Environment Protection
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
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
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
Ames, IA – An Iowa State University professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering has been named the new director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.

Matt Helmers, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and extension agricultural engineer, began his duties on Sept. 1. Helmers succeeds Hongwei Xin, assistant dean of research for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, who served as interim director since 2017.

Helmers joined Iowa State in 2003. He serves as the agricultural and biosystems engineering department’s associate chair for research and extension and holds the title of Dean’s Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Dr. Helmers is well-known among Iowa farmers and water quality researchers as an exceptional scientist and a trusted source of information about nutrient management,” said Joe Colletti, interim endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “His leadership of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center is a significant new chapter in addressing the goals set forth in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.”

Helmers was part of the scientific team that worked on the strategy’s Nonpoint Source Science Assessment, serving as its nitrogen team chair. He served on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board Agricultural Science Committee from 2016 to 2018.

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center has committed $8.7 million to 76 research projects since it was created in 2013 by the Iowa Board of Regents in response to legislation passed by the Iowa Legislature. The center funds research by scientists at Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa to address nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient losses to surface waters. They pursue science-based approaches to areas that include evaluating the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices and providing recommendations on implementing the practices and developing new practices.

Helmers is involved in research and extension and outreach activities in the areas of water management and water quality. One focus area is subsurface drainage and the impacts of agricultural management on nutrient export from subsurface drained lands. Another focus is surface runoff from agricultural areas, including the strategic placement and design of buffer systems focusing on how buffer systems can be used to minimize environmental impacts.

He is faculty adviser to the Iowa Learning Farms, a partnership of farmers, non-farmers, urban residents, educators, agencies and conservationists to promote a renewed commitment to a Culture of Conservation. This year he was presented the Outstanding Achievement in Extension Award by the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and received its Dean Lee R. Kolmer Award for Excellence in Applied Research in 2017.

Helmers earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Iowa State in 1995; a master’s degree in civil engineering in 1997 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and a doctorate in agricultural and biological systems engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2003.
Published in Research
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
Clinton, IA – While doing a follow-up check on manure application just north of Clinton on September 12, an official with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources found manure in a tributary of Silver Creek flowing into Silver Creek and about three miles to the Mississippi River.

The manure came from an overflowing storage basin at a nearby dairy operation. The dairy has hired a manure applicator to land apply manure. The basin has stopped overflowing.

A DNR inspector found the basin had been overflowing for some time. An unknown amount of manure reached the creeks. There were no signs of a fish kill in the creeks.

Recent heavy rains have affected some manure storage structures in the state. However, the DNR recommends that livestock producers contact the local DNR field office for help when faced with issues because of rainfall. Exploring alternatives for manure application and storage before it’s a problem is better than dealing with a manure release.

The DNR will continue to monitor the situation and cleanup, and will consider appropriate enforcement action.

Published in Dairy
Green Bay, WI - State, county and Oneida Nation staff are responding to a large manure spill causing a fish kill in Silver Creek on the Oneida reservation about four miles west of Ashwaubenon.

The spill occurred on a dairy farm located west of the Outagamie-Brown county line. It was reported at 1 p.m. Sept. 10 but likely started the night before. Before the source of the spill was stopped, an estimated 300,000 gallons of manure were released into a grassy waterway and into Silver Creek, a tributary of Duck Creek. The manure flowed east and most of it is in Brown County.

Cleanup efforts started after the initial report and are continuing. The farm is not a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation). Oneida Nation staff is monitoring water quality with assistance from the state Department of Natural Resources. Oneida Nation staff asked DNR to assist with managing the cleanup.

Dead minnow species and bluegills have been seen at multiple road crossings on Silver Creek as it flows north towards its confluence with Duck Creek, about three miles northeast of the farm. The manure plume has reached Duck Creek, field staff confirmed.

Oneida Nation staff has been collecting water quality samples at several locations. DNR staff has collected bacteria samples at several locations, including the first downstream road crossing on Duck Creek. The farm contacted a sewage pumper and manure is being pumped from Silver Creek.

The farm reported the spill occurred when a valve holding manure in under-barn storage failed and released most of the contents into the farm's main manure storage structure. That structure, already nearly full, overtopped and released manure onto a grassy waterway.

A crew from Outagamie County responded immediately after the report and excavated a sump-collection hole in the grassy waterway leading from the farm to Silver Creek. DNR staff also responded quickly and began coordinating cleanup efforts with Oneida Nation officials.

Published in Dairy
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
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it has awarded $1,164,612 to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to improve the health of Delaware's rivers and streams.

"This grant highlights the power of state and federal governments working in partnership to protect the natural environment," said EPA regional administrator, Cosmo Servidio. "Providing these funds directly to Delaware empowers the state to address its unique and critical environmental challenges."

"Over the years, there has been vast improvement in the water quality in Delaware, but challenges still persist," said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control secretary, Shawn M. Garvin. "DNREC appreciates the ongoing partnership and funding support from EPA. This grant will support investments in cover crops, nutrient management, the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), stormwater retrofits, and tree planting projects that will enhance and improve water quality statewide."

The funding is provided under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, which authorizes EPA to provide grants to states to implement nonpoint source pollution control programs. It will support Delaware's nonpoint source management program, focusing on watersheds with water quality impairments caused by polluted runoff.

These nonpoint source control projects include a variety of structural and non-structural best management practices, monitoring, and technology demonstrations. The funding will also support outreach activities to educate the public about nonpoint source pollution.

Nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away pollutants, depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and ground water. Sources of nonpoint source pollution include urban runoff, agricultural runoff, and changes to natural stream channels.

Congress enacted Section 319 of the Clean Water Act in 1987, establishing a national program to control nonpoint sources of water pollution. Section 319 enables EPA to provide states, territories, and tribes with guidance and grant funding to implement their nonpoint source programs and support local projects to improve water quality.

Since 2005, this work by states has restored more than 550 impaired waterbodies nationally, which includes more than 200,000 acres of lakes and more than 10,500 miles of rivers and streams. Hundreds of additional projects are currently underway across the country.

Learn more about successful nonpoint source projects at https://www.epa.gov/nps/nonpoint-source-success-stories.

Published in State
What can a trench filled with woodchips do to improve water quality? The Sustainable, Secure Food blog explains bioreactors, a solution to nitrogen runoff.

"Denitrifying bioreactors are a low-tech, yet highly sophisticated environmental solution," says blogger Hannah Dougherty, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Their design is simple—a trench with woodchips—yet the impact is notable. Bioreactors can remove up to 45 percent of the nitrogen load in a field's drainage water.

How does this happen? Dougherty explains: "Soil naturally contains bacteria and other microbes. Bioreactors enhance the natural process of denitrification–the conversion of nitrate in water to harmless nitrogen gas–performed by bacteria already present in the surrounding soil. The woodchips provide an additional fuel source for the bacteria in the form of carbon. Think of the woodchips as an extra cup of espresso in the morning!"

Illinois has a goal of installing bioreactors on half of the state's tiled agricultural fields. Bioreactors' success in improving water quality is also creating interest in other states.

"They have great potential for expansion," Dougherty writes. "While they are not a silver bullet, they do offer important benefits in that they don't negatively impact in-field crop production."

To read the complete blog, visit Sustainable, Secure Food at https://wp.me/p9gkW1-2S.

This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Our members are researchers and trained, certified, professionals in the areas of growing our world's food supply, while protecting our environment. We work at universities, government research facilities and private businesses across the United States and the world.
Published in Research
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
Nitrogen pollution flowing out of Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico has grown by close to 50 percent over nearly two decades, a new report shows, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent to stem nutrients entering the state's waterways.

A University of Iowa study shows the state's contribution to the Gulf dead zone spiked 47 percent to 618 million pounds in 2016, based on five-year running annual averages. | READ MORE
Published in News
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
Kewaunee County, WI - Whether it is soil erosion or water quality that is burning you up inside. Identifying the county's greatest environmental concerns and how to fix them. Might hang on a few mouse clicks.

Kewaunee County's Land and Water Conservation Department is turning to an online questionnaire for the first time, and it needs your help. Options like increased animal waste management stand a chance at being popular picks. And that is because they can influence more than one category. | READ MORE
Published in News
New York - The state has made $17 million available to protect and conserve critical soil and water resources on farms across New York.

Grants provided through the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program will help farmers address water quality challenges in priority watersheds by supporting environmental planning and the best management practices.

The program provides grants to County Soil and Water Conservation Districts on behalf of farmers statewide. The funding will assist farms with manure storage facilities for better nutrient management, with buffer strips to prevent nutrient runoff, and with cover crops to enhance soil health. | READ MORE
Published in News
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