Environment Protection
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
The foul scent of manure is a fact of life in the country. Sometimes it smells like home. Other times the stink is bad enough to wrinkle your nose as you urgently roll up the car windows.

Odor management rules are among the many regulations defining how animal farmers handle never ending piles of manure or the way it is spread on fields for fertilizer.

The spread of manure by Pennsylvania farmers is regulated to keep pollutants from seeping into the air and waterways.

A bill moving quickly through the state Legislature would remove an advisory panel with input on those regulations, the Nutrient Management Advisory Board, and replace it with a new panel, the Farm Animal Advisory Board, broadening the scope of oversight and changing the make-up of the members to mostly large farmers. The move minimizes the role of environmentalists, critics say. | READ MORE
Published in State
Recent heavy rains in southern Minnesota finds some livestock producers scrambling to stem overflow from livestock manure storage basins. Pollution problems include overflowing manure and wastewater storage structures and releases from underground and above-ground storage tanks as well as open feedlots located in floodplains or in sensitive areas where runoff can enter surface waters.

Farmers must call the Minnesota Duty Officer immediately at (800) 422-0798 (calls answered 24/7) if their manure-storage facilities overflow, if manure enters surface waters or if their manure-storage structure is inundated by floodwaters. If their manure-storage facilities are in danger of overflowing, farmers can contact the MPCA at (800) 657-3864 or (651) 296-6300 (during regular business hours) and ask for a feedlot staff person. Farmers in feedlot delegated counties also may contact county feedlot staff.

To reduce the likelihood of an overflow, feedlot operators are encouraged to divert water from manure-storage facilities if possible. Manure stockpiles located in areas that could flood should be removed immediately.

While we can't control weather, planning ahead helps to better deal with the impact of bad weather on manure management and land application. A little more investment in storage, conservation practices, and planning can be a very cost-effective form of insurance. It also reduces the risk of economic loss of nutrients from surface-applied manure without incorporation. Farmers with open feedlots should scrape-and-haul weekly if possible.

For more information about flooding and the environmental problems it can create, visit the minimizing flood risk page on the MPCA website.

Factsheet: Managing manure storage and land application during adverse weather conditions.
Published in Storage
Durand, Wisconsin — A group of Pepin County citizens is using the time provided by a moratorium on large-scale livestock facilities to offer solutions to a potential threat to groundwater that could occur when the moratorium expires if such a facility were to expand or move into the county.

The Neighborhood Ladies, an ad hoc group of Pepin County citizens concerned about the county's groundwater, is working to inform citizens and local officials on the levels of nitrates in groundwater and the health problems associated with nitrate contamination.

According to a news release from the group, their goal is, through research, to stop the practices that are eroding the county's water quality and to promote alternative farming methods that protect groundwater. | READ MORE
Published in Compost
Columbus, Ohio – It may not be a popular solution, but a recent study from The Ohio State University shows the least costly way to cut nearly half the phosphorus seeping into Lake Erie is taxing farmers on phosphorous purchases or paying farmers to avoid applying it to their fields.

Doctoral student Shaohui Tang and Brent Sohngen, a professor of agricultural economics, conducted the study in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

At a projected price tag of up to $20 million annually, a phosphorus subsidy to Ohio farmers or a phosphorus tax would be far cheaper than many of the proposed measures being recommended to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie, Sohngen said. These proposals are estimated to cost anywhere from $40 million per year to $290 million per year, in addition to the $32 million spent on current conservation practices.

Phosphorus spurs the growth of harmful algal blooms, which poisoned Toledo's drinking water in 2014 and impact the lake's recreation, tourism and real-estate values.

A tax on phosphorus would be an added expense for farmers and "not many people want to talk about it," Sohngen said. "From an economics standpoint, it is the cheapest option."

The money generated from a tax on phosphorus, which would be paid by farmers, could be partially returned to farmers for using conservation measures on their land. It could also compensate others affected by the water quality issue including Toledo and lake area residents to pay for improved water treatment and fishing charter businesses that lose income when algal blooms are severe.

Sohngen presented the estimated costs associated with different methods of cutting phosphorus sources to Lake Erie during a recent conference hosted the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics within CFAES.

Each of the options Sohngen presented is aimed at cutting the phosphorus runoff entering Lake Erie by 40 percent within 10 years, a goal the state has been aiming for but has not yet reached.

"If we want to achieve a 40 percent reduction, it's going to be more expensive than most people imagine," Sohngen said.

Costlier options than the phosphorus tax and subsidy include reducing phosphorus application on fields by 50 percent statewide and incorporating any phosphorus into the soil so it does not remain on the surface. The price tag on that option is $43.7 million for the machinery needed to incorporate phosphorus and the incentive paid to farmers for not using phosphorus, Sohngen said.

Requiring subsurface placement of phosphorus on only half the region's farmland acres would cost $49.9 million, he said.

All figures were generated by a mathematical model created by Tang, working under the direction of Sohngen.

In recent years, high levels of phosphorus, a nutrient in fertilizer, manure and sewage, have led to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie as well as in Ohio's inland lakes including Grand Lake St. Marys.

Some measures that have been tried in the state have had little impact on reducing the phosphorus load into Lake Erie, Sohngen said. They include planting cover crops on fields during winter and refraining from tilling the land to prevent erosion.

"We're at the point of a phase shift, of having more information to give us better focus on where we need to turn our attention," said Gail Hesse, director of water programs for the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center.

Hesse, who was the keynote speaker at the conference where Sohngen presented his findings, noted that agriculture is the predominant source of the phosphorus going into Lake Erie.

Climate change, including the increase in intense rainfalls over short periods, has worsened efforts to keep phosphorus out of Lake Erie because rainfall can increase the chances of phosphorus running off a field with the rainwater, she pointed out.

"We don't have enough practices in place across the landscape," she said. "We still have more to do."
Published in State
A national manure management emergency was recently averted in the United States with the passage in March of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, thwarting attempts by some environmental groups to categorize farms on the same plane as heavy industry as it relates to potential toxic air emissions.
Published in Air quality
Regina, Sask – Despite their reputation, flatulent cows aren’t capable of destroying the world, an environmental politics professor argues in a forthcoming research paper.

But still, livestock are saddled with an outsized share of the blame for climate change. And if that misunderstanding persists, and pushes policymakers to force a societal shift from meat-eating, it could lead to disaster, says Ryan Katz-Rosene at the University of Ottawa’s school of political studies. READ MORE



Published in Air quality
Each year, farmers in the U.S. purchase tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics that are approved for use in cows, pigs, fowl and other livestock.

When farmers repurpose the animals' manure as fertilizer or bedding, traces of the medicines leach into the environment, raising concerns that agriculture may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

New research holds troublesome insights with regard to the scope of this problem.

According to a pair of new studies led by Diana Aga, PhD, Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, two of the most elite waste treatment systems available today on farms do not fully remove antibiotics from manure.

Both technologies — advanced anaerobic digestion and reverse osmosis filtration — leave behind concerning levels of antibiotic residues, which can include both the drugs themselves and molecules that the drugs break down into.

In addition, the study uncovered new findings about solid excrement, which is often filtered out from raw, wet manure before the treatment technologies are implemented.

Researchers found that this solid matter may contain higher concentrations of antibiotics than unprocessed manure, a discovery that is particularly disturbing because this material is often released into the environment when it's used as animal bedding or sold as fertilizer.

"We were hoping that these advanced treatment technologies could remove antibiotics. As it turns out, they were not as effective as we thought they could be," Aga says.

She does offer some hope, however: "On the positive side, I think that a multistep process that also includes composting at the end of the system could significantly reduce the levels of antibiotics. Our earlier studies on poultry litter demonstrated that up to 70 percent reduction in antibiotics called ionophores can be achieved after 150 days of composting. Testing this hypothesis on dairy farm manure is the next phase of our project, and we are seeing some positive results."

The research on reverse osmosis filtration was published online in January in the journal Chemosphere. The study on advanced anaerobic digestion — a collaboration between UB and Virginia Tech — appeared online in March in the journal Environmental Pollution.

Waste treatment systems are not designed to remove antibiotics

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than 30 million pounds of antibiotics approved for use in food-producing livestock were sold or distributed in the United States in 2016. And these are just a fraction of the total antibiotics used annually around the world in humans and animals.

Though the new research focuses on dairy farms, the findings point to a larger problem.

"Neither of the treatment systems we studied was designed to remove antibiotics from waste as the primary goal," Aga says. "Advanced anaerobic digestion is used to reduce odors and produce biogas, and reverse osmosis is used to recycle water. They were not meant to address removal of antibiotic compounds.

"This problem is not limited to agriculture: Waste treatment systems today, including those designed to handle municipal wastewater, hospital wastes and even waste from antibiotic manufacturing industries, do not have treatment of antibiotics in mind. This is an extremely important global issue because the rise of antibiotic resistance in the environment is unprecedented. We need to start thinking about this if we want to prevent the continued spread of resistance in the environment."

Aga is a proponent of the "One Health" approach to fighting antimicrobial resistance, which encourages experts working in hospitals, agriculture and other sectors related to both human and animal health to work together, as humans and animals are often treated with the same or similar antibiotics.

Aga was an invited presenter at an international forum last week on the latest research about antimicrobial resistance. The event, in Vancouver, Canada, was co-chaired by representatives of the UK Science and Innovation Network, Wellcome Trust and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To conduct the research, scientists visited two dairy farms in Upstate New York.

Both facilities extract much of the solid matter from cow manure before subjecting the remaining sludge to high-tech waste management techniques. To process the remaining goop, one farm uses advanced anaerobic digestion, which employs microorganisms and pasteurization to break down and convert organic matter into products that include biogas, while the other farm uses reverse osmosis, which passes the slurry through a series of membranes to purify water.

Both technologies reduced antibiotic residues in liquid manure, but did little to cut down levels in the remaining solid matter. This is particularly worrisome as the research also revealed that antibiotic compounds tend to migrate from the liquid parts of the manure into the solids during treatment, making it arguably more important to treat than the latter.

The concern over solid excrement is heightened by the fact that the treatment techniques are implemented only after most solids are already separated from the raw manure, meaning that the bulk of the solid matter may go untreated.

Some key findings from each study:

The research on advanced anaerobic digestion examined a popular class of antibiotics called tetracyclines, finding that these drugs and their breakdown products migrated from the fluid part of the sludge into the solid part during treatment. At the end of the process, the solids contained higher levels of tetracycline antibiotics than the original raw manure. The study also found that both the liquid and solid parts of the sludge contained genes that confer resistance to these antibiotics.

The study on reverse osmosis looked at how well this water purification technique removed synthetic antimicrobials called ionophores, which are used to promote growth in dairy cows and to treat coccidiosis, a costly, parasitic disease in the cattle industry that affects mostly young calves.

The research found that reverse osmosis effectively filtered ionophores from the liquid portion of manure. However, low levels of the drugs persisted in "purified" water after treatment due to the deterioration of membranes used in the filtration process. Also, solid matter extracted from the water during reverse osmosis still harbored high levels of ionophores. Finally, the study found that prior to treatment, many of the ionophores appear to have already migrated into the solid part of the raw manure that is removed before the reverse osmosis even begins.

"Both of the systems we studied are a good first step in reducing the spread of antibiotics and potentially reduce resistance in the environment, but our study shows that more must be done," Aga says. "We need to look at different waste management practices that, maybe in combination, could reduce the spread of antibiotic compounds and resistance in the environment."

Aga points to composting as one area to explore. Her team is studying how advanced anaerobic digestion can be used in conjunction with composting of solid materials to remove antibiotics and their breakdown products from manure. The preliminary results of the research, not yet published, are promising, Aga says.
Published in News
You might wonder what dry weather and feedlot runoff would have in common. On the one hand, a spell of dry weather can cause expanding areas of moderate drought and dry soils. But dry conditions also make for an excellent time to maintain your feedlot runoff control system.
Published in Beef
The Iowa Pork Producers Association is again partnering with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to offer funding for pig farmers interested in new nutrient loss reduction technologies.

IPPA has provided $25,000 to IDALS to be used for various projects over the next year.

The funds will help offset up to 50 percent of the costs for pig farmers to install saturated buffers or bioreactors on their farmland.

Preference will be given to sites that provide the greatest opportunity for nitrate reduction and be geographically dispersed throughout the state to aid in education and demonstration opportunities. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in News
Kankakee Sands, IN - A prominent statewide conservation organization has weighed in on a proposed dairy facility in Newton County.

In a press release, The Indiana Audubon Society expressed formal opposition to the proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) on property located next to The Nature Conservancy's Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands.

The proposed CAFO, built by Natural Prairie Dairy, LLC, a Texas owned company, will annually produce more than 26 million gallons of urine, feces and contaminated wastewater, as stated in their permit application with Indiana Department of Environmental Management. | READ MORE
Published in News
A recent report by Island County Public Health showed that surface water in the area tested high in fecal coliform, but the National Park Service worked with the Whidbey Island Conservation District to try and solve the problem.

Source identification testing traced much of the water contamination to agricultural operations being performed on land owned by the National Park Service.

A farmer operating under a permit from the National Park Service has a concentrated animal feedlot on the park service's land. According to a report on the operation, "years of system neglect and poor maintenance practices by the farms" and "benign neglect by NPS officials" led to a partial failure of the farm's existing manure containment system. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in News
Hammond, WI - The new Western Wisconsin Conservation Council is a nonprofit organization led by local farmers and focused on protecting the region's watersheds and the way of life and commerce they support.

Tom Zwald, who milks 700 cows and runs about 2,000 acres as part of Bomaz Farms near Hammond, said this farmer-led watershed council is unique in that it will not be limited to one watershed but will include all area watersheds, including those for the St. Croix and Kinnickinnic rivers. | READ MORE
Published in News
Columbus, OH — Two state lawmakers have proposed borrowing $500 million over five years to fuel efforts to dam the flow of nutrients feeding the toxic algal blooms that each summer coat parts of Lake Erie in a green slime.

The move is designed to put some money behind past legislation that aims to push farmers toward smarter use of manure and chemical fertilizers, finding alternatives to open lake dumping for material dredged from ports and harbors, and otherwise tackling the problem.

The Clean Lake Capital Fund, proposed by Reps. Steve Arndt (R., Port Clinton) and Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), would funnel $100 million a year into such projects. The idea is for Ohio to fund such projects similar to the way it funds brick-and-mortar projects. The latest $2.6 billion, two-year capital budget is already awaiting the governor's signature, so Gardner said he will look for other avenues to have the bill funded. | For the full article, CLICK HERE.
Published in News
Boardman, OR - An imperiled mega-dairy near Boardman will be allowed to continue operating under a settlement it reached with state regulators Wednesday.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture agreed to let Lost Valley Farm, a 7,288-acre ranch permitted to house 30,000 cows, to produce massive amounts of wastewater and manure, despite a year of repeated violations of its permits. The state had threatened in a February lawsuit to temporarily shut down its operations.

Under the new agreement, Lost Valley can generate up to 65,000 gallons of wastewater per day compared with the 514,000 the dairy estimated it would need. It also must comply with other terms of its permit, such as notifying the state if there is a wastewater or manure spill. And the dairy must remove 24.4 million gallons of liquid manure from its overloaded storage facilities by summer, so that it can avoid polluting local water sources during a heavy rainstorm. | For the full story, click here
Published in News
Reading, Pennsylvania - All communities depend on clean water and that supply of clean water depends on the actions of members in the community and outside of it.

The small city of Kutztown lies within the Saucony Creek watershed in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The watershed is mostly agricultural, dotted with small family crop and livestock farms, and the activities on these farms affect water supplies near and far.

Saucony Creek itself feeds into Lake Ontelaunee, the water supply for Reading, Pennsylvania. Kutztown gets its water from wells that, because of the soils and geology of the area, are strongly affected by activities on the surrounding landscape.

In the early 2000s, the nitrates in Kutztown's water supply were approaching the maximum safe levels for drinking water. The nitrates were related in large part to farms in the area.

This situation energized a partnership of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private entities to ensure the safety of the city's water supply, in part by helping local farmers install conservation practices that protect and improve water quality. As part of this effort, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) delivered additional funding for voluntary conservation assistance through its National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). 

NRCS Collaborates with Conservation-Minded Farmers
For years, dairy farmer Daniel Weaver faced challenges that made his life harder and affected water quality in his area. He hauled manure every day because he had nowhere to store it. And, his cows watered and roamed in a branch to Saucony Creek that runs through his property. This reduced the health of the stream and of his herd. That is before he formed a relationship with NRCS staff at his local USDA Service Center.

With NRCS's help, Weaver was able to implement conservation practices that improve the operations of his farm in a way that also protects the ground and surface water flowing through his property. First, NRCS helped him develop a nutrient management plan for his property. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding, commonly known as EQIP, enabled him to install a manure storage tank that alleviates the need to haul manure daily. The new storage capacity allows him to control the rate and timing of manure application on his farm, which are key factors in achieving healthy soil and clean water. He also says that it has helped him save on labor and fertilizer.

"I think it should be mandatory for farmers to have a manure pit," he said.

Streambank fencing and an animal crossing were installed to keep cows from contaminating streams and creeks that crossed their pastures and therefore the downstream rivers and lakes. In the five years since installation, vegetation has grown on the stream banks, creating a buffer for the stream and the crossing controls the cows' access, thereby limiting pathogens and nutrients from entering the water.

Not too far away, Harlan Burkholder owns and operates a 100-acre row crop and beef cattle farm. He also worked with NRCS and other partners to improve water quality in Saucony Creek. When Burkholder bought his farm in 2005, manure was being stored on the ground near the creek that runs through the property because there was limited space near the barn. He had to spread manure on the fields often to keep it from piling up.

Realizing that it's best to spread manure in the growing season and store it in the winter to avoid runoff, he developed a nutrient management plan. After applying for NRCS financial assistance, he worked with NRCS to co-invest in a manure storage structure. Now, Burkholder is able to store manure over the winter so he can spread it at optimal times.

He is grateful for NRCS's help. "As a beginner, there's no way I could have spent money on something like this," he said.

Burkholder also knows the importance of keeping soil healthy with no-till and cover crops. As a 100-pecent no-till farmer, Burkholder says, "I have no intentions of doing anything else. It's working."

It's working so well that he's sharing his knowledge and experiences with other farmers.

Results
Together, NRCS and its partners have helped more than 20 farmers in the watershed get conservation on the ground. In fact, NRCS has invested more than $2 million in targeted assistance in this area alone.

"The voluntary efforts of these farmers that protect the water in Saucony Creek also has a positive impact on the groundwater in aquifers beneath it," said Martin Lowenfish, the team lead for NRCS's landscape conservation initiatives. "Kutztown is home to 14,000 residents who rely on drinking water from those aquifers."

And, the residents of Kutztown are taking notice. Just two years after the city's water treatment plant was updated with equipment to remove nitrates from the raw water, the plant is running at minimum capacity because the nitrate levels have been reduced by almost half thanks to the conservation efforts of farmers and ranchers upstream. Now, the treatment plant's water is within legal safe drinking water requirements and treatment costs also have been significantly reduced.

This is just one impact among many that show how a little conservation can yield big results for communities downstream.


Published in Profiles
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