Sustainability
November 21, 2017, Bennington, VT – A legislative panel wants to hear the agriculture agency's case for why farmers should be exempt from environmental enforcement under Vermont's land use law.

The Act 250 committee, which met Nov. 15, is tasked with proposing fixes to the state's land use law that will bring 50-year-old regulations up to speed with new environmental pressures.

At the next meeting, to be held in December, the committee will ask the Agency of Agriculture to justify land use exemptions for farms. READ MORE
Published in State
Innovative research is reshaping what is known about ammonia and related emissions from feedlots. And that new knowledge may help the industry to adjust its management, shape and react to public policy more effectively.
Published in Beef
November 14, 2017, Washington, DC – With a Nov. 15 deadline looming, the National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association recently filed a brief in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s motion to delay a mandate that farmers report certain air emissions from manure on their farms.

In April, a federal court, ruling on a lawsuit brought by environmental activist groups against the EPA, rejected an exemption for farms from reporting “hazardous” emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). CERCLA mainly is used to clean hazardous waste sites but has a federal reporting component, while EPCRA requires entities to report on the storage, use and release of hazardous substances to state and local governments, including first responders.

The EPA had exempted farms from CERCLA reporting, reasoning that while emissions might exceed thresholds that would trigger responses under the law such responses would be “unnecessary, impractical and unlikely.” The agency limited EPCRA reporting to large, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), requiring them to make one-time reports. Under the decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, all livestock farms, not just CAFOs, are required to report.

Between 60,000 and 100,000 livestock and poultry farmers will need to file air emissions reports with the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (NRC), beginning Nov. 15, as well as written reports with their regional EPA office within 30 days of reporting to the NRC.

Some farmers already have tried filing reports, but the NRC system has been overwhelmed. NRC operators are refusing to accept reports for more than a single farm per call because of concern that the phone systems will be tied up for non-emergency purposes. In one instance, an NRC operator sent notices out to more than 20 state and federal response authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a state policy agency, after receiving a phone call.

In seeking a second delay in implementing the CERCLA reporting mandate – the original filing deadline technically was the day the federal court threw out the exemption – the EPA, NPPC and the poultry and egg association are asking the court to give the agency more time to “provide farmers more specific and final guidance before they must estimate and report emissions” and to develop a system that will enable farmers to comply with their legal obligations.
Published in Air quality
Ephrata, PA – Mark Mosemann has used half-a-dozen manure systems since he came back to his family’s dairy farm in 2000.

There were the bad old days of daily hauling, which the Warfordsburg family accomplished without a skid loader.

There was the new dairy complex with alley scrapers, then a dabble with sand bedding that got expensive, and finally a test of – and then wholesale shift to – separated manure solids.

Mosemann is still looking at upgrades, including a cover for the manure pit. READ MORE
Published in Dairy
November 10, 2017, Madison, WI – A study of Wisconsin land sales found farmland in some counties is worth more if it's closer to a concentrated animal feeding operation, also known as CAFOs.

The analysis came out of a larger project to combine statewide data on land use, land sales and soil survey data, said Simon Jette-Nantel, farm management specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Extension. READ MORE
Published in Other
October 30, 2017, Annapolis, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture has issued a grant solicitation for demonstration projects from vendors, businesses, and individuals offering technologies, equipment, infrastructure, or services that can improve the management and utilization of manure and other nutrient-rich, on-farm generated waste products.

Protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries from excess nutrients – primarily nitrogen and phosphorus – is a top priority for Maryland and the other bay states. Maryland farmers are required by state law to follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing crops and managing animal manure. In 2015, the department implemented new phosphorus regulations to further protect waterways from phosphorus runoff. The regulations mainly impact livestock and poultry producers that use manure and poultry litter as a crop fertilizer. To help these producers comply with the new regulations, Maryland supports and invests in alternative uses for manure such as fertilizer manufacturing, composting and manure-to-energy projects that add value to the farm business model.

Maryland’s Animal Waste Technology Fund is a grant program that provides seed funding to companies that demonstrate innovative technologies to manage or repurpose manure resources. The program is a key component of Governor Larry Hogan’s broader Agriculture Phosphorus Initiative to improve water quality, strengthen agriculture and bolster rural economies.

The fund has $3.5 million available to invest in innovative technologies during State Fiscal Year 2018, which ends June 30, 2018. Approximately $2 million will be directed at projects with a renewable energy component. There is no maximum or minimum request. Vendors, businesses, and individuals are invited to respond to this grant solicitation, which may be downloaded here.

Proposals should be submitted by 4 p.m. local time on December 29, 2017 to:

Ms. Louise Lawrence
Maryland Department of Agriculture
Office of Resource Conservation
50 Harry S. Truman Pkwy
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Fax: 410-841-5734
Published in Other
October 27, 2017, Des Moines, IA – Iowa's largest pork producer is rapidly expanding, adding nearly 90,000 pigs at time when water quality issues have state and local leaders calling for a moratorium on industry expansion, says a grassroots activist group.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement says Iowa Select is adding at least 19 hog confinements and the Des Moines group wants the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to extend the permitting period to 90 days so residents and county supervisors can "review this onslaught of factory farm proposals.” READ MORE
Published in Swine
October 23, 2017, Richmond, VA – The poultry industry’s growing footprint on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is getting new scrutiny from regulators and activists after a head-turning decision by a state regulatory body to demand harsher punishment for pollution violations at a chicken-processing plant.

The Virginia State Water Control Board, a citizen body appointed by the governor, this summer rejected state regulators’ recommended fines against a Tyson Foods facility that’s a hub for a growing number of chicken houses in Accomack County.

By a vote of 4 to 1, the board decided in July that a $26,160 fine proposed by the Department of Environmental Quality was insufficient, given the history of violations at the plant. The board’s rare rejection of a consent order negotiated by the DEQ to settle a pollution violation heartened activists, who fear the poultry industry’s expansion on their narrow, low-lying stretch of the Delmarva Peninsula puts the Chesapeake Bay and their quality of life at risk. READ MORE





Published in Poultry
October 12, 2017, Washington, DC – Voluntary conservation practices adopted by farmers in the Western Lake Erie basin are having positive impacts downstream, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The report – by USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) – shows these practices reduce sediment losses from fields by an estimated 80 percent and reduce the amount of sediment being delivered to Lake Erie by an estimated 40 percent.

“One thing I know for certain – the benefits of conservation flow downstream,” said Leonard Jordan, acting chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “When hundreds of farms take action in one area, one watershed, it can make a world of difference. And our conservation planning and financial support provides producers a step-by-step plan to achieve those results.”

NRCS helps farmers make conservation improvements on working lands. Reports like this one help the agency better understand the effectiveness of conservation practices and how to adapt conservation approaches, Jordan said. Though there is still work to be done, this report shows that private landowners are responding to regional needs and putting conservation plans into action to improve water quality across the basin.

This is the second of a two-part report on the Western Lake Erie basin, which has historically suffered from high levels of nutrients and sediment associated with human activities in the region. The first report focused on edge-of-field losses, whereas this report focuses on sediment and nutrients entering streams, rivers and Lake Erie.

Relative to the scenario where no agricultural conservation practices were in place, the voluntary conservation practices in use by farmers in the basin in 2012:
  • Reduce phosphorus and nitrogen lost from cultivated cropland fields by 61 and 26 percent, respectively;
  • Reduce phosphorus and nitrogen deposition into the streams and rivers of the lake’s basin by 72 and 37 percent, respectively; and
  • Reduce phosphorus and nitrogen entering the lake by 41 and 17 percent, respectively.
Water quality is directly impacted by nutrients and sediment. By reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering basin waterways, farmers are doing their part to reduce the chances of harmful algal blooms that may lead to hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, throughout the lake. Algal blooms can make the lake unsuitable as a source of drinking water and recreation as well as habitat for fish and wildlife.

CEAP uses a sampling and modeling technique to yield these results, quantifying the impacts of conservation practices adopted across the region. These analyses provide scientifically-based direction for future conservation planning efforts targeting specific management goals.

Farmers use a variety of conservation practices to reduce losses of nutrients and sediment. The practices evaluated by CEAP include strategies like nutrient management, cover crops and structural erosion control. Cutting-edge technologies that use GPS and variable rate applications are also assessed.

While many Western Lake Erie basin producers have worked independently to curb agricultural runoff into the Great Lakes system over the past 50 years, recent Farm Bill programs have accelerated conservation efforts on private lands located in targeted watersheds throughout the region. Coordinated and targeted efforts through the Western Lake Erie Basin Initiative, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, National Water Quality Initiative and Regional Conservation Partnership Program provide additional funding and leverage partnerships in priority watersheds, including those that flow into the Western Lake Erie basin.

“Conservation applied on any acre delivers an environmental benefit, but when conservation efforts target the most vulnerable watersheds and lands, the results are even greater,” added Jordan. “We know it won’t solve the problem alone, but it’s a critical piece of the broader solution.”

The effectiveness of targeted conservation planning is also assessed in the report. These results and other CEAP assessments in the region provide another source for informing science-based conservation efforts within the basin. Upcoming assessments will continue to build upon this base.

Read the full report, titled Conservation Practice Adoption on Cultivated Cropland Acres: Effects on Instream Nutrient and Sediment Dynamics and Delivery in Western Lake Erie Basin, 2003-06 and 2012.
Published in Other
October 11, 2017, Madison, WI – A software program intended to cut water pollution and soil erosion has matured into an essential production tool for farmers, says a Fond du Lac County dairy farmer.

“I began using it in 2005 because I had to, I won’t lie,” Josh Hiemstar says in his barn office, as he gears up for the fall harvest on a 525-acre farm.

The software, called SnapPlus, was created at the University of Wisconsin department of soil science and introduced in 2005 under a state-federal mandate to reduce soil erosion and prevent runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus. These essential nutrients can over-fertilize lakes and streams, and feed the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Now, I use it because it helps me make better business decisions, better environmental decisions,” says Hiemstra. “SnapPlus is a big deal for farmers.”

SnapPlus solves several problems at once, related to distributing manure and fertilizer efficiently while meeting guidelines for protecting groundwater and surface water,” says Laura Good, the soil scientist who has led development and testing. “The program helps to maintain crop fertility without wasting money or endangering natural resources.”

The program is used on 3.36 million acres, or about 37 percent of the state’s cropland, says Good.

The crux of SnapPlus calculates nutrient requirements for croplands and pastures. The phosphorus calculation starts with a soil test, adds phosphorus from planned fertilizer and manure applications, then subtracts phosphorus extracted by crops. The software also estimates field erosion and phosphorus runoff rates to streams and lakes.

The math may sound simple, says Good, but the real world is complex. Soils have varying structure, slope, and subsurface geology – all factors that affect whether nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen stay where needed or become water pollutants.

Conditions can change from year to year, even within a field. Cropping sequences – called rotations – can be variable and complex.

And weather is, well, weather.

Fertilizer ranks near the top in farm expenses, but if some is necessary, more is not necessarily better. And so beyond enabling farmers to heed runoff standards, SnapPlus offers a means to optimize fertility and yields, and control costs.

Any farm in Wisconsin that applies nutrients and has benefited from government cost-sharing or receives the agricultural property tax credit must write a nutrient-management plan according to state-specific guidelines, which is typically done with SnapPlus.

“These standards and restrictions would be rather difficult to follow on paper,” Good observes.

Although SnapPlus is produced by the UW–Madison department of soil science, experts from UW Cooperative Extension have contributed nutrient recommendations and algorithms.

SnapPlus automatically taps databases on soil types, municipal well locations, and streams, lakes and shallow bedrock, so it “knows” factors conducive to rapid movement to groundwater, Good says.

“It tells you, on each field, what kind of soil you have, what kind of issues you have.”

Nutrient planning is often done by hired certified crop advisors, although many counties offer training courses to farmers who want to write their own plans.

With its triple benefit of avoiding pollution, supporting yields and reducing costs, SnapPlus “is a good use of taxpayer dollars,” Hiemstra says.

“You can call the county and get support, if they can’t answer, there is a full staff in Madison. The people who are writing the program are the ones telling you how to use it, and answering your questions.”

Agriculture may not get many headlines, but technology and economics are changing fast.

“Where we are now with the economics of agriculture,” Hiemstra says, “it’s even more important for farm operators to know their costs, and manage on their own. If you as a producer don’t take ownership of the information, you may be spending more than you need to spend.”
Published in Other
October 4, 2017, Finland – The electricity used at this year’s Helsinki International Horse Show will be produced entirely with horse manure at Fortum’s Järvenpää power plant.

The electricity consumption of the event is expected to be about 140 MWh, and the origin of the electricity will be verified by the Guarantee of Origin system maintained by Fingrid. Producing the energy needed for the event requires the annual manure output of 14 horses. This is the first time in the world that the electricity for a major horse show will be produced entirely with horse manure.

“I am really proud that electricity produced with horse manure can be utilized for an event that is important to equestrian fans and the horse sector,” said Anssi Paalanen, vice president of Fortum HorsePower. “It is great that Finland’s biggest and best-known horse show is a forerunner in energy and environmental issues.”

“It’s great to participate in electrifying the pilot event of the Fortum HorsePower concept with horse manure,” said Tom Gordin, event director. “Overall, the concept is fascinating and creates tremendous opportunities for the entire horse sector in Europe. This is also an important part of our own Horse Show Jumps Green environmental project.”

Fortum HorsePower is a bedding and manure management service for stables, with the manure generated at the stables transported for use in energy production. The service has been operating in the Uusimaa region for a couple of years, and the service area is expanding all the time. In addition to the Helsinki metropolitan area, it now covers much of southern and western Finland. The Fortum HorsePower service was launched this autumn also in Sweden, where there are already close to 3,000 horses leaving green hoof prints and producing energy through the service.

During the event, Fortum HorsePower will deliver wood-based bedding for the 250 or so horses that will be staying in temporary stalls. The manure-bedding mixture that is generated will be transported to Fortum’s Järvenpää power plant where it will be utilized in energy production. An estimated 135 tonnes of manure-bedding mixture will be generated during the event.

The Helsinki International Horse Show will be held on October 18 to 22.

Published in Combustion
October 2, 2017 – Global methane emissions from agriculture are larger than estimated due to the previous use of out-of-date data on carbon emissions generated by livestock, according to a study published in the open access journal Carbon Balance and Management.

In a project sponsored by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Carbon Monitoring System research initiative, researchers from the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) found that global livestock methane (CH4) emissions for 2011 are 11 percent higher than the estimates based on guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2006. This encompasses an 8.4 percent increase in CH4 from enteric fermentation (digestion) in dairy cows and other cattle and a 36.7 percent increase in manure management CH4 compared to IPCC-based estimates. Revised manure management CH4 emissions estimates for 2011 in the U.S. from this study were 71.8 percent higher than IPPC-based estimates.

"In many regions of the world, livestock numbers are changing, and breeding has resulted in larger animals with higher intakes of food,” said Dr. Julie Wolf, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), senior author of the study. “This, along with changes in livestock management, can lead to higher methane emissions. Methane is an important moderator of the Earth's atmospheric temperature. It has about four times the atmospheric warming potential of carbon dioxide. Direct measurements of methane emissions are not available for all sources of methane. Thus, emissions are reported as estimates based on different methods and assumptions. In this study, we created new per-animal emissions factors – that is measures of the average amount of CH4 discharged by animals into the atmosphere – and new estimates of global livestock methane emissions."

The authors re-evaluated the data used to calculate IPCC 2006 CH4 emission factors resulting from enteric fermentation in dairy cows and other cattle, and manure management from dairy cows, other cattle and swine. They show that estimating livestock CH4 emissions with the revised emissions factors, created in this study, results in larger emission estimates compared to calculations made using IPCC 2006 emission factors for most regions, although emission estimates varied considerably by region.

“Among global regions, there was notable variability in trends in estimated emissions over recent decades,” said Dr Ghassem Asrar, director of JGCRI and a co-author of study. “For example, we found that total livestock methane emissions have increased the most in rapidly developing regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa. In contrast, emissions increased less in the U.S. and Canada, and decreased slightly in Western Europe. We found the largest increases in annual emissions to be over the northern tropics, followed by the southern tropics."

The estimates presented in this study are also 15 percent larger than global estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only slightly smaller than estimates provided by the EPA for the U.S., four percent larger than EDGAR (Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research) global estimates, three percent larger than EDGAR estimates for U.S. and 54 percent larger than EDGAR estimates for the state of California. Both the EPA and EDGAR use IPCC 2006 default information, which may have contributed to the under estimations.
Published in Air quality
September 29, 2017, Bailey’s Harbor, WI – In a 3-2 vote, the Door County Land Conservation Committee decided to forward a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), voicing support for the karst-targeted changes to NR 151, the state’s manure-handling rule, but also asking for clarification on the cost-sharing aspect of the new rules.

Two farmers on the committee voted against the committee sending a letter of support after hearing from many farmers who believe they will lose about 30 percent of their cropland for spreading manure under the proposed rules. READ MORE
Published in Regional
September 26, 2017, Springfield, MA — The winners of the 2017 New England Green Pastures Award were recognized at the Eastern States Exposition on Sept. 15. Honored as Massachusetts Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year was Pine Island Farm of Sheffield, MA, managed by the Aragi family.

Pine Island Farm is a third-generation dairy farm operated by the Aragi family since 1964. Thomas Aragi – Louis Sr.’s father – purchased the original parcel of 179 acres. Today, the farm consists of more than 1,594 acres. The dairy operation is a partnership jointly owned by Louis Aragi Sr. and Louis Aragi Jr. Pine Island Farm houses approximately 1,500 head of dairy cattle. The farm generates approximately 20 million pounds of milk annually. All of the farm’s acreage used is solely for the dairy operation and the needs of the Aragi family. The Aragi’s also rent tillable cropland to provide sufficient feed for the dairy cattle.

Running a successful dairy operation is a challenge. Through thoughtful and creative planning and making solid business decisions, the farm has developed a dairy operation that relies heavily on the farm’s natural resources (landmass and field crops).

The Aragi’s have set their sights on developing an operation that is successful and will support future generations of the Aragi family. They look at opportunities for the farm from all angles and think outside the box in order to take maximum advantage of their available resources and implement those things that will benefit the farm-labor efficiencies, cost savings, and increased profitability. One such opportunity was in 2011 with the installation of a methane digester at the farm both owned and operated by the Aragi’s, that has addressed environmental issues, and created by-products that have been used at the farm reducing operating costs – diversifying the farm product mix and assisting in the sustainability of the farm. The Aragi’s prime focus has been to “mine the farm waste” for conversion into beneficial by-products and effectively use those digested by-products. Investing in this technology and gaining experience with it; and the diversification of the by-products, all have positioned the farm for future benefits ranging from additional revenue streams and labor savings. All of which have laid a foundation for sustainability of the Aragi family farm.

The Green Pasture Award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
Published in Dairy
September 21, 2017, Portland, OR – U.S.-based private investment fund Climate Trust Capital has reached agreement on its first carbon investment in the biogas sector – the West-Star North Dairy Biogas Project.

More than $862,000 of Climate Trust Capital’s Fund I was invested in a covered lagoon digester that will destroy methane and produce carbon offsets under California’s cap and trade system. Fund I was launched in October 2016, seeded by a $5.5 million investment from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and supported by a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“This has been an exciting year, with marked progress toward the deployment of the $5.5 million that makes up Climate Trust Capital’s Fund I,” said Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust. “We have officially made investments in each of our three preferred sectors – forestry, grassland conservation, and livestock digesters – and are pleased to see our investment strategy come to fruition with high-caliber partner, California Bioenergy.”

The investment is based on the anticipated 10-year value of carbon credits from a livestock digester project located at West-Star North Dairy, a 1,500-acre farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Project partner, California Bioenergy LLC (CalBio), has built three other dairy digester projects, including the state’s largest, with many more scheduled for development. This project investment is expected to begin generating carbon offsets in January 2018 with initial cash flow from the sale of these offsets in 2019.

“Realizing the potential cash flow from the future sale of a dairy digester’s environmental attributes is a complex process involving a high level of project expertise, careful monitoring, and the management of regulatory and market risk,” said Ross Buckenham, CEO for California Bioenergy. “The Climate Trust is a sophisticated carbon investor and together we are able to harness the value of these environmental benefits. The Climate Trust’s willingness to invest in a significant portion of the future attributes further reduces risks to the famer and project. We are grateful for their support as well as the support of the California Energy Commission and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.”

Farms have historically flushed their manure into uncovered lagoons, which generate methane and release it to the atmosphere. The West-Star North digester will treat the manure by installing CalBio’s patented dairy digester design – excavating two new lagoons in the process – and then covering the lagoons with a flexible, high-density polyethylene cover. Captured methane will be stored and then combusted in a high-efficiency generator that delivers renewable electricity to Pacific Gas and Electric. In addition, the digester will be double lined and enhance ground-water protection. Effluent from the digester will be used to irrigate fields and will also be part of a USDA drip irrigation study.

“Digester projects offer a host of beneficial revenue streams, from improving the economic and environmental performance of dairies, to clean energy, scheduled electricity delivery, improved soil nutrient management, and diverting waste from landfills,” said Peter Weisberg, senior portfolio manager for The Climate Trust.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
September 21, 2017 – Join AgSTAR at the BioCycle REFOR17 conference and attend the program’s “States Advance Digester Development” session.

During the session – being held from 4:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 17 – participants will explore state policies and incentives that support and advance anaerobic digestion (AD). Speakers will include:
Speaker presentations will be followed by a moderated panel discussion examining:
  • State-level goals and how states are achieving them
  • Successes and setbacks related to AD policies
  • Challenges facing the potential expansion of digesters
  • Potential opportunities in the AD market
BioCycle REFOR17 is being held October 16 to 19, 2017 in Portland, Oregon, at the Red Lion Hotel on the River. This national biogas conference offers hands-on information and tools to position companies or organizations for success in AD, biogas markets, composting, manure, food waste, and renewable fuels. The event will feature plenary and technical sessions, an exhibit hall, a site tour, and workshops.

View the BioCycle REFOR17 website for more information.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
One back surgery and 30 years later, Lee Kinnard, co-owner of Kinnard Farms in Wisconsin, is starting to believe that the dairy has finally put all the pieces in place to streamline recycling of manure-laden bedding sand from their barns.
Published in Dairy
August 17, 2017, Chevy Chase, MD - If there is one point on which most Americans agree, it is that technology will play an increasingly important role in the way we live and work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that in just three years there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs, and only 400,000 qualified job candidates.

In response, 4‑H, America's largest youth development organization, and Google are coming together for a first-of-its-kind computer science (CS) collaboration that will teach kids both technical skills like coding, and essential skills students will need in the future like, teamwork and resilience. But the program isn't just about programming computers, it's about helping students learn skills they'll need to approach problems in a fundamentally different way across every discipline from business to engineering to the arts.

The collaboration is funded by a $1.5 million grant from Google.org to establish a CS program that will empower more than 100,000 young people across 22 states in its first year. The collaboration will include an effort to reach communities where youth traditionally have limited access to computers, internet or CS training.

With Google's support, 4‑H will equip community educators with new funding, curriculum, training, devices and the support of Google CS experts. As with most 4‑H programs, the effort will feature teen-led, peer-to-peer mentoring.

4‑H and Google publicly announced the collaboration today at a press conference at the Illinois State Fair, where they also debuted a new 4‑H-themed virtual reality Expedition showcasing 4‑H youth using technology to improve their communities.

"It is incredibly exciting to combine the power of 4‑H with the impact of Google's philanthropy, products and people," said Jennifer Sirangelo, President and CEO of National 4‑H Council. "Working together, our two organizations will make a tremendous difference in the lives of young people by making computer science education accessible and engaging. No matter where kids live or what they aspire to be, these are skills that will help them succeed."

The collaboration between 4‑H and Google lays the groundwork for 4‑H to deliver computer science education across the organization, which reaches nearly six million kids in every county and parish in the United States.

It establishes an official 4‑H Computer Science Career Pathway, which helps kids progress from casual interest in CS, to dedicated studies and ultimately career experience. Utah State University Extension's 4‑H program is a key partner in co-creating the 4‑H CS Career Pathway and developing tools for educators to implement the program.

"We are proud to be a part of this effort to bring hands-on programming to our nation's youth," said Jacquelline Fuller, President of Google.org. "It's important for kids to develop a wide range of skills, like computer science skills, analytical thinking and creative problem solving, and our work with National 4‑H Council will help ensure that kids across the country have access to a better future."

In its first year, the program is available in the following states: Alabama, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Parents and educators seeking more information on how to get involved can reach out to their local 4‑H office at HTTP://4-H.ORG/FIND/.
Published in Associations
Horses tend to fall under the radar when we think of manure management, says Les Ober, certified crop advisor with Ohio State University Extension in Geauga County.

“That is until somebody makes a mistake and pollutes someone else’s water, or they offend their neighbors with flies or odor,” he says. “That’s when the neighbor calls up the water conservation district and says, ‘Hey, this guy is piling manure up and he isn’t doing anything with it.’ Most of the cases in our county, where the guys (inspectors) have been called out, have not been on dairy farms or livestock farms, they’ve been on horse farms.”

Ober’s county, just east of Cleveland, has the second-highest horse population in Ohio, and he has worked extensively with equine professionals. His clients generally have small farms, small lots, with a relatively small number of animals. He advises them on hay quality, pasture management, and manure and nutrient management.

In his work, he has found that there are some common problems in the industry.

“When I talk to horse owners, of course the first thing they’re looking at is a nice new arena, or increasing the number of stalls. But what are you going to do with the manure?” he asks. “You have to think of that problem before you move ahead or move horses into the stalls. You can’t just pile it up at the back door and hope it goes away. Manure is a problem, it can offend the neighbors and it can definitely compromise water quality.”

The two areas of environmental concern are the manure produced inside the stable, and also the manure that is produced outside.

“In our area we normally have guys with four or five acres trying to keep six horses. That’s bad business, you can’t do that, especially if you’ve got a boarding stable. You’ve got to turn them out year round. What are you going to do with those horses when you turn them out? If you’re lucky the ground will be frozen but most often it’s just covered with snow and you’re going to turn it into a quagmire.”

“Here’s two things you have to look at; first, the manure inside the stable. What are you going to do with that?” he asks.

Of the manure produced outside, “what about the water quality issues outside that barn?”

“The first thing we’re going to look at is grazing, which is the traditional pastime of horses. They are just like sheep. They will graze right to the ground. Eventually, they will graze it down till everything is gone and then they will go after the grass under the fences. That is when you know you have hungry horses,” he says.

“One thing you have to understand about horses is that they are pretty much like a conveyor belt – food goes in, poop comes out and it’s continuous. Horses graze 22 hours out of 24.”

Artificial measures can be taken to protect pastures from excessive erosion due to weather, grazing or turnout.

“It is part of the real solution to all weather turnout. This has been a real boon for the horse industry, it’s not cheap but it is definitely part of the solution,” Ober says.

He explains that they take a pasture area that has been cordoned off and make sure it drains well, tiling it as needed. Then they bring in geodesic cloth and put it down as a ground cover to provide some support and so gravel is not lost. Then they cover it, first with a very coarse limestone, working up to a very fine limestone cover.

“This creates a pad that the horses follow and that solves the turnout problem,” he says. “They don’t need to be out on pastures in the middle of December punching the pasture up, then there’s a good rain and all the manure and soil that’s out there washes into the creek. That’s a problem you’ll have to deal with.”

The choice of bedding can be another issue.

“The big problem is that the majority of that bedding that is choosen is sawdust and wood chips,” he says. “It takes too long to break down, so you’ll need more microbial activity and that will suck up all the available nitrogen in the soil to break down the carbon in the shavings and bedding and you’ll have stunted grass.”

Ober notes that nitrogen ratios for wood chips, sawdust bedding are 200 to 750 to one.

“For straw bedding it’s 50 to 150 to one, which is not too bad to have to break down,” he says.

“You need to source the right bedding; straw is about $4 per bale, shavings $4 to $8. Overall cost is going to be about $45 to $46 for straw and $35 to $40 for wood shavings. Another factor to consider is that cleaning sawdust and wood shavings out of a stall is labor intensive and expensive.”

Ober points to an OSU fact sheet on nitrogen enhancement and says that if you are going to haul manure on a daily basis, you will want to add about a half cup of ammonium sulfate into your wheelbarrow load.

“This should give you enough nitrogen to start that break down process,” he says. “I would like to see maybe half to a full cup added, and I will tell you that it does work very, very well.”

Another option that people have used is the dumpster.

“This is a popular way because people today just don’t know how to get rid of horse manure. In one situation there is one dumpster for six horses that is picked up and emptied every three weeks. That works out to about $3,000 per year. If you are boarding horses, you have to consider the $250 to $300 a month for manure. That’s a major cost.

“Many farmers are using this system simply because their backs are against the wall,” Ober says. “You will save money during the summer months (when turned out) as opposed to winter but this is still not a good system for dealing with manure.”

Composting is another solid option for manure.

“We don’t see it used that much but there are definite advantages,” he says.

Make a pile about three feet high and seven feet wide, and aim for the optimal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We want to maintain the moisture so that when you grab that material you feel the moisture. Too much water kills the bacterial action. You need to keep rotating the pile and aerating it. You will end up with a product that is very, very good and you’ll be able to save most of the nitrogen. If you bring it into a nitrate form it will not leave the ground as fast. This is another sound management tool.”

Ober explains that the reason composting is not yet popular in the horse industry is due to the carbon to nitrogen ratio.

“If you can get ahold of some other materials to get in there, some green materials, some other animal material, source all the green clippings or straw then bring it all together and bring it into a compost pile,” he says.

When it is done, the compost has been through a complete cycle and the product is very good and can be used in landscaping and throughout parks.

“The process kills pathogens, flies and bacteria,” Ober explains. “The difficulty is the high carbon to nitrogen ratios, and if you use just saw dust it could take up to two to three years to get that pile of compost down just right.

“We’re talking about horse manure. And, we can haul it to landfill sites or we can get it back out to the farm where it can do some good. It is a good product and full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.”

The first thing you have to do if spreading horse manure on the field is to take a soil test.


Published in Other
August 11, 2017, Wexford, Ireland – More than 250 delegates from across Europe and around the world will gather in Wexford next month to discuss a range of scientific research topics with potentially profound importance for the future environmental performance of Irish agriculture.

The biennial Ramiran (Recycling of Agricultural, Municipal and Industrial Residues in Agriculture Network) conference is being hosted by Teagasc and will focus on new cutting-edge strategies and technologies to improve the efficiency of manure and residue management on farms. READ MORE




Published in Other
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