“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.
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.
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.
The verdict is heartbreaking and could have severe and unforeseen economic consequences for our farmers, the pork industry and all of North Carolina agriculture.
It is heartbreaking because the jury did not hear the full story about Joey Carter's farm – and now an honest, hardworking farmer stands to lose everything. Joey Carter has always followed and exceeded the state's laws, which are the strictest regulations of any state and on any sector of agriculture. He invested in modern technologies. And he responded promptly to any concerns raised by his neighbors, who said his farm is not a nuisance. He should not be punished.
It is heartbreaking because Joey Carter's farm deserved a fair trial. And yet, the jury was prevented from hearing the expert testimony of a renowned scientist who studied the area around the farm and determined it does not produce objectionable odor.
We encourage an appeal to the Fourth Circuit, which must review the decisions that directly shaped the outcome of the trial.
This verdict signals that no farmer in North Carolina is safe from financially ruinous lawsuits even if they comply fully with all laws and regulations, as Joey Carter did; even if they use best management practices, as Joey Carter did; and even if they had never received any complaints from their neighbors, as was the case with the Carter farm.
We expect this verdict will force Smithfield Foods to reevaluate its operations in the state. We encourage state, county, local and agricultural leaders to show strong support for a company that has and continues to invest millions in modern technology and research in North Carolina and employs 10,000 people in rural counties.
This case is exactly why farmers like Joey Carter needed clarity and legal protection, and we applaud the bipartisan group of lawmakers who adopted changes this week to provide certainty for agriculture in the 2018 Farm Act.
In the bioreactor of the BlueBox Ultra, the manure is converted into water, which contains only traces of nitrogen and phosphorus and is therefore ideally suited for irrigation.
Since nitrogen and phosphorus are almost completely removed, only very small surfaces are required for application. The BlueBox Ultra eliminates the need for expensive and environmentally harmful manure transports, where manure sometimes has to be transported over hundreds of miles.
"I no longer want to have to carry out expensive manure transports," explains farmer Jorn Ahlers, who runs a farm with a biogas plant in Lower Saxony. "I am convinced of the technology and user-friendliness of the BlueBox and I am confident that the system will go into operation on my farm this year."
"In recent months, we have presented our ground-breaking manure solution to many farmers and operators of biogas plants in Germany, especially in the manure hot spots of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bavaria. The sale of the first manure treatment plant in Germany is of course an important milestone for us," says David Din, CEO of Bluetector. "Our BlueBox enables farmers to convert their manure into water with a low-cost bioreactor without the need for costly and maintenance-intensive equipment such as reverse osmosis or centrifuges."
Dirty cows usually mean a dirty tail, and dirty tails can come from dirty stalls. Since the ban on tail docking of dairy cattle, managing manure for cow hygiene is as automated as it has ever been.
"Automated alley scraper systems have been successfully used on livestock farms for decades to keep freestalls and cows clean," said Andy Lenkaitis, GEA product manager for manure equipment. "I work with many farmers who produce high-quality milk and have cows with long tails. They make management of their automated alley scraper systems a priority to avoid tail entanglement or animal injury." | READ MORE
The stunning verdict, reached after just three hours of deliberation, came against pork producer Murphy-Brown, and marked the third time that juries have ruled against the company in a nuisance lawsuit. At $473.5 million, this was the largest of the three.
The first two verdicts were reduced in line with state law capping punitive damages. The cap will lower the amount to $94 million in total damages in this case. | READ MORE
It is becoming more difficult to find outlets for spent animals, and cost must be considered. Mortality composting has gained in popularity over the years, but with that practice comes concerns related to nutrient management. T
here were several papers on animal mortality management presented at the Waste to Worth Conference held in April 2016. Craig Williams, Extension educator in Tioga County, gave two presentations on mortality composting.
He worked with a swine producer wanting to switch from burial to composting. This operation had a three percent mortality rate, or approximately 250 deaths per year in the finishing operation. The producer built a compost barn with a three-foot center dividing wall.
In the first year, approximately 56 cubic yards of wood chips/bark mulch was used. In the second year, this was replaced with 40 cubic yards of sawdust. The compost temperature is reaching 130 degrees, and so far there have been minimal issues in mixing and turning the compost. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
The operation has also agreed to reimburse the Indiana Department of Natural Resources $1,775 for the value of damage to fish and wildlife.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management says the lagoon was filled beyond capacity and overflowed into a field tile that led to Fountain Creek, causing the death of more than 3,500 fish on April 3, 2017. | READ MORE
Years ago, it was tradition for farmers to grow a variety of crops on their farm. There was limited food distribution to large grocery stores, and most of the food was grown locally. So, a farmer could be cropping cotton and sweet potatoes in one area of their farm. On another area, graze beef cattle, dairy, or chickens on forage crops like annual clovers, perennial tall fescue, wheat pasture, and native rangeland.
Pastures and hayland were rotated with crops so that the same enterprise was not on the same field year after year. Diversity of enterprises on each farm helped create stability in the production system.
With the advent of large farming equipment and commercial fertilizers following World War II, it became more efficient from a labor standpoint to grow the same types of crop year after year.
After investing in equipment to handle a particular crop like corn, farmers often became more specialized. This led to monoculture cropping, which can have positive effects on yields and efficiency. But, monoculture has some drawbacks, including environmental and social concerns.
The need for greater nutrient inputs with monoculture can lead to poor water quality underground or from run-off. Confined operations have the issue of disposing of large volumes of manure.
Interest in re-integrating farms to take advantage of the synergies between crops and livestock has increased in the past few decades. Our lab has embarked on researching such integrated systems as a way to improve agricultural sustainability.
Crop-pasture rotations are part of an integrated system. Farmers can match the energy and nutrient flows of different enterprises (i.e. types of livestock and types of crops) to meet the desired outcomes.
Ruminant livestock consume forages, often on pasture by themselves during much of the year. Animal manures are deposited directly on the land where they graze. Alternatively, they can be confined in areas during parts of the year with conserved forages, e.g. hay or silage.
Manures can also be collected from confinement areas and applied to cropland. This recycles and effectively utilizes nutrients throughout the entire system and can substantially reduce chemical fertilizer needs for cropping.
Forage grasses used for grazing often have extensive, fibrous root systems. These roots hold soil particles together. All plants take carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into simple sugars during photosynthesis.
Compared with annual crops, forage grasses form a thick mat over the soil, and can enrich the amount of carbon in soil more than annual crops. Forage legumes are capable of converting nitrogen from the atmosphere and add nitrogen to the soil as well.
The large gain in soil organic carbon under perennial pastures is a key benefit of integrated crop-livestock systems.
Pasturing is also an important adaptation strategy to overcome drought. Pastures can partially control flooding by improving water infiltration and soil health. Forage and grazing lands have historically provided a sustainable and resilient land cover. Grazing lands are rooted by a variety of grasses and forbs that serve to provide essential ecosystem services:
- Water cycling
- Nutrient cycling
- Gas exchange with the atmosphere
- Erosion control and landscape stabilizing
- Climate moderation
- Food and feed production, and,
- Aesthetic experience
Integrated agricultural systems have the potential to adapt to weather extremes. This can make them more climate-resilient than monoculture systems. For example, integrated crop-livestock systems rely on forages as part of a diversity of crop choices. These forages provide a large benefit for positive balance of carbon stored in soil. Crops grown in rotation with forages can be more profitable, since yields are often enhanced and costly fertilizer inputs can be lower. The presence of forages can reduce nutrient runoff and reduce nitrous oxide emissions.1
The diversity of farming operations in integrated crop-livestock systems reduces the overall risk of failure. By having several different crops on a farm, the risk of any one component failing is reduced.
This diversity also offers resilience of the farming system against extreme weather events and potential climate change. Greater integration of crops and livestock using modern technologies could broadly transform agriculture to enhance productivity.
Integrated crop-livestock systems can also reduce environmental damage, protect and enhance biological diversity, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Integrated systems likely provide healthier potentially more diverse foods and increase economic and cultural opportunities in many different regions of the world.
Diverse agricultural systems that include livestock, perennial grasses and legumes, and a wide variety of annual forages offer enhanced agro-ecosystem resilience in the face of uncertain climate and market conditions.
Indeed, there are many good reasons why a diversity of crops and livestock should be produced on the same farm and even the same field within a farm.
In an effort to reduce the overall nutrient requirements of the swine herd, scientists working in partnership with swine Innovation Porc have been developing technology designed to mix swine rations tailored to meet the specific nutritional requirements of each individual pig.
Researchers have now completed the basic concepts needed to estimate daily nutrient requirements.
Dr. Candido Pomar, a research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, explains in conventional systems all of the animals get the same feed so diets must be formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of the most demanding animals where as precision feeding allows the less demanding animals to be fed lower cost less nutrient dense diets. | READ MORE
"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.
The manure plume has reached the canoe launch at County CCC and the Sheboygan River where county health officials said signs will be posted warning recreationists to avoid contact with the water because of concerns about e-coli bacterial contamination.
Ben Uvaas, a DNR wastewater specialist who has been on the scene since the manure was reported in an unnamed creek, said the responsible farm has initiated pumping activity in affected surface waters. However, the runoff was largely uncontained, and the contamination is expected to spread downstream.
A fish kill has been observed in the Sheboygan River near County Road CCC. Dead fish, mainly minnow species, have also been observed in two smaller tributaries. Approximately 11.5 miles of stream have been affected.
Clean-up activities will likely continue for days. The area involved straddles the towns of Taycheedah and Marshfield.
Uvaas said the Redtail Ridge Dairy, a DNR-permitted CAFO facility, had applied manure to several fields starting Friday and continuing through Monday. The area received heavy rain late Monday and manure ran off at least two fields, reaching nearby waterways. Dead fish were found in an unnamed stream at several road crossings, including Ledge Road, Valley Road and County W.
During this inspection a second runoff event was identified that resulted in surface water contamination and a fish kill. Redtail Dairy has confirmed the farm spread manure to fields near County Road WH and that manure had run off these fields into surface waters. The dairy has contracted with a local septic pumper to collect manure laden water.
A review of local well drilling records indicates deep clay soils in the area, which help protect groundwater quality. Impacts to wells are not currently anticipated.
DNR staff from multiple programs are responding, including agricultural runoff, water quality, fisheries, and remediation and redevelopment. Fond du Lac county conservationist Paul Tollard is also taking part in the investigation.
The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon at Bloms Land & Cattle, 7470 42nd Ave. N.W., Carpio. No registration is required.
Topics that will be covered include turning manure into compost and using compost as a fertilizer. The event will also feature a compost turner demonstration and question-and-answer session on the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s animal feeding operation guidelines and creating comprehensive nutrient management plans.
After that, anyone wanting to continue the discussion can meet at the Cenex C-Store in Carpio.
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Ag Tech Expo Mon Dec 03, 2018
Midwest Pork Conference Tue Dec 04, 2018
The Pork Show Tue Dec 11, 2018
Dakota Farm ShowThu Jan 03, 2019 @ 8:00am - 05:00pm
Banff Pork Seminar Tue Jan 08, 2019