Business/Policy
Washington, DC – As North Carolina communities grapple with the fallout from flooding during Hurricane Florence, community groups and an allied national coalition filed a legal complaint in federal court Sept. 28, challenging a Trump administration policy that exempts animal feeding operations from having to report emissions under a federal emergency planning and right-to-know law.

“The full extent of the damage to our communities is still unknown. But one thing’s clear – we need better protections for communities neighboring these operations,” said Devon Hall, executive director of the Duplin County, NC-based Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH). Duplin County, a hub of industrial pig operations, was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Florence. “Eliminating this exemption is a simple way to help make sure my neighbors and I are better protected.”

At the heart of the matter are two environmental laws – the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Both require reporting of releases of hazardous substances that meet or exceed reportable quantities within a 24-hour period in order for federal, state, and local officials to evaluate the need for an emergency response to mitigate the effects of a release to the community.

Back in December 2008, the EPA published a final rule that exempted all farms from reporting hazardous substance air releases from animal waste under CERCLA. Only large CAFOs were subject to EPCRA reporting.

Several citizen groups challenged the validity of the final rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals and, in April 2017, the court vacated the final rule.

In March 2018, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Omnibus Bill) was signed into law, a section of which – known as the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARM Act) – amended CERCLA to exempt air emissions from animal waste at a farm from reporting under CERCLA.

Accordingly, on August 1, 2018, EPA published a final rule revising the CERCLA reporting regulations to incorporate the FARM Act’s amendments to CERCLA.

Based on the criteria for EPCRA release reporting, the EPA maintains that air emissions from animal waste at farms do not need to be reported under EPCRA.

REACH and Sound Rivers are being represented by the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice and are joined by Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Don’t Waste Arizona, Environmental Integrity Project, Food & Water Watch, Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance in the complaint.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.
Published in Federal
It’s been almost a week since Hurricane Florence struck North Carolina and some hog farmers are still dealing with challenges left over from the storm.

According to a report from the North Carolina Pork Council [NCPC], some hog farmers and partner production companies are going to extraordinary lengths to care for their animals, including living in the barns for days, traveling by boat to do chores and even being shuttled to farms via helicopter.

Some are also dealing with manure management problems.

“While it’s clear that farmers properly managed lagoon levels in advance of the storm, a small percentage of lagoons have been impacted by the record-setting rainfalls,” the NCPC report stated. “In some cases, lagoon levels are being lowered by transferring liquids off the farm in tanker trucks or by piping to other lagoons with ample storage.”

According to a Sept. 23 report from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, five lagoons in the state suffered structural damage, 32 lagoons overtopped, nine lagoons were inundated [no indication of discharges], 18 lagoons are at full capacity [have no freeboard left] and 39 lagoons have zero to 3-inches of freeboard available.

“While we are dismayed by the release of some liquids from some lagoons, we also understand that what has been released from the farms is the result of a once-in-a-lifetime storm and that the contents are highly diluted with rainwater,” the NCPC stated.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sets preliminary livestock losses at 3.4 million poultry and 5,500 hogs.

“This was an unprecedented storm with flooding expected to exceed that from any other storms in recent memory,” said Steve Troxler, NC Agriculture Commissioner. “We know agricultural losses will be significant because the flooding has affected the top six agricultural counties in the state. The footprint of flooding from this storm covers much the same area hit by flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which only worsens the burden on these farmers.”

The department’s environment programs and division of soil and water conservation is assisting livestock and poultry farmers with recovery to ensure environmental impacts are minimized to the extent possible. The department’s veterinary division is helping to assess risk to livestock operations and depopulation teams are on standby and are assisting producers with disposal concerns.
Published in Swine
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has applauded a recent U.S. District Court after it issued an injunction affecting Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to prevent enforcement of the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

Last month, Attorney General Paxton and his counterparts from Louisiana and Mississippi filed a motion asking the court to expedite their request for an injunction. The legal action was necessary after a district court in South Carolina overturned President Trump’s effort to delay the WOTUS rule so that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could prepare a replacement rule.

While district courts in North Dakota and Georgia enjoined WOTUS in 24 states, the rule remained in effect in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and other states not covered by the two injunctions.

“Today’s district court ruling is a win for property owners in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, sparing them from the … WOTUS rule that would allow EPA regulation of ponds, streams and puddles on private land,” Attorney General Paxton said. “By restoring principles of federalism to this area of law, the ruling is an even bigger win for the Constitution and the fundamental liberties it protects.”

In 2015, Attorney General Paxton was part of a multi-state coalition lawsuit that won a nationwide stay against WOTUS in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, preventing the federal government from taking control of ponds, streams and puddles of Texas property owners.

One of President Trump’s first actions in office was an executive order directing the EPA to begin the process of eliminating WOTUS. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cases litigating the Clean Water Act should be heard by federal district courts.

View a copy of the injunction here.
Published in Federal
Arden Hills, MN – Land O'Lakes recently announced its plan to roll out the Truterra Insights Engine, an interactive on-farm digital platform that will help farmers advance their stewardship goals and return-on-investment in real time, acre-by-acre and help food companies measure sustainability progress.

The platform will be available this year as the core tool under the new Truterra brand. The full suite of the Truterra offering aims to advance the agricultural industry's ability to enable conservation at scale across a variety of crops, commodities and commitments.

"Truterra holds tremendous potential to harness stewardship to drive value by providing data-driven insights from farm-to-fork," said Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN. "Using the Truterra Insights Engine, farmers and food companies will have the ability to establish and report clear metrics, create customized stewardship strategies that meet farmers where they are in their sustainability journey, and use a common language for on-farm stewardship that holds meaning and value. It's a major step forward in supporting food system sustainability that starts on the farm."

One of the biggest challenges in understanding and enhancing the sustainability of our food system remains a lack of comprehensive tools that can quantify economic and environmental benefits for farmers to identify farm management options. The Truterra Insights Engine, along with other technology services and tools under the new Truterra suite of offerings, will help to fill this need by providing tangible conservation options and benefits customized to every business.

The Truterra Insights Engine leverages agronomic expertise and technical capabilities from a variety of contributors to enhance the value of stewardship across the supply chain. Such collaborations include USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and integration of the sustainability metrics of Field to Market's Fieldprint Platform. The Insights Engine even ties into major private-sector commitments such as Walmart's Project Gigaton.

For farmers and agricultural retailers, the Truterra Insights Engine will utilize soil, weather, economic, and farm management data to create customized reports showcasing the potential impacts of various stewardship practices – providing field-by-field insights, tracking against both economic performance and conservation practices. Together, the economic and environmental results will facilitate the long-term productivity and success of our farmers and food system.

A key differentiator for this platform from other data tools is its design to be of value for farmers first and foremost. It was created by a farmer-owned cooperative, to be used by farmers, agricultural retailers, and agricultural experts to improve on-farm economic and natural resource stewardship. The benefits of the platform span the food value chain, but it was built to start with the farmer and deliver value back to the farm.

Importantly, the Truterra Insights Engine will measure and track stewardship progress over time. In addition to helping farmers make the right choices for their business, these expanded metrics will help food companies achieve their sustainability goals – leading the industry toward a more sustainable food system.

To learn more about Truterra and see the Truterra Insights Engine in action, visit www.TruterraInsights.com.

Published in Companies
Des Moines, IA – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently learned that a project to allow farmers to submit manure management plans online won an award in the 2018 national Government Experience Awards.

The project was recognized in the Government-to-Business Experience category, one of six categories acknowledging how all levels of government are working to improve citizens’ interactions with their government.

Historically, about 7,000 Iowa farmers had to fill out paper forms, drive miles to get them signed and leave a copy of the manure management plan at the county courthouse, and then submit the signed forms to DNR.

“Our goal was to cut the time and effort it takes for farmers to submit annual plans, while maintaining the information we need,” said Bill Ehm, head of DNR’s environmental division. “Now, instead of days, they can use their smart phone to file the plan and pay fees online in minutes. That’s a tremendous savings for all involved.

“The online process makes everyone’s lives easier: the producers, and DNR and county staff,” he added. “It should also be helpful for records.”

The awards are presented by the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute focused on information technology policy and best practices in state and local government. California, Maryland, Texas and Utah also won in the State Government-to-Business focus area.

Learn more about the eMMP, including how to submit one and the stakeholders involved in the project at www.iowadnr.gov/emmp.
Published in State
Raleigh, NC – Hog farmers across Eastern North Carolina are making final preparations for the forecast arrival of Hurricane Florence. Farmers have taken precautions to protect animals, manage lagoons and prepare for power outages that are anticipated from the major hurricane, which is forecast to bring more than 15 inches of rain and high winds to many of the state’s largest pig- and hog-producing counties.

Actions that farmers are taking include:
  • Shifting animals to higher ground. Farmers and integrators are working to move animals out of barns in known flood-prone areas, shifting them to other farms to prevent animal mortality.
  • Ensuring feed supplies are in place. Farmers and integrators are taking precautions to ensure ample feed provisions are on farms in anticipation of impassable roadways.
  • Preparing for power outages. Farmers are securing generators and fuel supplies to respond to extended power outages.
  • Assessing lagoon levels. Farmers have carefully managed their lagoons throughout the summer growing season, using their manure as a crop fertilizer. Every hog farm lagoon is required to maintain a minimum buffer to account for major flood events. Farmers across the major production areas of North Carolina are reporting current lagoon storage levels that can accommodate more than 25 inches of rain, with many reporting capacity volumes far beyond that.
“Our farmers and others in the pork industry are working together to take precautions that will protect our farms, our animals and our environment,” said Brandon Warren, president of the North Carolina Pork Council and a hog farmer from Sampson County. “The preparations for a hurricane began long before the past few hours or days. Our farmers take hurricane threats extremely seriously. We are continuing this work until the storm will force us inside.”



These same actions served the industry well during historic flooding brought by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.



Despite dire predictions from activist environmental groups, North Carolina farmers were well prepared for Hurricane Matthew when it arrived in October 2016. Even with record rainfall, only one lagoon experienced structural damage – and that was on a farm that had not housed any animals for more than five years.



An additional 14 lagoons were inundated with floodwater — compared to 55 during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 — but more than 3,750 other lagoons did not experience any flooding at all.



Following Hurricane Matthew, the Division of Water Resources conducted extensive monitoring of waterways across Eastern North Carolina. It reached the following conclusion:



“After reviewing the data collected, and comparing that to precipitation amounts, river levels and known areas of flooding, the overall impacts of Hurricane Matthew on surface water quality were initially minimal and temporary, and the long-term effects appear to be similar to previous storms and long-term historical conditions. While many eastern North Carolina areas were inundated by floodwaters and incidents of spills, breaches or waste facility shutdowns were reported, the amount of water discharged into the river basins resulted in a diluting effect, which primarily resulted in lower than normal concentrations of various pollutants.”

Published in Swine
Smithfield, VA – Smithfield Foods, Inc. has shared that the company is fully prepared for the potential impact of Hurricane Florence, specifically in North Carolina and Virginia.

Smithfield has numerous operations, both plants and farms, and more than 14,000 employees across both states, and has enacted its hurricane preparedness procedures.

Employees in the company's eastern Virginia and North Carolina plants and on its approximately 250 company-owned farms and 1,500 contract farms are taking steps to protect people, animals, and buildings against wind and rain damage.

On its farms, the company has been closely monitoring and, as necessary, lowering lagoon levels in accordance with state regulations and farms' nutrient management plans, and encouraging its contract growers to do the same. Learn more about manure management here, which is an ongoing, year-round process.

“The safety of our employees is top of mind and we will continue to actively monitor the storm's track and adjust production schedules accordingly,” said Keira Lombardo, Smithfield Foods senior vice president of corporate affairs. “We will also remain in constant contact with state emergency and regulatory personnel throughout the event.”

Published in Swine
Farmers and other contributors to the excessive nutrient and pollution runoff impacting Dane County lakes and waterways could receive financial incentives or subsidies to implement conservation methods under a set of recommendations from a task force to the County Board.

The county convened the Healthy Farms, Healthy Lakes Task Force last year to come up with recommendations on how the county can address runoff, including phosphorus, which was identified as a key contributor to the algae blooms and other plant growths that choke the lake and its ecosystems. | READ MORE 
Published in News
Loudonville, OH — Holmes and Ashland Soil and Water Conservation Districts are hosting a meeting on August 30 at 6 p.m. at the Ohio Theater (156 N. Water St., Loudonville) to provide information and updates about winter manure management.

Attendees will learn the latest information from the Ohio Department of Agriculture regarding changes to nutrient management regulations.

In order to provide tools to deal with manure management, Rob Clendening with the Knox County Farm Bureau/SWCD will give a presentation about the OnMrk app for nutrient tracking and record keeping.

Likewise, Dr. Libby Dayton will demonstrate the OnField! app, which explains the new Phosphorus Risk Index and what it means to producers. These tools will help farmers be proactive and informed about the risks associated with nutrient management.

Pizza and drinks will be provided at no cost. Pop and popcorn will be available for purchase at the theater. RSVP to this free event by Aug. 27 by calling Ashland SWCD at 419-281-7645. Any questions can be directed to Ashland SWCD or Holmes SWCD at 330-674-2811, ext. 3.

Published in State
Farmers who haul manure and custom manure applicators in Michigan may soon be able to qualify for significant reductions in their pollution insurance premiums by participating in a voluntary manure hauler certification program built around a successful model developed in neighboring Wisconsin.
Published in Associations
Smithfield Foods and Anuvia Plant Nutrients recently announce a new partnership to create sustainable fertilizer from solids collected from the manure treatment systems at Smithfield’s hog farms.
Published in Swine
I was recently reminded of the famous poem by Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor; you probably know the one – First they came … It’s on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and pops up in the press when injustice or persecution is the topic at hand.
Published in Swine
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has awarded $69.9 million in grant funding to 40 dairy digester projects across the state. These projects, part of the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP), will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manure on California dairy farms.

Dairy manure produces methane when it decomposes. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps more than 80 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Dairy digesters help capture methane emissions, which can be used to produce electricity or natural gas.

"Dairy operations in California continue to step up to ensure the agriculture sector contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation. These collaborative efforts between the State, dairy operations and developers are making California a national and international leader in supporting on-farm methane reductions using climate-smart agriculture management approaches that also generate renewable energy," said CDFA secretary Karen Ross.

Financial assistance for the installation of dairy digesters comes from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that uses Cap-and-Trade program funds to support the state's climate goals.

CDFA and other state agencies are investing these proceeds in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide additional benefits to California communities. Dairy digester grant recipients will provide an estimated $95.5 million in matching funds for the development of their projects.

Information about the 2018 Dairy Digester Research and Development Program projects is available at www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/dd.
Published in News
A ban on Lancaster County farmers spreading manure during winter months is one of the measures the federal government is urging in a new forceful letter to Pennsylvania over lagging results in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it expects the state to forbid such manure applications on bare fields in winter when runoff is most likely.

"That would be a hardship on many of the farms" if it becomes reality, said Christopher Thompson, manager of the Lancaster County Conservation District. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in News
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is reminding livestock producers to review changes made to standard animal weights that take effect in 2019.

These new weights could reclassify some livestock farms as Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs) or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), requiring those farms to adopt new levels of compliance with nutrient management laws. | READ MORE 
Published in State
Madison, WI - New rule revisions designed to reduce manure groundwater contamination, specifically in the northeast section of the state, took effect July 1.

The changes, under the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' ch. NR 151, Wis. Adm. Code, relate to Silurian bedrock, which are areas where the soil depth to bedrock is shallow and the bedrock may be fractured.

"The main purpose of this targeted performance standards is to reduce the risk for contamination in groundwater from manure applications on shallow bedrock soils," said Mary Anne Lowndes, DNR Watershed Management Section chief.

Lowndes said Silurian bedrock soils identified in the rule revisions are dolomite bedrock with a depth of 20 feet or less. The rule targets an area in the state that may include portions of Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha counties.

"Within a specified area, the rule sets forth manure spreading rates and practices that vary according to the soil depth and texture," said Lowndes. "For Silurian bedrock, the most restrictive practices apply to those limited areas with the highest risk for pathogen delivery, zero to five feet in depth, and less restrictive requirements apply in areas with five to 20 feet to bedrock."

Lowndes added that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the Silurian bedrock areas will be required to comply with the standards in the new rule, when it is incorporated into their permit under the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES), and a cross reference to the targeted performance standard language has also been added to ch. NR 243, Wis. Adm. Code., which applies to CAFOs subject to WPDES permitting. Non-permitted farms in Silurian bedrock areas will also be required to comply with the standards in the rule.

Lowndes added the DNR has worked with the University of Wisconsin Department of Soil Science to offer a Silurian bedrock map (exit DNR) tool that can be used to identify areas where the bedrock soil depth is less than 20 feet, and that the department is working with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection and county land conservation departments on how best to implement the new rules.

The new rule is based on a long-term effort by the department to seek public input on changes to NR 151, including conducting studies, public meetings and hearings and hosting a technical advisory committee and Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup that met between 2015-2017.
Published in State
Manure Manager strives to provide U.S. and Canadian livestock producers plus custom applicators with timely information to help them manage their businesses in the most efficient, safe and economical way possible. Whether through our printed publication, website or social media accounts, we do our best to keep you in the know about manure management issues.

As a reader, we are requesting your help.

Manure Manager is currently conducting an online survey and we're hoping you can find some time during your busy schedules to take part. Whether you're a dairy, beef, hog or poultry producer; a custom manure applicator, an academic or an industry support person, we want and value your feedback.

The information you provide will remain confidential, secure and will help provide a snapshot of the state-of-the-industry plus provide us with valuable feedback about what you would like to see more of inside these pages or online.

The survey is live now and will be available at manuremanager.com/survey until September 4 [we kept it open a few extra weeks to catch any stragglers].

Everyone who takes the time to complete the survey will be entered into a draw for $500.

Thank-you in advance for your valuable insights and opinions.
Published in Companies
A decade ago, Maryland's environmental regulators greatly expanded their scrutiny of densely packed animal farms, including the chicken houses that crowd much of the Eastern Shore's landscape.

Since then, the Maryland Department of the Environment has approved scores of new industrial-scale operations without ever turning down an applicant. That may change, though, as a Maryland administrative law judge's ruling has found a recently issued permit in violation of the agency's own rules. | READ MORE
Published in News
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

Published in State
In early June, Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island introduced the Carbon Utilization Act of 2018 which will incentivize emerging carbon utilization technologies, such as digesters and carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) by providing increased access to USDA loan guarantees, research programs, and rural development loans.

The bill will create education and research programs and encourage interagency collaboration to advance these technologies. The American Biogas Council praised its introduction as the programs within it can help farms become more resilient and sustainable.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) said, "As we look to the future of clean energy, we must invest in innovative, secure, and low-carbon technologies—especially in rural communities. We will work to include these energy provisions in the Farm Bill to provide funding for projects that create jobs, secure our electricity systems, and combat climate change. We must ensure that rural communities are included in the clean energy economy."

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island (D) added: "Experts agree that transforming pollutants into something useful ought to be part of our fight against climate change. That's why we need to help promising carbon capture and biogas technologies compete in new markets, like on farms and at other rural businesses. This bill will help those technologies find new uses in agriculture while reducing carbon and methane pollution, benefiting both our climate and the rural economy. That's a clear win-win."

"We are grateful for the leadership and vision of Senators Bennet and Whitehouse in recognizing the significant benefit that biogas systems can provide our country," said Patrick Serfass, ABC's executive director. "A robust agriculture industry is essential to American prosperity. Like biogas systems help our nation's farms, the Carbon Utilization Act of 2018 will strengthen farming operations, increase sustainability and create new revenue streams to help protect family farm operations, especially during commodity price swings."

Published in Biogas
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