and thus avoiding a weight shift to a single axle. This reduces breakage and the likelihood of putting a 40,000-pound load on one axle. “It also rides a lot smoother,” says Dresbach. “Combined with the suspension that is also on the tractor, when you come across a rise or a bump, it won’t even chatter. We don’t have drawbar wear and it’s an operator comfort issue.” Also, Dresbach says, with the honey wagons’ front and rear axles that can turn when traveling down the road, the wagons do practically no damage to roads compared to wagons on a fixed-axle system, which sometimes skid especially on turns. This also contributes to reduce wear and tear on their wagons. They’ve had two axle issues in 16 years with the Houle honey wagons. The hydraulic braking system on the tractor is also tied to the braking system on the honey wagon, resulting in improved safety. Behind the honey wagons, W.D. Farms pulls custom-built, nine shank incorporators with Dietrich manure injection systems. The amount that the company is able to apply, given the length of their incorporation system has a definite impact on the bottom line, as they are paid by the number of gallons applied. “Other tanker wagon companies are typically pulling only four or five shanks at 12 or 14 feet, but we are pulling nine shanks at 22.5 feet,” says Dresbach, which means that they can apply more manure in the same amount of time. The honey wagons are also equipped with a custom-built transfer system to pump the liquid manure from the semi-trailer trucks to the wagons. Dresbach has high praise for the Dietrich shanks, which shatter and fluff the soil and allow the manure to be applied exactly where it is needed. “We have very little manure showing on the surface,” says Dresbach. “It’s in the right place and undercover so that it doesn’t run off. That’s the only shank I will run.” The company’s fleet also consists of a 9220 John Deere tractor and four semi-trailer trucks with double conical tanks for long distance transport. Using this type of tank on each semi means it has a lower center of gravity, making transport more stable and the solids flow out of the tank from a lower centralized point. Dresbach says it is easier to keep the tanks clean, especially when transporting material with high solids content. They also have a VMI dredge to recover valuable solid nutrients from the bottom of lagoons. It is a valuable organic fertilizer because it can be up to five times richer in nutrients than standard hog manure. This piece of equipment is also helpful to remove settled sand in dairy lagoons, as more dairies move toward sand bedding for their animals. Rounding out the fleet is a collection of Houle, Godwin and Cornell agitation and transfer pumps. Dresbach says he has chosen to build his business around a tanker fleet because many of his customers, particularly dairy farmers, don’t own extra cropland next to their farms where the liquid manure could be land applied. That area of the United States in particular has attracted many dairy farmers from the Netherlands who are focused specifically on their dairy operations. Many have purchased 70 acres of land and have established a 2,000-cow dairy on that piece of land, which means that they must negotiate with other landowners to land apply their manure. In this case, a drag hose system would only be part of the solution because liquid manure often needs to be transported several miles away for application, and the farms where it is applied tend to be a collection of several smaller parcels of land. In fact, that is a big part of Dresbach’s business – facilitating a dialogue between the hog or dairy farms and crop growers to arrange for custom application of the manure, which he says can be one of the most challenging parts of his job. “You have to get all parties on board on timing, rates, and financial contributions from both sides to pay my bill,” says Dresbach. Dresbach says that his hog producer clients tend to recycle their manure generally on their own cropland as organic fertilizer. Most are contract growers who have attached a hog operation to their corn crop business to add another income stream to their farm. When a situation arises where some of the manure can be transported short distances, W.D. Farms will partner with a colleague who operates a drag hose system. 
June 20, 2012 – On the afternoon of May 23, 2012, a quiet 14-year-old Peach Bottom, PA, boy named Cleason Nolt somehow slipped into a liquid manure pit where he was working on a large Kennedyville, Md., dairy farm and died. Cleason’s 18-year-old brother, Kelvin, and 48-year-old father, Glenn, who were agitating and pumping the lagoon, also vanished into the pit. A family member who drove to the scene that evening after the Nolts failed to respond to cellphone calls found only a parked pickup truck and two tractors, their engines switched on. The three bodies were recovered the next day. READ MORE

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