“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.
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."
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.
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
February 8, 2017, Olympia, WA – Western lawmakers have proposed an amendment to the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act to help farmers understand which manure management rules they’re supposed to follow.
HR 848, the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act, would reaffirm and clarify Congress’ intention regarding manure management under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, also known as the Solid Waste Disposal Act. READ MORE
November 30, 2016, Washington, DC – The U.S.Department of Agriculture is seeking new proposals for cutting-edge projects to provide new conservation opportunities through its competitive Conservation Innovation Grants program.
The department will invest up to $25 million for projects sparking the development and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches in areas such as conservation finance, data analytics, and precision conservation. READ MORE
April 1, 2016, Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the winners of Phase I of the Nutrient Recycling Challenge – a competition to develop affordable technologies to recycle nutrients from livestock manure.
The winners received their awards at a ceremony at the White House Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, the first day of a two-day summit with innovators.
Every year, livestock producers manage more than a billion tons of animal manure, which contains valuable nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – that plants need to grow. Manure can be a resource as a renewable fertilizer, but should be used properly to minimize water pollution and build healthy soils.
In November 2015, EPA launched the Nutrient Recycling Challenge in partnership with pork and dairy producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and environmental and scientific experts. The goal of the challenge is to find affordable technologies that can help farmers manage nutrients, create valuable products and protect the environment.
“The Nutrient Recycling Challenge is a great example of EPA partnering with farmers to find solutions that benefit everyone,” said Ellen Gilinsky, senior policy advisor for the EPA’s Office of Water. “Through competition, together we are driving innovation to achieve environmental results.”
EPA received 75 concept papers from around the world and selected 34 submissions to continue on to Phase II of the challenge. EPA is awarding a total of $30,000 in cash prizes to the top 10 submissions (four Winners and six Honorable Mentions).
The following are descriptions of the winning concepts:
- Slurry Separation with Coanda Effect Separator (by Ahimbisibwe Micheal of Bravespec Systems Ltd.) – Using centrifuge technology to separate smaller nutrient particles from manure, with fewer energy inputs and lower costs.
- Manure Convertor (by Ilan Levy of Paulee Cleantec Ltd.) – Using chemical processes to rapidly turn manure into a non-toxic, fertile ash fertilizer.
- Producing Nutrients Concentrated Bio-solids via AnSBEARs (by Bo Hu, Hongjian Lin, and Xin Zhang of the University of Minnesota) – Creating a dry biosolids fertilizer by using a novel anaerobic digestion and solid-liquid separation system.
- Removal of Dissolved N and P from Livestock Manure by Air Stripping (by Hiroko Yoshida of Centrisys Corporation) – Using CO2 stripping and other processes to create a range of fertilizers from anaerobically digested manure.
The 34 selected submissions were also invited to the Nutrient Recycling Challenge DC Summit, in Washington, DC on March 30-31, 2016. The summit will provide a forum for innovators to meet experts and other innovators, as well as learn about resources to develop their ideas into real-life technologies. EPA seeks to create a “brain trust” that can design nutrient recovery technologies that can achieve what both farmers and the environment need.
Partners in the Nutrient Recycling Challenge are:
- American Biogas Council
- American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Cabot Creamery Cooperative
- Cooper Farms
- Dairy Farmers of America
- Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
- Iowa State University
- Marquette University
- National Milk Producers Federation
- National Pork Producers Council
- Newtrient, LLC
- Smithfield Foods
- Tyson Foods
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Washington State University
- Water Environment Research Federation
- World Wildlife Fund
For more information, visit www.nutrientrecyclingchallenge.org.
March 14, 2016, Washington, DC – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants input from stakeholders as it develops the framework for a risk assessment on the use of raw manure and other biological soil amendments of animal origin as fertilizer on produce farms.
This has been a controversial issue as the FDA proposed, and recently finalized, the Produce Safety rule mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The agency is concerned about the potential of raw manure and other such amendments to contain disease-causing bacteria. Growers see raw manure and other such amendments as an effective way to enrich the quality of their soil.
The FDA is planning to conduct a risk assessment to determine how much consumer health is put at risk by the use of raw manure as fertilizer in growing crops covered by the final Produce Safety rule, and what can be done to help prevent people from getting sick.
Before starting the assessment, the agency wants the help of stakeholders in the produce industry, the animal agriculture industry, academia and members of the public in developing the model for this work.
A notice published in the Federal Register requests public comments and scientific data and information, including information about how farms use raw manure and what strategies should be considered to reduce public health risk.
For more information:
In late February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an investment of $25 million in watersheds across the country to help improve water quality.
According to the press release accompanying the announcement, the funding will help agriculture producers apply conservation measures in 187 high-priority watersheds – including 17 new ones – in hopes of improving water quality downstream.
The funding is available through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), which works with farmers and landowners to implement voluntary practices, such as constructing filter strips, implementing nutrient management plans, and building terraces and buffers. The program has been in place since 2012.
Successful initiatives to date include Ohio’s East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek, one of the state’s most degraded watersheds. Eight farms own 75 per cent of the agricultural land within the watershed and have been working with their local soil and water conservation district to implement changes, including building waste storage facilities and covering animal feedlots plus manure storage areas. In Iowa, agricultural producers have been working to reduce phosphorus runoff into Walk Lake Inlet, part of Black Hawk Lake. So far, sediment runoff has been reduced by 1.630 tons annually and phosphorus by 3,544 pounds annually.
The NRCS plans to improve its water quality efforts in 2016 by introducing a new evaluation tool – resource stewardship evaluation – to help producers assess how their farm is operating, the value of the conservation projects currently in place and how they can improve their efforts.
Earlier in February, the NRCS also announced $720 million in funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for 84 projects across the country. Many of the projects involve providing assistance for livestock operators to help improve water quality, enhance soil health and protect agricultural viability.
Maryland and Delaware will be receiving $4.5 million for a joint project aimed at meeting TMDL goals within the Chesapeake Bay region. Conservation district staff in Maryland will be working with dairy farmers to install modern liquid separation technologies, reduce barnyard runoff and improve animal waste storage.
A separate project in Delaware is aimed at helping new poultry farmers gain access to composters or mortality freezers plus construct poultry waste structures and protect heavy use areas in a bid to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus leaching and runoff.
Minnesota plans to use part of its funding to assist feedlots under 300 animal units in meeting state and local ordinances in the areas of feedlot runoff and land application of manure.
If you’re interested in taking part in any of these projects or possibly gaining access to some of the funding available, I’d strongly suggest you contact your local soil and water conservation district or your state’s branch of the NRCS. Financial and professional assistance is available to manage your manure issues.
March 2, 2016 – As in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the federal government has stepped in to speed progress in the Gulf of Mexico’s water quality dilemma.
The EPA’s goal is reduce the size of the hypoxic “dead” zone by two-thirds by 2035. Ellen Gilinsky, the agency’s senior advisor for water, says that will require a 45 percent reduction in the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Mississippi River. READ MORE
September 21, 2015, Vermilion County, IL – A local cattle farmer is in trouble with the EPA. It says he's responsible for killing nearly 100,000 fish.
The EPA says a valve on a manure storage tank was left open, allowing it to drain into Stony Creek, which flows into the Salt Fork. Documents state the agency accuses the Fithian farmer of causing or allowing it to happen. READ MORE
August 17, 2015, Toledo, OH – Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur announced August 14 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest an additional $5 million across Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to improve water quality in Lake Erie’s western basin.
“Science tells us that if we want to stop Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms, we need to drastically reduce the amount of harmful nutrients entering Lake Erie’s tributaries, especially dissolved phosphorous from animal livestock,” said Congresswoman Kaptur. READ MORE
June 8, 2015, Watertown, NY – The federal government is stepping in to make sure a manure lagoon near the Black River is safe.
State and federal agencies met with Watertown city officials just outside Watertown recently to discuss concerns about a lagoon being built 1,500 feet from the Black River to store manure. Officials are worried manure could leak out and contaminate drinking water, like it did in another county nearly 10 years ago. READ MORE
The rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry. The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.
“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”
“Today's rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. “This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act. This rule responds to the public's demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide."
Protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex, and time-consuming as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. EPA and the Army are taking this action today to provide clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act after receiving requests for over a decade from members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public for a rulemaking.
In developing the rule, the agencies held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country, reviewed over one million public comments, and listened carefully to perspectives from all sides. EPA and the Army also utilized the latest science, including a report summarizing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies that showed small streams and wetlands play an integral role in the health of larger downstream water bodies.
Climate change makes protection of water resources even more essential. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Impacts from climate change like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures threaten the quantity and quality of America’s water. Protecting streams and wetlands will improve our nation’s resilience to climate change.
Specifically, the Clean Water Rule:
- Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters. The Clean Water Act protects navigable waterways and their tributaries. The rule says that a tributary must show physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark – to warrant protection. The rule provides protection for headwaters that have these features and science shows can have a significant connection to downstream waters.
- Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters. The rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries because science shows that they impact downstream waters. The rule sets boundaries on covering nearby waters for the first time that are physical and measurable.
- Protects the nation’s regional water treasures. Science shows that specific water features can function like a system and impact the health of downstream waters. The rule protects prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools in California, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands when they impact downstream waters.
- Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.
- Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. The rule does not change how those waters are treated and encourages the use of green infrastructure.
- Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters. Previously, almost any water could be put through a lengthy case-specific analysis, even if it would not be subject to the Clean Water Act. The rule significantly limits the use of case-specific analysis by creating clarity and certainty on protected waters and limiting the number of similarly situated water features.
A Clean Water Act permit is only needed if a water is going to be polluted or destroyed. The Clean Water Rule only protects the types of waters that have historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. It does not regulate most ditches and does not regulate groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains. It does not make changes to current policies on irrigation or water transfers or apply to erosion in a field. The Clean Water Rule addresses the pollution and destruction of waterways – not land use or private property rights.
The rule protects clean water necessary for farming, ranching, and forestry and provides greater clarity and certainty to farmers about coverage of the Clean Water Act. Farms across America depend on clean and reliable water for livestock, crops, and irrigation. The final rule specifically recognizes the vital role that U.S. agriculture serves in providing food, fuel, and fiber at home and around the world. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for America’s farmers. Activities like planting, harvesting, and moving livestock have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and the Clean Water Rule preserves those exemptions.
May 20, 2015, Blacksburg, VA — Growing evidence suggests that agricultural practices, especially widespread antibiotic use, could be contributing to the increasing antibiotic resistance problem in humans. In order to learn how to effectively control this spread of antibiotic resistance from livestock manure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a $2.25 million grant to a Virginia Tech team of engineers and scientists to examine the food chain from farm to fork.
One of the team’s immediate concerns is to determine if the proposed Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act rules for composting manure, intended for the control of pathogens, will effectively limit the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The team’s plan includes tracking the fate of antibiotics, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and antibiotic resistance genes, as they are potentially carried over from manure to fresh produce.
Leading the interdisciplinary group is Amy Pruden, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, a pioneer in examining environmental sources and pathways of antibiotic resistance genes as emerging contaminants. A 2007 Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering and a 2006 National Science Foundation CAREER Award recipient, Pruden was most recently honored with the 2014 Paul L. Busch Award from the Water Environment Research Foundation for innovation in applied water quality research.
Last September President Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing a task force for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The task force creation came on the heels of a President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report on ways to fight antibiotic resistance in the U.S. Part of this report spoke of the “very serious concern” of antibiotic use in animal agriculture.
“Antibiotic resistance is a serious human health threat,” Pruden said. “Our goal is to identify all possible means by which we can control the spread of antibiotic resistance so that these drugs continue to work when we need them. In this case, we hope to work with existing practices intended to control the spread of pathogens from livestock manure and to determine how we can ensure that antibiotic resistance also is not spread.”
Evidence is showing that antibiotic resistance rates of human pathogens is rising in both hospital acquired and community acquired infections. While looking at ways to minimize the spread of resistance, “the fact that the majority of antibiotic use in the U.S. is for livestock cannot be ignored,” Pruden added.
The Food and Drug Administration recently estimated that 80 percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. are administered to livestock. Combine this fact with the knowledge that between “40 and 90 percent of the antibiotic is excreted in the feces and urine where they can remain active and potentially stimulate antibiotic resistance,” cautioned Kang Xia, http://www.cses.vt.edu/people/tenure/xia.html associate professor of crop and soil environmental sciences at Virginia Tech and a co-principal investigator. And it reinforces “our call for new strategies.”
In the U.S., antimicrobials are widely used for therapy, disease prevention, and growth promotion in animals raised as a source of food.
“They generally act by targeting specific aspects of the bacterial cells and inhibiting their growth,” Pruden explained. “However the bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics when they carry antibiotic resistance genes.”
So the Virginia Tech team is focusing on these genes “since they can be shared among bacteria, even dead to living bacteria, and could therefore persist during pre-harvest and post-harvest stages,” said Pruden. “Antibiotic resistance genes are arguably of greater concern than antibiotic resistant bacteria because they are typically associated with mobile genetic elements that enable them to be passed between microorganisms via horizontal gene transfer, a phenomenon possible even from dead to living cells.”
Pruden points out that “horizontal gene transfer is considered to be the most important mechanism driving the spread of antibiotic resistance”.
Monica Ponder, associate professor of food science and technology at Virginia Tech, also a member of the team, noted concerns about produce eaten raw, as vegetable surfaces are naturally colonized by a variety of bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. Most are harmless, but when they do occasionally carry pathogens, the results can be deadly, as was the case in the 2006 outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 linked to spinach.
This contamination can come from lapses in manure management, such as contamination of irrigation water, poor composting, or application too near the harvest time.
“In the U.S., it is not permissible to apply raw manure to fields intended for food production, but there may be simple ways we could improve the composting process, selection of soil type, crop type, or post-harvest washing practices to ensure that antibiotic resistance is not spread,” Ponder said.
The Food and Drug Administration has already launched an initiative to promote voluntary phase out of medically important antibiotics such as third generation cephalosporins in food producing animals.
“While limiting antibiotic use in livestock makes sense from a practical standpoint, the science of the effect of antibiotic withdrawal on antibiotic resistance is complex,” cautioned team member Katharine Knowlton, the Virginia Tech Colonel Horace E. Alphin Professor of Dairy Science.
The new USDA project will integrate research, education, and extension in order to train future leaders equipped to address complex problems like the spread of antibiotic resistance in the environment and to engage with farmers and livestock producers in translating the research to practice.
“Virginia Tech is the ideal locale for this project given its land-grant mission and highly supportive atmosphere for agricultural extension, for which efforts in this project will be lead by Thomas Archibald and Amber Vallotton,” Pruden said.
Archibald is an assistant professor of agricultural leadership and community education and Vallotton is an assistant professor of horticulture, both at Virginia Tech.
The team attributes its success in attracting this competitive USDA grant to prior seed funding from the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates site, led by Leigh-Anne Krometis, assistant professor of biological systems engineering and W. Cully Hession, professor of biological systems engineering, who round out the team’s members. They developed the integrated undergraduate research and education training infrastructure at Virginia Tech.
They will also partner with the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGC-IGEP)Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGC-IGEP) in expanding graduate education opportunities associated with this new project http://globalchangephd.com/.
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US Biogas 2017Wed Oct 25, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Long-term Studies on Manure & Root Crops WebinarFri Nov 17, 2017 @ 2:30PM - 03:30PM
Next Generation Manure Management Practices WebinarFri Dec 15, 2017 @ 2:30PM - 03:30PM
2018 World Ag ExpoTue Feb 13, 2018 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM