July 6, 2017, New York - If you buy a house on the 9 million acres of agricultural districts in New York state, you sign a disclosure form that says the farmers near you have the "right to farm" even when it causes noise, dust and odors.

Still, when a farmer decides to build a lagoon to store millions of gallons of liquid manure, the neighbors are often disappointed to find out they have little say in the matter. They can also be shocked to hear that government sometimes requires manure storage and even helps pay for it.

Since 1994, 461 manure storages have been built with state financial help, according to the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets. Others are privately or federally funded.

The "Right to Farm" is a state law that protects 25,316 farms on 6.5 million of those 9-million acres of agricultural districts. The rest of that land is occupied by people who do not farm.

Mike McMahon, of McMahon's EZ Acres in Homer, allowed us to fly a drone over the lagoon on his dairy farm and explained how it was designed.
McMahon, other farmers and government officials say storage is the best practice to protect the environment from runoff.

Storage allows farmers to spread manure on fields on only the best days - when the soil is dry and less likely to run off of wet and frozen ground into lakes and streams. READ MORE

May 25, 2016, State College, PA – An online tool has been developed to help save the lives of people who enter manure storage facilities on the farm.

Dennis Murphy, Nationwide Insurance professor of agriculture, safety and health, says pits are designed for the safety of animals but there are complicated computations for designing adequate ventilation for people. That’s where the tool comes in for builders, designers and engineer. READ MORE

November 4, 2013, Lancaster, PA – Vapors from liquid manure storage tanks are unseen, lethal presences lurking on farms.

Recently, researchers have received a grant to study the risks posed by the gases – especially fast-acting hydrogen sulfide.

An unidentified farm near Lititz is included in the study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Matching partners include Penn State, the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission, USA Gypsum and Industrial Scientific Corp., a gas-detection equipment maker. READ MORE

June 28, 2013 – A mother and daughter died in the Chinese province of Hebei recently after inhaling toxic fumes from a manure pit while attempting to dredge up a mobile phone, a newspaper reported.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of June 16 after the daughter collapsed into the manure pit when she tried to pick up her mobile phone. READ MORE

April 10, 2013 – Death by manure pit – it may not be too common, accounting for about 10 deaths per year in North America, yet when it happens, it often takes more than one life.

That’s because people who try to help can fall victim to the same toxic fumes that overcame the first person.

And it might become more common, because of factors such as pressure to build more manure storage facilities to avoid polluting ground water, and that fact that the number of farms is decreasing, but the average size is increasing. READ MORE

November 30, 2012, Clear Lake, IA — An Iowa-based company is using a well-established manure pit product combined with a new delivery system to simplify manure management on hog and dairy farms.

Advanced Biologicals plans to take the product – developed 30 or 40 years ago but now combined with a new delivery system called the Waste Away Injection System – nationwide by establishing a dealer network. The company is holding a series of informational meetings in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota starting in early December to introduce producers and possible dealers to the product. READ MORE

Jul. 16, 2012 - Concentrated livestock production facilities often store and treat manure in lagoons or deep pits. However, this practice can result in the production of noxious odors that adversely affect air quality, livestock health and human health.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers are looking at a range of options for mitigating the odors associated with manure storage, including methods that target the bacteria responsible for odor production. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and this research supports the USDA priority of ensuring food safety.

ARS microbiologists Terry Whitehead and Mike Cotta at the agency’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., conducted population surveys to identify and characterize the different bacteria that live in these environments. One of their goals was to find strains of hyper-ammonia-producing (HAP) bacteria, which can produce and release significantly larger amounts of ammonia than other types of bacteria.

When Whitehead and Cotta conducted an isolation procedure for bacteria that may produce ammonia, they found seven unknown bacterial isolates. Using additional gene sequencing techniques, the researchers analyzed these isolates and confirmed that they belonged to a previously-unknown bacterial species in the genus Peptostreptococcus. Until this discovery, researchers had only identified two other species—P. anaerobius and P. stomatis—within the genus Peptostreptococcus.

This new species produced such prodigious amounts of ammonia that it met the criteria for classification as a HAP bacterium. The scientists think studying this newly identified species could provide valuable information about the mechanisms involved in the production of noxious odors in manure pits. This knowledge, in turn, could help in the development of strategies for mitigating the microbial processes that result in these odors.

The new species was named Peptostreptococcus russellii, in honor of the late James B. Russell, an ARS researcher who made many substantial contributions to rumen microbiology, including the initial isolation of HAP bacteria.

Results from this study were published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. You can read an abstract of the research here.

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