With farms, woods, wildlife and fresh air, rural residents cherish the charm and beauty of the countryside. Many people move from cities seeking peace and a pristine environment in the country.Most people understand that a rural community includes farmers and that farming is a business. Ontario's agriculture and food sector employs 760,000 people and contributes more than $35 billion to the province's economy every year. This means that certain activities take place according to a production schedule; and some affect residents living close to farms. In almost all cases, farmers and their rural neighbours get along well together. However, there are some exceptions.For the year of 2015- 2016 the ministry received 107 complaints related to farm practices. Of these, 45 (40 percent) were about odour, while the others were mainly about noise (26 percent), flies (19 percent) and municipal by-laws (nine percent).Odour complaints are generally related to: Farmers spreading manure on fields Fans ventilating livestock barns Manure piles Mushroom farms To manage conflict about farm practices, the Ontario government enacted the Farming and Food Production Protection Act (FFPPA). This act establishes the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board (NFPPB) to determine "normal farm practices". When a person complains about odour or other nuisance from a particular farming practice, the board has the authority to hear the case and decide whether the practice is a "normal farm practice". If it is, the farmer is protected from any legal action regarding that practice.When people make complaints about farm practices, a regional agricultural engineer or environmental specialist from OMAFRA's Environmental Management Branch works with all parties involved to resolve the conflict. The board requires that any complaint go through this conflict resolution process before it comes to a hearing.Each year, through the conflict resolution process, OMAFRA staff have resolved the vast majority of complaints. In 2015-16, only twelve of the 107 cases resulted in hearings before the board. Of these, only two were odour cases involving multiple nuisances such as noise, dust and flies. Thus, while odours remain the biggest cause of complaints about farm practices, OMAFRA staff working through the conflict resolution process has proved very effective in dealing with them.
February 12, 2018, Greenwich, N¥ – As winter manure spreading regulations have tightened over the years, dairy farmers must consider ways to expand manure storage, especially those whose herds are growing. About 90 people turned out recently for “Managing Dairy Manure Systems: Sharing Experiences of Farmers and Engineers,” a program put on by Washington County Extension. They learned the pros and cons of different practices such as hauling, satellite lagoons, pumps and draglines, and how to implement such systems. READ MORE
January 19, 2018, Holland, MN – The Pipestone County Board of Adjustments, over the objections of a handful of residents, approved a variance allowing a local farm to build a feedlot located less than a mile from the city limits of Holland. A variance was required because the county’s zoning ordinance prohibits new feedlots or expansions of existing feedlots within one mile of “the corporate limits of any incorporated community.” The proposed location is 220 feet short of the required mile. READ MORE
December 8, 2017, Madison, WI – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources could adopt regional restrictions on manure spreading to help protect drinking water. Fifteen counties with bedrock consisting of Silurian dolomite and shallow topsoil are targeted: Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha. New restrictions would affect the time and place where manure can be added on cropland. Areas with bedrock depth of two feet or less would not be able to have manure – liquid or solid – added. READ MORE
November 10, 2017, Kewaunee, WI – The Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance regulating manure irrigation at its Nov. 7 meeting. The Chapter 37 Agricultural Waste and Process Wastewater Irrigation Ordinance allows low pressure-drip irrigation at a height no greater than 18 inches to apply nutrients during the growing season. The vote was 19-0 with one supervisor excused. READ MORE
September 29, 2017, Bailey’s Harbor, WI – In a 3-2 vote, the Door County Land Conservation Committee decided to forward a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), voicing support for the karst-targeted changes to NR 151, the state’s manure-handling rule, but also asking for clarification on the cost-sharing aspect of the new rules. Two farmers on the committee voted against the committee sending a letter of support after hearing from many farmers who believe they will lose about 30 percent of their cropland for spreading manure under the proposed rules. READ MORE
Montpelier, Vermont - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM, the Agency) has issued a revised Medium Farm Operation (MFO) General Permit (GP), following a lengthy information gathering and revision process. The MFO GP sets standards for MFOs in the State of Vermont generating animal waste to ensure they do not have a discharge of waste to the waters of the State and operate in accordance with their Nutrient Management Plan. Unless otherwise given notice by the Agency, all farms meeting the definition of a MFO in the State of Vermont are required to operate under the coverage of this GP.All MFOs must follow the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) in addition to requirements outlined in the MFO GP. The revision process focused on streamlining the MFO GP with the RAPs, removing duplicative language, and increasing the focus on nutrient management plan recordkeeping for MFOs. All MFOs currently covered, or farms seeking coverage under the MFO GP, must submit a new Notice of Intent to Comply (NOIC) within 180 calendar days from the issuance of a new MFO GP.Hence, MFOs should submit a new NOIC by December 12, 2018. All forms referenced in the MFO GP, including the NOIC, can be found on the Agency's website (http://agriculture.vermont.gov/mfo) or by contacting the Agency Water Quality Division. These forms are subject to revision so the applicant, prior to use of a form referenced in this MFO GP, should always consult the website listed above or the Agency Water Quality Division to make sure that they are using the current version.The Agency is required to update the MFO GP every five years as outlined in MFO program rules. The current MFO GP was issued in 2012 and was therefore due for updating; the 2012 MFO GP continued in force and effect until the new MFO GP was issued. The MFO GP was established in 2007 and underwent revision for the first time in 2012. The newly revised MFO GP will be effective from 2018 to 2023.For more information about the MFO GP revision process, to find the associated MFO GP Forms, or to read the newly revised MFO GP in full, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/mfo
Columbus, Ohio – It may not be a popular solution, but a recent study from The Ohio State University shows the least costly way to cut nearly half the phosphorus seeping into Lake Erie is taxing farmers on phosphorous purchases or paying farmers to avoid applying it to their fields.Doctoral student Shaohui Tang and Brent Sohngen, a professor of agricultural economics, conducted the study in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).At a projected price tag of up to $20 million annually, a phosphorus subsidy to Ohio farmers or a phosphorus tax would be far cheaper than many of the proposed measures being recommended to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie, Sohngen said. These proposals are estimated to cost anywhere from $40 million per year to $290 million per year, in addition to the $32 million spent on current conservation practices.Phosphorus spurs the growth of harmful algal blooms, which poisoned Toledo's drinking water in 2014 and impact the lake's recreation, tourism and real-estate values.A tax on phosphorus would be an added expense for farmers and "not many people want to talk about it," Sohngen said. "From an economics standpoint, it is the cheapest option."The money generated from a tax on phosphorus, which would be paid by farmers, could be partially returned to farmers for using conservation measures on their land. It could also compensate others affected by the water quality issue including Toledo and lake area residents to pay for improved water treatment and fishing charter businesses that lose income when algal blooms are severe.Sohngen presented the estimated costs associated with different methods of cutting phosphorus sources to Lake Erie during a recent conference hosted the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics within CFAES.Each of the options Sohngen presented is aimed at cutting the phosphorus runoff entering Lake Erie by 40 percent within 10 years, a goal the state has been aiming for but has not yet reached."If we want to achieve a 40 percent reduction, it's going to be more expensive than most people imagine," Sohngen said.Costlier options than the phosphorus tax and subsidy include reducing phosphorus application on fields by 50 percent statewide and incorporating any phosphorus into the soil so it does not remain on the surface. The price tag on that option is $43.7 million for the machinery needed to incorporate phosphorus and the incentive paid to farmers for not using phosphorus, Sohngen said.Requiring subsurface placement of phosphorus on only half the region's farmland acres would cost $49.9 million, he said.All figures were generated by a mathematical model created by Tang, working under the direction of Sohngen.In recent years, high levels of phosphorus, a nutrient in fertilizer, manure and sewage, have led to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie as well as in Ohio's inland lakes including Grand Lake St. Marys.Some measures that have been tried in the state have had little impact on reducing the phosphorus load into Lake Erie, Sohngen said. They include planting cover crops on fields during winter and refraining from tilling the land to prevent erosion."We're at the point of a phase shift, of having more information to give us better focus on where we need to turn our attention," said Gail Hesse, director of water programs for the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center.Hesse, who was the keynote speaker at the conference where Sohngen presented his findings, noted that agriculture is the predominant source of the phosphorus going into Lake Erie.Climate change, including the increase in intense rainfalls over short periods, has worsened efforts to keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie because rainfall can increase the chances of phosphorus running off a field with the rainwater, she pointed out."We don't have enough practices in place across the landscape," she said. "We still have more to do."
Annapolis, MD – The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently addressed an appeal of a Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County decision upholding Maryland Department of the Environment permits for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Program. Food and Water Watch and the Assateague Coastal Trust challenged Maryland’s permit restrictions both during open public comments before promulgation and in Circuit Court following the permits finalization. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is authorized to delegate Clean Water Act permitting requirements to the states. The states may promulgate regulations with a narrower scope. The issue in this case was whether MDE’s restriction was consistent with the requirements with state and federal laws, including the CWA. READ MORE
Ames, IA ― As June approaches, some northern areas of Iowa have experienced delays in corn planting due to a cold spring that turned wet. Producers considering changes to crop rotation should pay attention to the impact it has on manure management plans. The Iowa Administrative Code only allows a maximum of 100 pounds N per acre manure application on ground to be planted to soybean. However, it does allow fields that had liquid manure applied at rates intended for growing corn to be switched to soybean on or after June 1 with no penalty of over-application of manure nitrogen. Thus if a field planned for corn has not been planted and will be switched to soybean, this can be done. Producers should document the changes in crop rotation, application methods and other changes in their annual manure management plans. Given it has been a wet spring in some areas, nutrient management and specifically, nitrogen loss may be top of mind. Livestock producers with Iowa Department of Natural Resources [DNR] manure management plans are reminded if they have already applied the maximum nitrogen rate to the field, they can’t apply additional sources of nitrogen unless the need is confirmed by the use of a Late Spring Nitrate Test. This test measures nitrate-N concentration at the 0 to 12-inch depth. Results can be interpreted by the ISU Extension and Outreach publication “Use of the Late-Spring Soil Nitrate Test in Iowa Corn Production” (CROP 3140), which considers both the original fertilizer source and the amount of rain that occurred in May (excessive is more than five inches in May). When adding extra nitrogen, be sure to document soil sample results and reference the publication to interpret the test results in management plans. While fall provided favorable application conditions, and periods in March were favorable, producers should plan ahead if not as much manure as normal is applied in the spring. Having a plan in place will help prevent potential issues from turning into problems. Keep an eye on storage, and have a plan for needed action.
February 28, 2018, Boardman, OR – Oregon's newest mega-dairy has repeatedly endangered nearby drinking water by violating environmental laws and should be shut down immediately, the state alleges in a lawsuit. The operation opened in April 2017 near Boardman along the Columbia River in north central Oregon to supply the Tillamook County Creamery Association, which makes Tillamook Cheese. Since then the dairy has failed numerous inspections, has been cited four times and has been fined $10,640. READ MORE
February 22, 2018, Champaign, IL – The Illinois manure haulers group will be holding several update meetings for members during March and April. On-site workshop sign-in and late registration starts at 10:30 a.m. for each meeting. They will begin at 11 a.m. and conclude by 1:30 p.m. The registration cost is $20 and lunch is provided. Register here. Some of the rules and setbacks for manure spreading in Illinois were changed by the 2014 Environmental Protection Agency AFO/CAFO rules. Commercial manure haulers and farm operators can learn how these rules – which address all livestock facilities in Illinois – affect their operations, by attending one of the four regional meetings being held this spring. This is an important, unique opportunity to hear Illinois rules clarified by experts. Speakers include Illinois EPA regional environmental protection specialists, University of Illinois Extension faculty and educators, and agriculture commodity group representatives. Sponsored by the Illinois Pork Producers, Illinois Farm Bureau, and University of Illinois Extension, these information-packed mid-day meetings are designed for anyone involved in hauling and spreading livestock or poultry manure in the state. Operators need assurance that they are correctly interpreting the 2014 Illinois EPA rules for manure application; at these events, the regulations will be illustrated using lots of example cases for clarity. Manure nutrient management planning and data recording tools, manure gas personal safety monitors, and best management practices for environmental protection will also be discussed. Register soon for a meeting near you! These events are a great value, seats are limited, and we anticipate a big turnout this spring. Dates and locations are below. March 8, 2018 – Mahomet, IL; Farm Credit Illinois, 1100 Farm Credit Drive, Mahomet, IL 61853 March 15, 2018 – Mt Vernon, IL; Farm Credit Illinois, 410 Potomac Blvd, Mt Vernon, IL 62864 March 20, 2018 – Monmouth, IL; Compeer Financial, 700 E. Jackson Ave, Monmouth, IL 61462 April 3, 2018 – Sycamore, IL; DeKalb County Farm Bureau, 1350 W. Prairie Dr., Sycamore, IL 60178
January 5, 2018, Port Reyes, CA – The lawsuit against the Point Reyes National Seashore has stalled three park ranchers hoping to implement carbon sequestration practices to combat climate change. The practices range from the reduced tilling of grazing lands to the restoration of riparian areas, but a condition in the suit that prohibits new or expanded uses on ranchlands managed by the seashore could prevent the ranchers from adopting them. READ MORE
November 28, 2017, Washington, DC – On November 22, 2017 – in response to a request from the Environmental Protection Agency – the DC Circuit Court of Appeals extended the deadline for farmers to report air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at livestock operations until January 22, 2018. The decision postponed the effective date of the court’s April 2017 decision vacating an EPA rule that exempted these farms from certain statutory reporting obligations. “EPA is committed to providing America’s farmers and ranchers – people committed to conserving the land and the environment- the clarity needed in meeting their reporting obligations required by law,” said Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator. The EPA sought this additional time in order to provide compliance assistance to farmers, update its guidance, and develop a more-streamlined reporting form. With the court’s decision, farmers are not required to report emissions from animal waste at these facilities until after the court issues its mandate, expected no sooner than January 22, 2018. On April 11, 2017, the DC Circuit Court vacated an EPA rule finalized on December 18, 2008, that exempted most farms from certain release reporting requirements in two statutes, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). In response to a request from the EPA, the DC Circuit Court extended the effective date of its decision to vacate the 2008 rule to November 15, 2017. In response to a second request from the current administration EPA, the DC Circuit Court further extended that date to January 22, 2018. As such, farmers now do not need to report emissions under CERCLA until January 22, 2018 at the earliest when the D.C. Circuit Court is expected to issue its mandate. The EPA has prepared guidance that includes links to resources that farmers can consider when calculating emissions for specific species of livestock. To view EPA’s guidance and Frequently Asked Questions on reporting air emissions from animal waste: https://www.epa.gov/epcra/cercla-and-epcra-reporting-requirements-air-releases-hazardous-substances-animal-waste-farms.
As I write this, only a few days are left before livestock operations need to submit their air emissions data to the federal government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). All poultry and livestock facilities that are likely to emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period are required to report their initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center.
November 10, 2017, Washington, DC – A House Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing recently on a bipartisan bill to reduce the risk of farmers from citizen-led lawsuits. The Farm Regulatory Certainty Act has more than 60 co-sponsors, and was spearheaded by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. Newhouse, a former Washington ag director, told the subcommittee about a Washington state dairy farmer who was operating under state nutrient management plans, but entered into a consent decree with EPA. Then a third party got records on the dairy and it was sued under an environmental act. READ MORE
September 29, 2017 – The National Corn Growers Association has asked the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to rescind the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and write a new rule that provides farmers with clarity and certainty, reduces red tape, and does not discourage farming practices that improve water quality. “Corn farmers take very seriously the important role we play in helping the country meet its water quality goals, as laid out in state and federal statutes, including the Clean Water Act,” said Wesley Spurlock, president of the NCGA. “We depend on clean water for our livelihood, and we are committed to conservation practices that protect our nation’s streams and rivers.” Spurlock called the 2015 rule inconsistent with the aims of the Clean Water Act, and noted that the rule also “has the perverse effect of making it harder for farmers to practice good soil and water conservation, nutrient management, and water quality protection practices.” Farming practices such as grass waterways and buffer strips reduce sediment and nutrient runoff. Instead of encouraging these types of farming practices, the 2015 rule effectively discouraged them, due to both the bureaucratic red tape, and fear of legal action. “We support the administration’s effort to create a new WOTUS rule, and we stand ready to work with them to ensure farmers have the clarity and certainty they need,” said Spurlock.
July 10, 2017, Washington, D.C. - The American Biogas Council, the trade association for the U.S. biogas industry, praises the recent introduction of the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act (H.R. 2853), House companion legislation to Senate bill 988. The House bill was introduced by Congressmen Ron Kind (D-WI-3) and Tom Reed (R-NY-23) with 22 original bipartisan cosponsors. That list of supporters recently grew to 25 including Rep. Susan Delbene (D-WA-01), Jackie Walorski (R-IN-02), Elise Stafanik (R-NY-21), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4), Peter Welch (D-VT), Mike Simpson (R-ID-2), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05), Glenn Thompson (R-PA-05), Joe Courtney (D-CT-2), David Valadao (R-CA-21), Bob Gibbs (R-OH-07), Todd Rokita (R-IN-04), Thomas Rooney (R-FL-17), Jodey Arrington (R-TX-19), Rod Blum (R-IA-01), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA-16), John Katko (R-NY-24), Steve Stivers (R-OH-15), Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13), Chris Collins (R-NY-27), Tim Walz (D-MN-01), Sean Duffy (R-WI-07), and John Faso (R-NY-19).This bill, along with the Senate companion bill, (S. 988) introduced in early May, will increase agricultural viability by helping to deploy new nutrient recovery and biogas systems that recycles organic material into baseload renewable energy and healthy soil products. The Act provides a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) for qualifying biogas and nutrient recovery systems."For a healthy economy, we need healthy soils and clean waterways. Biogas and nutrient recovery systems help us achieve cleaner, healthier soil and water and the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act will increase the deployment of these systems," said Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council. "We thank Congressmen Reed, Kind and the other co-sponsors of this bill for recognizing the far reaching benefits of sustainable farming where organic material and nutrients should be recycled to create beneficial soil products, baseload renewable energy and jobs."The introduction of H.R. 2853, and the significant bipartisan support it has already received, reflects the critical need to support economically and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices that protect waterways and enrich soils. At the present time, there are no tax incentives to encourage biogas or nutrient recovery systems. A previous production tax credit under section 45 of the federal tax code which promoted the use of renewable electricity expired at the end of 2016. This new credit would promote the production of pipeline quality natural gas and compressed renewable natural gas vehicle fuel as well as nutrients which are essential to agricultural production."By creating incentives to make biogas and manure resource recovery technologies more affordable the Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Act will encourage more widespread use of manure digesters. This benefits society by decreasing nutrient runoff in waterways, decreasing farm odors, and improving water quality," said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation.The Algae Biomass Organization's Executive Director, Dr. Matt Carr has also shared his organization's support. "By supporting investments in algae-based and other nutrient management systems, the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act will help farmers recycle valuable ag nutrients back into their operations and reduce the burden on taxpayers of recovering those nutrients downstream. It's a win-win for everyone."
A national manure management emergency was recently averted in the United States with the passage in March of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, thwarting attempts by some environmental groups to categorize farms on the same plane as heavy industry as it relates to potential toxic air emissions.
Regina, Sask – Despite their reputation, flatulent cows aren’t capable of destroying the world, an environmental politics professor argues in a forthcoming research paper. But still, livestock are saddled with an outsized share of the blame for climate change. And if that misunderstanding persists, and pushes policymakers to force a societal shift from meat-eating, it could lead to disaster, says Ryan Katz-Rosene at the University of Ottawa’s school of political studies. READ MORE
A week spent in a feedyard pen is helping researchers gain a better understanding of greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to improve the national inventory of greenhouse gases and determine potential mitigation measures.Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service are collaborating to analyze nitrous oxide and methane emissions from an area feedyard pen.Dr. Ken Casey, AgriLife Research air quality engineer in Amarillo, and Dr. David Parker and Dr. Heidi Waldrip, USDA-ARS livestock nutrient management researchers at Bushland, spent the better part of a week sitting inside a feedyard pen just vacated by cattle.The project is funded by USDA-ARS and AgriLife Research, with instrumentation used in the study partly supported by the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.Using six automated chambers, more than 575 automated flux measurements were taken, as were 60 manual flux measurements from separate static chambers, to help monitor nitrous oxide and methane gas emissions. Halfway through the experiment, a half-inch of water was applied to the pen surface within the measurement chamber bases to simulate a rainfall."We're looking to understand better what controls nitrous oxide and methane coming off feedlot pen surfaces," Casey said. "We're interested in the emissions of these gases because of their contribution to climate change. We want to improve the national emissions inventories as they pertain to greenhouse gases from feedyards in the Texas High Plains."Secondly, we are also very interested in obtaining a better mechanistic understanding of the evolution of these gases from the pen surfaces. What controls the release of these gases? If we are able to gain a better understanding of that, then we will potentially be able to provide advice to the industry about mitigation practices when it comes to pen management."Casey said their testing demonstrated areas of the pen with shallower manure packs on the surface primarily emitted nitrous oxide, while two chambers sitting over deeper manure where the pen drain was located emitted almost no nitrous oxide, but were emitting methane."We are trying to understand the interplay of those two gases, because the processes that are producing them are related," he said.The different factors that influence the creation and release of the gases include temperature, moisture content and the amount of manure on the pen surface, Casey said."By understanding how those factors play together in the production of those gases, we can develop a greater understanding and potentially develop mitigation strategies," he said."However, it's complicated, because a strategy that reduces one emission may in fact increase the other. So our understanding of the production of these gases and the environmental factors that influence them are important."During the study, gas samples were collected twice a day from the static chambers and then taken to Casey's air quality lab to be analyzed on a gas chromatograph. Six automated chambers took measurements each hour, around the clock. The automated chambers were linked through a multiplexer to automated nitrous oxide and methane analyzers."We know emissions are influenced by temperature, and by taking diurnal measurements, we can understand the variability throughout the day and night, as well as that of the effects of moisture."The week of measurements is only part of ongoing research being conducted by Casey and Parker. Casey said the results will be reported to the industry, as well as in various journals along the way, and will be used for extended air quality research.Parker said their research is also relevant to manure quality."Not only is this research important for greenhouse gas emissions, but through this and ongoing laboratory studies, we are learning more about nutrient transformations and water losses from the feedyard surface," he said.
February 9, 2018, Washington, DC – The National Pork Producers Council recently asked Congress for a legislative fix to a federal emergency response law that now requires farmers to report emissions from the natural breakdown of manure to the U.S. Coast Guard. Testifying on behalf of NPPC, Dr. Howard Hill told members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that livestock producers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency never believed routine agricultural emissions from manure constituted the type of emergency or crisis the law was intended to address. Last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). CERCLA is mainly used to clean hazardous waste, and it and EPCRA include provisions that require entities to report on the release of various substances over certain thresholds. The appeals court ruling will force “tens of thousands of livestock farmers to figure out how to estimate and report their emissions,” testified Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, and past president of NPPC. (More than 100,000 livestock farmers likely will need to file emissions reports by a May 1 deadline.) He pointed out that while the pork industry is prepared to comply with CERCLA and EPCRA, EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard – which takes the emissions reports – and state and local emergency response authorities have said they don’t want or need the information, which could interfere with their legitimate emergency functions. Hill also told the committee that pork producers are committed to responsibly managing their animals and the manure they produce to protect water and air quality and to maximizing manure’s benefit and value as a source of nutrients for the crops they grow. He said the pork industry, which has worked cooperatively with environmental regulators at the state and federal levels, supports federal environmental policies that: give producers performance expectations that have a high probability of resulting in meaningful environmental improvements; are practical and affordable; and provide producers a realistic amount of time to adapt measures and associated systems to their operations so they can continue to be profitable and successful.
February 2, 2018, Milwaukee, WI – On February 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit extended a stay of air emissions reporting from livestock wastes through at least May 1, 2018. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had asked for an additional stay of 90 days to provide the agency additional time to prepare for any reporting obligations. In its motion for stay, the EPA cited a need for more time to refine guidance to industry on meeting the reporting obligations and to finalize agriculture-specific forms that would be used to report emissions from animal wastes to the EPA. Livestock industry groups supported the EPA’s request, while environmentalist and animal rights groups, who have previously pushed the court to apply these reporting obligations to farms, took no position on this latest request for stay. Meanwhile, industry groups are working on legislative solutions that would address the regulatory burden of reporting emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide that occur on farms due to the natural breakdown of manure. In April 2017, the D.C. Circuit ruled that farms were required to report air releases of “hazardous substances” above certain thresholds under two federal environmental laws, despite the fact that Congress likely never intended those two laws to apply to farms. The EPA released guidance on those reporting obligations in November 2017. The court’s mandate, or order enforcing its ruling, has been stayed periodically since its decision last spring.
November 30, 2017, University Park, PA – A new study of methane emissions from livestock in the United States – led by a researcher in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences – has challenged previous top-down estimates. The research was conducted because serious discrepancies exist between top-down estimates that suggest the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating agricultural methane emissions by up to 90 percent, and bottom-up estimates accepted by the federal government showing lower emissions. Top-down emissions estimates involve monitoring atmospheric methane concentrations by satellites or from air samples collected at high altitude by planes, and using models to estimate the sources of emissions. Bottom-up estimates take into account livestock populations and animal emission factors. In their detailed analysis, researchers used a spatially explicit, bottom-up approach, based on animal inventories and feed-intake-based emission factors, to estimate enteric methane emissions for cattle and manure methane emissions for cattle, swine and poultry for the contiguous United States. The researchers estimated methane emissions using a "gridded" approach, dividing the U.S. into 0.1 by 0.1-degree GIS units, which created cells from 31 square miles in the northern United States to 42 square miles in the southern part of the country. "This level of detail enabled us to more accurately assess agricultural methane emissions based on activities involving livestock," explained lead researcher Alex Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition, who is a member of the current National Academy of Sciences Anthropogenic Methane Committee. "We must have more specific information about methane emissions that combines local livestock populations and characteristics with distribution of landscape features – and a gridded inventory approach provides that," he said. According to the EPA, the top three sources of anthropogenic methane in the United States are the combined energy sector – natural gas, petroleum systems and coal mining – which makes up 40 percent of the total; livestock, 36 percent of the total; and landfills, 18 percent of the total. Methane emissions from livestock operations are the result of microbial fermentation and methanogenesis in the forestomach of ruminants and similar fermentation processes in manure from both ruminant and non-ruminant farm animals. Methane is also produced from enteric fermentation in the digestive tract of non-ruminant herbivore species, such as horses, donkeys and mules, as a result of fermentation processes in their hindgut. However, "hindgut fermenters" do not produce nearly as much methane per unit of fermented feed as ruminants, so enteric or manure emissions from equine species were not included in this analysis. Neither were emissions from small ruminants such as sheep and goats, which are negligible in the U.S. County-level, annual enteric methane emissions for all states were estimated for cattle only. A total of 3,063 counties in the contiguous U.S. were included in the cattle methane emission database. Cattle inventories by county were obtained from the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which is the last census data currently available. Body weight data for cattle was derived from EPA records and dry matter feed intake was estimated based on National Research Council prediction equations for the various categories of cattle. Methane emission yield factors were calculated for each cattle category. Overall, the research, which was published this month in Environmental Science and Technology, yielded total U.S. livestock methane emissions of 19.6 billion pounds per year. However, uncertainty surrounding that total is high, researchers acknowledged. Compared with enteric methane, predicting methane emissions from manure is a more complex process and carries a larger uncertainty in the estimates, the researchers pointed out. Manure composition, type of storage facilities and manure retention time, and environment – particularly temperature – are among the factors that affect methane emissions from manure. There is great uncertainty in both enteric and manure methane emissions from livestock, Hristov conceded. He said that research around the world has shown that variability in enteric methane emissions largely can be explained with variability in feed dry-matter intake. Nutrient composition of the feed is also important but has a lesser impact on enteric methane production. "If methane emissions from livestock in this country really are twice as high as what is estimated now — and we don't believe they are — that would put a big target on agriculture to take measures to cut these emissions," said Hristov. "Having an accurate and spatially explicit assessment of methane emissions from livestock is critical for reconciliation of top-down and bottom-up approaches, and it's the starting point in any mitigation effort." "Our analysis showed that the EPA’s estimates are close to reality, but there is a discrepancy in the spatial distribution of emissions. And, our research revealed a great discrepancy with global models such as the EDGAR (Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research) inventory." ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company partially funded this research.
Mar. 8, 2013 - Manure spills happen for a range of reasons—a manure spreader rolls over, a hose breaks, a storage pond overflows after a relentless downpour. Whatever the cause, these events are such a threat to the environment that states have emergency teams to deal with the hazard. Typically, the responders build dams to contain the spill and then pump out the contaminated water. Although cleanup efforts start as quickly as possible, a fish kill in a nearby stream is often the first evidence that a spill has taken place. Another problem is that sediments in the contaminated water channel can capture phosphorus from the manure and release the nutrient back into the water—sometimes for months on end—at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria. But there were few details available about the links between manure spills and phosphorus until Agricultural Research Service soil scientist Doug Smith and doctoral candidate Shalamar Armstrong began to study the issue. Smith, who works at the ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory in West Lafayette, Indiana, was Armstrong's technical advisor throughout the study. ARS soil scientist Chi-hua Huang, also in West Lafayette, and soil scientist April Leytem, who works at the ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho, were also part of the team. Sizing Up Sediments Armstrong collected sediments from two drainage ditches in the Cedar Creek subwatershed of the St. Joseph River Watershed in northeast Indiana. The land surrounding each ditch was primarily used for row cropping. Three sampling locations were selected so that the study would include sediments from drainage areas that ranged from 768 acres to 10,625 acres. This methodology also ensured that the scientists would be able to assess the effects of different particle size distributions and physiochemical properties on phosphorus absorption. The West Lafayette team added the sediments to an artificial water channel called a "fluvarium" and used swine manure minimally diluted with water to create their own worst-case manure "spill." Then, after 24 hours, they cleaned it up using standard operating protocols for remediating contaminated spill sites. The researchers found the spill simulation initially resulted in an average water column dissolved phosphorus concentration of 5.57 milligrams per liter. The concentrations dropped to between 0.19 and 0.21 milligrams per liter 24 hours later, but they still exceeded EPA standards for rivers, streams, and drainage ditches in the Cedar Creek subwatershed. The scientists also documented that after the spill, the channel sediments were able to capture significant amounts of phosphorus from the water, with adsorption rates ranging from 8.9 to 16.7 milligrams per square meter of sediment per hour. The finest clay loam sediments from the upstream channel sites adsorbed the greatest levels. "These clay loam sediments have a larger surface area available for the chemical reactions that bind the phosphorus to the sediments," Smith explains. "These sediments also have the highest levels of iron, aluminum, and organic carbon, all of which enhance the ability of the sediments to bind phosphorus." However, after the simulated spill cleanup, all the sediments released phosphorus back into the water at rates that caused the phosphorus level in the ditch water to exceed EPA's maximum level by at least 67 percent. Even though the fine-textured clay loam sediments adsorbed the highest levels of phosphorus, the course-textured sandy sediments from the largest drainage areas released the most phosphorus back into the water after cleanup was complete. "These results strongly suggested that the current approaches to remediating manure spills need improvement," Smith says. An Answer in Alum Fortunately, the team had some ideas about where to start looking for improvements. Earlier studies showed that adding alum to poultry litter, swine manure, and other agricultural byproducts substantially mitigates phosphorus release. So they ran a series of tests to see how well alum amendments could stop, or at least slow, the release of phosphorus deposited in channel sediments after manure spills. The researchers added different levels of an alum-calcium carbonate mix to the same sediments they tested in the first study. The calcium carbonate was included to prevent the acidic alum from significantly increasing the water's acidity. They observed that amending the contaminated sediments with 1.6 milligrams of alum-calcium carbonate per gram of sediment suppressed phosphorus release by 92 percent in sandy sediments and by 72 percent in clay loam and loamy sand sediments. Higher amendment levels suppressed phosphorus release in all three soil types by up to 100 percent. In general, greater rates of alum were needed to suppress phosphorus release from the clay loam sediments than from either the loamy sand or the sandy sediments. On average, clay loam sediments required 54 percent more alum to mitigate the release of phosphorus than sediments containing at least 60 percent sand. Adding calcium carbonate to the alum did not completely protect the water column from increased acidification. But water flowing over sediments amended with the alum-calcium carbonate mix was less acidic than water flowing over sediments amended solely with alum. Data from the study was used to develop models to predict the rate of alum application that would be needed to mitigate phosphorus release from contaminated sediments, based on sediment properties. "Our results demonstrated that alum can help sediments retain phosphorus after a manure spill," says Armstrong, who is now an assistant professor at Illinois State University. "We think it has potential for enhancing current manure spill remediation methods." Findings from both studies were published in the Journal of Environmental Quality in 2009 and the Journal of Environmental Monitoring in 2012. "These are the first studies that have examined in detail how manure spills affect in-stream phosphorus fate," adds Smith. This research is part of Water Availability and Watershed Management, an ARS national program (#211) described at www.nps.ars.usda.gov. "Measuring and Managing Impacts of Manure Spills" was published in the March 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
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