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
September 25, 2017, Sauk Centre, MN – More farmers will bring feedlots into compliance in Minnesota’s number one dairy-producing county — cutting pollution to a Mississippi River tributary in the process — thanks to Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District staff’s ability to leverage federal funds and provide technical assistance. The SWCD is targeting the top five contributors to the nutrient-impaired Sauk River and Sauk River chain of lakes. Sauk River Watershed District monitoring showed elevated phosphorous, sediment and bacteria levels. The SWCD typically takes on 10 to 20 feedlot projects a year. A $392,500 Clean Water Fund grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources will allow the SWCD to stretch its resources even further as it strives to eliminate contaminated feedlot runoff. READ MORE
August 8, 2017, Celina, OH – About 40 area developers, politicians, farmers and business leaders gathered July 29 for the Our Land, Our Water Tour to learn more about land and manure-management efforts that could help improve Grand Lake's water quality. The event was hosted at Schmitmeyer Farm near Coldwater and was the second annual tour and presentation meant to bring together local people from all walks of life and educate them on efforts to improve the lake. READ MORE
July 26, 2017, Des Moines, IA - As one of 12 legislators who drafted the bill in 2002 that created the Master Matrix, a current member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors tasked with reviewing Master Matrix applications, and a lifelong Iowa farmer, I have a unique perspective on the Master Matrix, its failings and how it could be improved.I support the recent petition presented by the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch because it is needed to restore balance to a system that has failed to adequately protect the rights of all Iowans, and certain precious natural resources unique to different counties, such as Karst topography in northeast Iowa.The Master Matrix is a scoring system that awards points for livestock producers who adopt additional practices greater than the minimum required by state law. Points are awarded for increasing the minimum separated distances between concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and churches, residences, public-use areas, and bodies of water. More restrictive manure management practices score additional points. The Master Matrix has a total of 44 questions that could result in a perfect score of 880 points, but only 440 points are required to get a passing grade.The Department of Natural Resources' analysis of the Master Matrix shows that certain questions pertaining to separated distances are easy to score points on and nearly every application does. Points are also awarded for practices, such as concrete manure storage structures, that are the industry standard. Other questions requiring air-quality monitoring, the installation of filters to reduce odors, demonstrating community support, implementing a worker safety and protection plan, or adopting an approved comprehensive nutrient management plan are almost never answered. READ MORE
May 29, 2017, Kewaunee County, WI - Kewaunee County is working on a draft ordinance that would require farmers to use low-pressure methods when dropping liquid manure on their fields. It's an alternative to the more controversial method of spraying.For years now Kewaunee County has been battling soil and water issues. It is an area with many concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.Most of the county's 20,000 residents get their water from private wells, some of which have been contaminated with nitrates.The county is hoping a new ordinance will keep farmers and residents on the same page and solve some of these well issues. READ MORE
November 21, 2017, Crawfordsville, IA – A failed hose connection led to a manure spill on the western edge of Louisa County late Nov. 17. An estimated 7,500 gallons of manure spilled into a crop field before the pump shut off. The owner tried to block tile intakes, but manure had already entered the underground tiling and flowed into the upper end of Buffington Creek. He did prevent manure from moving downstream by temporarily damming the creek. The Iowa Department of Natural Nesources (DNR) investigated the spill site Nov. 18, finding the creek was mostly dry and the manure contained. The DNR will monitor cleanup activities and consider appropriate enforcement action.
November 21, 2017, Bennington, VT – A legislative panel wants to hear the agriculture agency's case for why farmers should be exempt from environmental enforcement under Vermont's land use law. The Act 250 committee, which met Nov. 15, is tasked with proposing fixes to the state's land use law that will bring 50-year-old regulations up to speed with new environmental pressures. At the next meeting, to be held in December, the committee will ask the Agency of Agriculture to justify land use exemptions for farms. READ MORE
November 13, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – New hog barns will be built Manitoba. After an all-night session at the Manitoba Legislature, Bill 24 has passed its final reading and received royal assent. The newly passed act amends The Environment Act, removing general prohibitions for the expansion of hog barns and manure storage facilities. Bill 24 also strikes the winter manure application ban from the Environment Act, although winter application would continue to be prohibited for all livestock operations in Manitoba under the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation. READ MORE
October 31, 2017, Milwaukee, WI – The last couple of weeks have been very busy for Michael Best’s clients in the dairy industry. First, our attorneys assisted the Dairy Business Association of Wisconsin (DBA) in settling a lawsuit brought on DBA’s behalf, challenging Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) regulation of large dairy farms under its Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit program. Second, Governor Walker announced, as part of his rural agenda, his intention to “work with the legislature and EPA to transfer regulatory authority over large farms from the DNR to DATCP to encourage the best use of technical expertise and create program efficiencies,” a move long-supported by industry insiders to allow for more efficient permitting. We will keep our dairy industry clients informed of the impacts of these developments as we move forward. But, as for the lawsuit settlement, many of our clients are asking “what’s next?” To start, the settlement vindicates DBA’s claims that WDNR acted in excess of its legal authority in 2016 when it implemented a new approach to regulating runoff from feed storage areas (FSAs) and management of calf hutch lots without engaging in formal rulemaking procedures required by statute. The settlement provides immediate relief for Wisconsin’s dairy community and should help ensure WDNR follows the law before unilaterally implementing sweeping regulatory changes in the future. The settlement also has important implications for dairy farms regulated under WPDES permits. Background NRCS Standard 635 (2002 WI), incorporated in Wis. Admin. Code ch. NR 243 (Wisconsin’s CAFO Rule), permits the use of land-based Vegetated Treatment Areas (VTAs) to manage captured or contained feed storage runoff. Relying on this standard, numerous Wisconsin farms constructed VTAs as part of their runoff control systems. In almost all cases, the design and use of VTAs was approved by WDNR as part of a WPDES permit. In 2016, WDNR began a systematic approach of declining to review feed runoff control systems that included these designs, and began enforcing standards of 100 percent storage of all feed storage runoff that would require costly modifications and upgrades to existing runoff control systems. Meanwhile, WDNR also changed its approach to regulating on-farm calf hutch lots. On March 9, 2016, WDNR announced that it would require review and approval of engineering plans and specifications for calf hutch lots on WPDES-permitted farms. WDNR’s calf hutch directive would have treated calf hutch lots as “reviewable facility or systems” under NR 243 and would have required compliance with standards not incorporated into law. Frustrated after more than a year’s worth of attempts by DBA to convince WDNR to reverse these two illegal actions (actions which resulted in a number of enforcement actions being initiated by WDNR against DBA farmer members), DBA filed suit against WDNR earlier this summer in Brown County Circuit Court. What does the settlement do? The settlement provides immediate regulatory relief for Wisconsin dairy farmers and avoids the delay and expense of additional litigation. The settlement is public and can be viewed here. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, WDNR agreed to recognize VTAs constructed and managed in accordance with NRCS Standard 635 (2002 WI) as valid and lawful runoff control systems. WDNR also agreed to withdraw its draft guidance on VTAs and notify affected permit holders and interested stakeholders within 30 days. With respect to calf hutch lots, WDNR agreed that calf hutch lots are not a “reviewable facility or system” requiring an engineering plan and specification review and approval, to rescind its earlier directive requiring such reviews, and to provide notice to affected permit holders and stakeholders within 30 days. Importantly, the settlement also requires WDNR to limit its enforcement of standards or rules relating to FSA leachate/runoff controls to those authorized by statute or administrative rule. WDNR also agreed that it would not consider calf hutch lots “reviewable facilities” in the future unless specifically required by a lawfully enacted statute or promulgated administrative rule. Permit holders should know that the settlement does not alter the discharge standard applicable to dairy CAFOs under NR 243 and farms’ WPDES permits nor the duty to apply for coverage under such permits; the settlement does, however, clarify that WDNR may no longer presume that a discharge is occurring or will occur from a farm. Under NR 243.13, a CAFO generally may not discharge manure or process wastewater to navigable waters from the production area, except where there is a precipitation caused discharge from the containment, the containment has been designed to capture the 25 year/24-hour rain event, and the production area is operated in accordance with inspection, maintenance and record keeping requirements, as defined in the rule. This standard is set by state and federal law. Beyond this requirement to prohibit the discharge of pollutants to navigable waters, WDNR may not further impose a standard requiring “zero discharge” whatsoever from the production area or VTA. DBA members have been frustrated with WDNR’s presumption of a discharge and implementation of a “zero discharge” standard without regard to important modifiers that allow such a discharge under certain circumstances. What should farm owners do next? As alleged in the lawsuit, WDNR has been enforcing regulatory standards and requirements that exceed its authority through a variety of means. These include (1) informing WPDES permit applicants that their application would not be approved unless their leachate and runoff control systems were redesigned to comply with new requirements; (2) issuing Notices of Noncompliance, Notices of Violation, and holding Enforcement Conferences with affected dairy farms; and (3) taking further enforcement actions against dairy farms alleged to be in noncompliance with WDNR’s new standards. Any WPDES permit holder who has been subject to any of these actions should be aware that the settlement may impact their legal rights and options for responding to WDNR. Timely review and action may be required to preserve these rights as farms proceed through permitting and enforcement actions. For WPDES Permit Applicants: WPDES permit holders seeking issuance of an initial WPDES permit or reissuance of an expiring WPDES permit should review the status of their permit application with knowledgeable legal counsel and engineering professionals familiar with the program and the settlement. Specifically, this review should consider whether WDNR is (1) requiring an engineering review of existing FSA runoff controls, which is no longer justified given the settlement of the DBA lawsuit; (2) requiring an engineering review of a calf hutch lot, which is not permitted under the terms of the settlement; or (3) making a finding of noncompliance or returning a submission as incomplete based on standards or requirements that are now unenforceable based on the settlement agreement. Additionally, if the farm has received (or expects to receive) a draft permit in the future, this document should be carefully reviewed to ensure that the permit’s terms and conditions do not exceed WDNR’s legal authority. For Farms Subject to Enforcement Action: Numerous WPDES permit holders have been issued a Notice of Violation or Notice of Noncompliance related to the farms’ alleged failure to comply with WDNR’s 2016 guidance on FSA leachate and runoff control systems or calf hutch lots. Farms should have legal counsel evaluate the continuing basis for any enforcement action, particularly as they related to alleged discharges from FSAs or calf hutch lots, inadequate FSA or calf hutch runoff control and collection systems, or failure to maintain 180 days of manure and process wastewater storage. Dairy farmers with questions about how the settlement may affect their farm’s regulatory obligations should contact a Michael Best attorney.
October 26, 2017, Atlantic, IA – Staff from the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Atlantic field office were in the field recently checking for the source of a manure spill that reached a tributary of East Tarkio Creek in Page County. Staff responded to an Oct. 25 report of a manure spill that occurred the previous evening when a stuck pump valve caused manure to pool at a confinement near Clarinda. DNR staff found manure pooled at the site, and in roadside and drainage ditches that flow into an unnamed tributary of the East Tarkio Creek. An estimated 7,000 gallons of manure was released during manure pumping by a commercial manure applicator. The applicator immediately limed the ditch and placed hay bales to keep manure from moving downstream. The DNR is requiring him to build a temporary dam in the ditch and excavate soil to prevent more manure from reaching the stream. Staff found no dead fish, but the investigation is ongoing.
October 18, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – Manitoba Pork is encouraging its members to voice their support the provincial government's "Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act" during public hearings planned for next week. Public hearings into Bill 24, the Manitoba Government's Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act, are scheduled for October 25 and 26 at the Manitoba Legislature and Manitoba Pork is calling on pork producers to take the opportunity to participate and tell their personal stories. George Matheson, the chair of Manitoba Pork, says key changes of interest to pork producers under the bill include the elimination of the requirements for anaerobic digesters and changes to the farm building code, which will have no impact on safeguards to protect the environment or farm safety. “The reality is that an anaerobic digester did nothing to lessen the phosphates that would be spread on the farmers fields so an anaerobic digester did not solve that so called problem at all,” he said. “Manure will still only allowed to be spread during warmer weather before frost hits the ground roughly speaking, no spreading between November 10 through to April 10.” “Hog manure, to reduce odor and runoff, will have to be injected or immediately cultivated in. Farms of over 300 animal units, which would be most, will have to file manure management plans.” "Manure cannot be spread close to runoff areas, there will have to be buffers,” Matheson says. “Things such as this will still be in place so the environment will not be affected adversely at all.” He stresses, if the bill is passed, Manitoba pork producers will still be subject to the toughest environmental regulations anywhere. Matheson encourages anyone interested in presenting to contact Manitoba Pork for information and assistance.
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."
June 28, 2017, Washington, D.C.– The National Pork Producers Council hailed today's announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it will propose a rule to rescind a controversial Clean Water Act regulation that gave the government broad jurisdiction over land and water.The proposal – expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming days – will repeal the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which ostensibly was implemented to clarify EPA's authority over various waters.Based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, EPA's jurisdiction had included "navigable" waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. But the WOTUS rule broadened that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters."This is great news for America's pork producers," said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill. "The WOTUS rule was a dramatic government overreach and an unprecedented expansion of federal authority over private lands."It was the product of a flawed regulatory process that lacked transparency and likely would have been used by trial lawyers and environmental activists to attack farmers," Maschhoff added. "We're extremely grateful to President Trump and EPA Administrator [Scott] Pruitt for recognizing the dire consequences this ill-advised Obama-era regulation would have had on pork producers and all of American agriculture."NPPC helped lead the agricultural community's opposition to the WOTUS rule, including producing maps showing the extent of the lands affected by the regulation. (EPA's jurisdiction in Missouri, for example, would have increased to cover 77 percent of the state under the rule.) The organization also led the legal efforts against the rule, filing suit in a U.S. District Court and presenting a brief to a U.S. Court of Appeals. The latter halted implementation of the WOTUS rule shortly after its Aug. 28, 2015, effective date.Once the proposed repeal rule is published, it will be subject to a public comment period.
June 12, 2017, Washington, D.C. - For the last several years, farmers have cited the increasing number of regulations as one of the biggest challenges facing their business.However, a new administration appears to be trying to change that. President Trump has already used his power by issuing executive orders to roll back some agricultural regulations, but more reform is on the way and may start at the USDA.Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is chairing an interagency task force with resetting the regulatory tone in agriculture. READ MORE
November 14, 2017, Washington, DC – With a Nov. 15 deadline looming, the National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association recently filed a brief in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s motion to delay a mandate that farmers report certain air emissions from manure on their farms. In April, a federal court, ruling on a lawsuit brought by environmental activist groups against the EPA, rejected an exemption for farms from reporting “hazardous” emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). CERCLA mainly is used to clean hazardous waste sites but has a federal reporting component, while EPCRA requires entities to report on the storage, use and release of hazardous substances to state and local governments, including first responders. The EPA had exempted farms from CERCLA reporting, reasoning that while emissions might exceed thresholds that would trigger responses under the law such responses would be “unnecessary, impractical and unlikely.” The agency limited EPCRA reporting to large, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), requiring them to make one-time reports. Under the decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, all livestock farms, not just CAFOs, are required to report. Between 60,000 and 100,000 livestock and poultry farmers will need to file air emissions reports with the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (NRC), beginning Nov. 15, as well as written reports with their regional EPA office within 30 days of reporting to the NRC. Some farmers already have tried filing reports, but the NRC system has been overwhelmed. NRC operators are refusing to accept reports for more than a single farm per call because of concern that the phone systems will be tied up for non-emergency purposes. In one instance, an NRC operator sent notices out to more than 20 state and federal response authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a state policy agency, after receiving a phone call. In seeking a second delay in implementing the CERCLA reporting mandate – the original filing deadline technically was the day the federal court threw out the exemption – the EPA, NPPC and the poultry and egg association are asking the court to give the agency more time to “provide farmers more specific and final guidance before they must estimate and report emissions” and to develop a system that will enable farmers to comply with their legal obligations.
October 27, 2017, Washington, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released guidance to assist farmers in reporting air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at farms. The EPA is making this information available to provide time for farmers to review and prepare for the reporting deadline, currently set for November 15, 2017 “EPA is working diligently to address undue regulatory burden on American farmers,” said Administrator Scott Pruitt. “While we continue to examine our options for reporting requirements for emissions from animal waste, EPA’s guidance is designed to help farmers comply with the current requirements.” On December 18, 2008, EPA published a final rule that exempted farms from reporting air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste. On April 11, 2017, the DC Circuit Court vacated this final rule. In response to a request from EPA, the DC Circuit Court extended the date by which farms must begin reporting these releases to November 15, 2017. Unless the court further delays this date, all farms (including those previously exempted) that have releases of hazardous substances to air from animal wastes equal to or greater than the reportable quantities for those hazardous substances within any 24-hour period must provide notification of such releases. The EPA guidance information includes links to resources that farmers can use to calculate emissions tailored to specific species of livestock. To view EPA’s guidance and Frequently Asked Questions on reporting air emissions from animal waste, click here: https://www.epa.gov/epcra/cercla-and-epcra-reporting-requirements-air-releases-hazardous-substances-animal-waste-farms. The EPA will revise this guidance, as necessary, to reflect additional information to assist farm owners and operators to meet reporting obligations. Interested parties may submit comments or suggestions by November 24, 2017.
October 2, 2017 – Global methane emissions from agriculture are larger than estimated due to the previous use of out-of-date data on carbon emissions generated by livestock, according to a study published in the open access journal Carbon Balance and Management. In a project sponsored by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Carbon Monitoring System research initiative, researchers from the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) found that global livestock methane (CH4) emissions for 2011 are 11 percent higher than the estimates based on guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2006. This encompasses an 8.4 percent increase in CH4 from enteric fermentation (digestion) in dairy cows and other cattle and a 36.7 percent increase in manure management CH4 compared to IPCC-based estimates. Revised manure management CH4 emissions estimates for 2011 in the U.S. from this study were 71.8 percent higher than IPPC-based estimates. "In many regions of the world, livestock numbers are changing, and breeding has resulted in larger animals with higher intakes of food,” said Dr. Julie Wolf, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), senior author of the study. “This, along with changes in livestock management, can lead to higher methane emissions. Methane is an important moderator of the Earth's atmospheric temperature. It has about four times the atmospheric warming potential of carbon dioxide. Direct measurements of methane emissions are not available for all sources of methane. Thus, emissions are reported as estimates based on different methods and assumptions. In this study, we created new per-animal emissions factors – that is measures of the average amount of CH4 discharged by animals into the atmosphere – and new estimates of global livestock methane emissions." The authors re-evaluated the data used to calculate IPCC 2006 CH4 emission factors resulting from enteric fermentation in dairy cows and other cattle, and manure management from dairy cows, other cattle and swine. They show that estimating livestock CH4 emissions with the revised emissions factors, created in this study, results in larger emission estimates compared to calculations made using IPCC 2006 emission factors for most regions, although emission estimates varied considerably by region. “Among global regions, there was notable variability in trends in estimated emissions over recent decades,” said Dr Ghassem Asrar, director of JGCRI and a co-author of study. “For example, we found that total livestock methane emissions have increased the most in rapidly developing regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa. In contrast, emissions increased less in the U.S. and Canada, and decreased slightly in Western Europe. We found the largest increases in annual emissions to be over the northern tropics, followed by the southern tropics." The estimates presented in this study are also 15 percent larger than global estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only slightly smaller than estimates provided by the EPA for the U.S., four percent larger than EDGAR (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research) global estimates, three percent larger than EDGAR estimates for U.S. and 54 percent larger than EDGAR estimates for the state of California. Both the EPA and EDGAR use IPCC 2006 default information, which may have contributed to the under estimations.
August 12, 2016, Ontario, OH – The Ontario planning commission recently voted 4-0 to recommend that city council tweak its noxious odors ordinance, making it potentially a third-degree misdemeanor for farmers to fail to fix issues with strong manure smells from animals. Under the proposed language council will consider, either the zoning inspector or his designee (probably a police officer) would go to the farm to verify whether there is an odor issue that should be corrected. READ MORE
June 24, 2016, Tarboro, NC – A North Carolina Federal Court ruled that an air pollution lawsuit involving a pig farm can proceed. The lawsuit against the Hanor Company of Wisconsin was brought by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) plus Sound Rivers, Inc. and involves the farm’s failure to report its ammonia emissions. The court rejected Hanor’s argument that an 11-year-old agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempts large farms from reporting emissions while the agency conducts air quality studies. According to the HSUS, the EPA has never completed the air studies at issue.
January 19, 2015 – In order to clean the air of pollutants, biotechnology expert Raul Pineda Olmedo, from the National University of Mexico (UNAM), designed a biofilter that uses microorganisms living in the shell of the peanut. The research from the department of Environmental Technology noted that microorganisms grow naturally on peanut shell, which can be used to clean the air. Furthermore, in Mexico this material is generated in large amounts and is considered a worthless agricultural residue. The idea is a prototype filter with peanut shells, which cultivates the microorganisms to degrade toxic pollutants into carbon dioxide and water, thereby achieving clean air. "The peanut shell is special for these applications because it is naturally hollow and has an area of contact with air, which favors the development of microorganisms," said Pineda Olmedo. He also said it has been observed that this organic material can be applied to biotechnology as biological filters similar to those used by cars, but instead of stopping dust it can degrade the contaminants. The prototype is similar to a bell or kitchen extractor, but it not only absorbs and stores polluting vapors, it degrades and purifies the air. The design consists of a filter made with peanut shells containing microorganisms, which purify the air. For optimum development it should be in a temperature-controlled environment. Olmedo Pineda explained that the filter takes on average 28 days to synthesize microorganisms such as Fusarium and Brevibacterium. Bacteria and fungi take the carbon from pollution to reproduce and breath. In Mexico this technology has not been exploited extensively. The researcher currently seeks to commercialize the innovation, which is a solution applicable to everyday life.
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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