Environment
Weather impacts both manure application and loss of nutrients on crop utilization.
Published in Dairy
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently funded a research study to examine the manure and litter nutrient production in Pennsylvania poultry farms that may be directly affecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Published in Poultry
The Smotherman family began farming in 2002 as admitted rookies to agriculture and raising turkeys. But 16 years later Texas-based Ken and Dana Smotherman, may now be considered industry veterans who are having hall of fame careers, according to their peers.
Published in Poultry
The Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative (PRC) has chosen five projects from 11 proposals to develop and test technologies that intercept and remove phosphorus from agricultural runoff. Phosphorus entering the system contributes to the growth of harmful algal blooms in the Thames River and Lake Erie.
Published in News
Thirty Illinois county Farm Bureaus have been awarded grants under the Nutrient Stewardship Grant program. For the fourth consecutive year, Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) has awarded the grants – totaling nearly $400,000 in the last four years – to help promote local nutrient stewardship, soil health, and water quality projects.
Published in News
The American Biogas Council released the following statement in response to the fourth National Climate Assessment. The American Biogas Council is the trade association for the U.S. biogas industry. Biogas systems recycle organic material like food and yard waste, sewage sludge and animal manure, producing renewable energy in addition to valuable soil products.
Published in Biogas
Spring in America's heartland is often wet. That makes its soil too soft for planting. One solution to that issue is tile drainage. Growers insert a series of pipes (drain tiles) under their fields, which drains water from the soil into nearby streams and lakes.
Published in Other
Want to know more about your environmental footprint? Get additional information about operational costs? University of Minnesota Extension specialist, Erin Cortus and extension educators, Diane DeWitte, Jason Ertl, and Sarah Schieck are looking to work with producers in confidentially assessing their own operations using The Pig Production Environmental Footprint Calculator - a tool developed with support from and maintained by the National Pork Board.
Published in Swine
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the National Weather Service has designed a new tool for those applying manure in Minnesota called the Minnesota Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast.
Published in Manure Application
Beef and dairy farmers around the world are looking for ways to reduce methane emissions in their herds and cut greenhouse gas emissions – a global priority. To help meet this goal, researchers from Canada and Australia teamed-up for a three-year study to find the best feeding practices that reduce methane emissions while supporting profitable dairy and beef cattle production.
Published in Air quality
Bristow, IA – Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff have investigated a manure spill caused by a broken water line in a hog confinement located about three miles north of Bristow.

An unknown amount of manure from an empty building traveled about a mile before entering a tributary of Parmentar Creek on Sept. 26. Field tests by DNR staff found slightly elevated ammonia levels, but not high enough to kill fish.

A cleanup crew from the farm stopped the flow and built dams downstream to contain contaminated water, which they pumped and hauled to apply on crop fields.

DNR did not observe any dead fish in the stream. DNR will continue to monitor cleanup and consider appropriate enforcement action.

Published in News
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
Four years ago, dairy farmer Jay Richardson and his wife, Kristi – owners of Son-Bow Farms in Northwest Wisconsin – sat down for a heart-to-heart to discuss the future of their business.
Published in Dairy
While April showers might bring May flowers, they also contribute to toxic algae blooms, dead zones and declining water quality in U.S. lakes, reservoirs and coastal waters, a new study shows.
Published in Other
Earthworms eat biological material in the soil to survive. Now, their abilities are being put to work by a company called BioFiltro. They are used in a controlled environment to clean liquid manure waste streams in a matter of hours where it would otherwise have taken weeks.
Published in Dairy
Spencer, IA – Following heavy rains and extensive flooding in northwest Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is encouraging Iowans to stay out of floodwaters until after the waters recede.

Lois Benson, an environmental specialist at DNR’s Spencer field office, said that 26 livestock operations have reported their manure storage systems were overflowing.

“They are reporting they’ve received from 7 to 12 inches of rainfall, with more expected,” she said. “The vast majority have a national pollution prevention discharge elimination system or NPDES permit. In essence, this permit allows them to overflow in heavy rains.”

Most of the discharging livestock facilities are in Lyon, Sioux, O’Brien and Clay counties.

“We’re telling them to hold the overflow as best they can and try to prevent it from reaching a stream. Some are transferring it to other areas. Some are trying to contain it behind terraces.”

Producers who expect to discharge need to call the Spencer DNR field office at 712-262-4177.

Published in News
Add just enough fertilizer, and crops thrive. Add too much, and you may end up with contaminated surface and groundwater.

Excess nutrients from farms can be transported to groundwater reservoirs by water starting at the surface and flowing through soil. But the flow of water through soil is a "highly dynamic process," says Genevieve Ali, a researcher at the University of Manitoba. "It can vary from year to year, season to season, or even rainstorm to rainstorm."

It can also fluctuate depending on soil type and even if organic additions, like manure, are applied.

Ali is lead author of a new study that shows water infiltrates deeper into cracking clay (vertisolic soils) when liquid hog manure is applied.

The study also showed that even though water infiltration went deeper in the presence of manure, it did not reach depths of 39 inches (100 cm). That's how deep tile drains–designed to remove excess subsurface water–are typically installed in the study region.

"This observation challenges previous studies, which showed that cracks in clay soils can promote the travel of water and associated contaminants from the soil surface into tile drains," says Ali. "Our study suggests that not all clay-rich soils behave the same."

The researchers focused on vertisols because they are present in large regions of North America. "They are common in agricultural plains, where excess nutrients may be common due to intensive farming," Ali says.

But knowledge gaps remain about soil water flow in vertisols, especially with organic additions.

Water can flow through soil in different ways. 'Matrix flow' occurs when water moves slowly through tiny spaces between soil grains. 'Preferential flow' takes place when water travels relatively quickly through bigger channels, called macropores, such as cracks and earthworm burrows.

"Imagine a bucket of sand with plastic straws inserted throughout," says Ali. "If you dumped water on this sand bucket, the water traveling through the straws would reach the bottom first."

Similarly, preferential water flow through soil macropores can carry contaminants quickly from the surface down to groundwater reservoirs.

Macropores are often connected to one another. "They act like a network of pipes, and they can be created or exacerbated by human activities," says Ali. "Knowing when and where there is preferential flow and how to manage land in those areas is critical to preserving groundwater quality."

Clay-rich soils--such as vertisols–tend to crack, which creates macropores. "That makes these soils natural candidates to study the relative importance of matrix and preferential flow," says Ali.

This study was conducted in research plots in Manitoba, Canada. Researchers added liquid hog manure to one plot but not the other. They sprinkled water mixed with blue dye on both plots to determine how water moved through the soil.

In the plot where manure was applied, water reached up to 25 inches (64 cm) into the soil. In contrast, water reached up to 18 inches (45 cm) in the plot where manure was not applied. Both plots showed evidence of matrix and preferential water flow.

The researchers also found that the water moving through the macropores was not completely separated from the rest of the soil.

"If you think back to the analogy of the sand bucket with the straws in it, the straws have a bunch of small little holes in them," says Ali. "Water can be exchanged laterally between the macropores and the surrounding soil."

Lateral exchange has been reported frequently for smaller macropores in forested soils, says Ali. "But it is less common in agricultural soils where cracks tend to be larger."

This study focused on a single site, so Ali says that further research is needed before generalizations can be made.

Ali is also studying the role of soil cracks in spring (created by the soil freezing and thawing multiple times) versus the role of cracks in summer (created when soils become especially dry).

Read more about this research in Agricultural and Environmental Letters. The research was done under the umbrella of the Watershed Systems Research Program and funded by the Government of Manitoba, as well as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant awarded to Genevieve Ali.
Published in Research
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
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