United States
North Carolina is described as the heart of the “American Broiler Belt.” With the poultry industry still expanding to some extent in the state and less land being available for manure application due to population growth and urban sprawl, alternative uses for poultry litter are being urgently explored.
Published in Poultry
As I write this, only a few days are left before livestock operations need to submit their air emissions data to the federal government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). All poultry and livestock facilities that are likely to emit more than 100 pounds of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period are required to report their initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center.
Published in Federal
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
November 13, 2017, Madison, WI – Dane County plans to stop making electricity with natural gas extracted from heaps of garbage and manure so that it can sell the gas through an interstate pipeline for use as environmentally-friendly automobile fuel.

The $23.5 million project at the county landfill would be the first of its kind in the state. READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
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
November 10, 2017, Kewaunee, WI – The Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance regulating manure irrigation at its Nov. 7 meeting.

The Chapter 37 Agricultural Waste and Process Wastewater Irrigation Ordinance allows low pressure-drip irrigation at a height no greater than 18 inches to apply nutrients during the growing season. The vote was 19-0 with one supervisor excused. READ MORE



Published in Regional
November 10, 2017, Washington, DC – A House Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing recently on a bipartisan bill to reduce the risk of farmers from citizen-led lawsuits.

The Farm Regulatory Certainty Act has more than 60 co-sponsors, and was spearheaded by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. Newhouse, a former Washington ag director, told the subcommittee about a Washington state dairy farmer who was operating under state nutrient management plans, but entered into a consent decree with EPA. Then a third party got records on the dairy and it was sued under an environmental act. READ MORE





Published in Federal
November 9, 2017, Allison, IA – A leaking pit from a hog confinement about five miles southeast of Allison in Butler County sent Iowa Department or Natural Resources (DNR) staff to the field to investigate Nov. 4.

The manure flowed into a grass waterway, into an underground tile line and into a tributary of the West Fork of the Cedar River. The facility owner discovered the leak and a faulty pipe seal.

The farm crew worked overnight to remove manure from the pit and land apply it. They also worked to dam the tributary and pump up contaminated water in the creek.

When the DNR arrived, pumping and land application to crop fields continued. Most of the contaminated water was contained, but field tests showed elevated ammonia levels below the dam. Staff saw one small dead fish but no others.

The owner continued pumping contaminated water and land applying it. On Nov. 6, DNR staff found contaminated water contained to a one-mile stretch of the tributary. Fisheries staff found a few more dead fish, but also live fish in the stream.

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

Published in Swine
November 7, 2017, Marianna, FL – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam presented Cindale Farms of Jackson County and two other farms – those in Alachua and Hillsborough counties – with the state’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award on Nov. 1.

The awards were among several in various categories given at a Florida Farm Bureau meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach. Florida Blue Farms Inc., of Alachua County, and Speedling Inc., of Hillsborough County were the other honorees in that category.

Cindale, a dairy and creamery operation, was lauded for its innovative practices in protecting and preserving Florida’s resources. READ MORE
Published in Dairy
November 1, 2017, Dyersville, IA – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently received laboratory results confirming that ammonia toxicity in runoff from a dairy was responsible for an October fish kill in Dubuque County.

Test results from water samples DNR collected Oct. 9 showed elevated levels of ammonia below a manure storage basin at the New Vienna operation. Additional test results ruled out other livestock facilities and a field where manure had recently been land applied.

The DNR fisheries report shows 60,278 fish were killed along nearly seven miles of stream, including an unnamed tributary of Hickory Creek, Hickory Creek and Hewitt Creek. More than 42,000 were minnows, shiners, dace and chubs. The remainder included primarily suckers, darters and stonerollers.

The DNR will seek fish restitution of $21,712.44, which includes a fish replacement value of $19,416.15 and the cost of the fisheries investigation.

The investigation started Oct. 9 at Highway 136 bridge in Dyersville, following a report of dead fish in Hewitt Creek. DNR staff followed dead fish upstream until they found evidence of manure washed into a stream.
Published in Dairy
November 1, 2017, Stratford, IA – The Stratford Fire Department responded to a hog building explosion southeast of Stratford Oct. 31.

The wall on one side of the building was damaged by the blast. According to reports, workers had just started to stir the pit and were pumping manure when the explosion occurred. READ MORE
Published in Swine
October 31, 2017, Milwaukee, WI – The last couple of weeks have been very busy for Michael Best’s clients in the dairy industry. First, our attorneys assisted the Dairy Business Association of Wisconsin (DBA) in settling a lawsuit brought on DBA’s behalf, challenging Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) regulation of large dairy farms under its Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit program. Second, Governor Walker announced, as part of his rural agenda, his intention to “work with the legislature and EPA to transfer regulatory authority over large farms from the DNR to DATCP to encourage the best use of technical expertise and create program efficiencies,” a move long-supported by industry insiders to allow for more efficient permitting. We will keep our dairy industry clients informed of the impacts of these developments as we move forward. But, as for the lawsuit settlement, many of our clients are asking “what’s next?”

To start, the settlement vindicates DBA’s claims that WDNR acted in excess of its legal authority in 2016 when it implemented a new approach to regulating runoff from feed storage areas (FSAs) and management of calf hutch lots without engaging in formal rulemaking procedures required by statute. The settlement provides immediate relief for Wisconsin’s dairy community and should help ensure WDNR follows the law before unilaterally implementing sweeping regulatory changes in the future. The settlement also has important implications for dairy farms regulated under WPDES permits.

Background

NRCS Standard 635 (2002 WI), incorporated in Wis. Admin. Code ch. NR 243 (Wisconsin’s CAFO Rule), permits the use of land-based Vegetated Treatment Areas (VTAs) to manage captured or contained feed storage runoff. Relying on this standard, numerous Wisconsin farms constructed VTAs as part of their runoff control systems. In almost all cases, the design and use of VTAs was approved by WDNR as part of a WPDES permit. In 2016, WDNR began a systematic approach of declining to review feed runoff control systems that included these designs, and began enforcing standards of 100 percent storage of all feed storage runoff that would require costly modifications and upgrades to existing runoff control systems.

Meanwhile, WDNR also changed its approach to regulating on-farm calf hutch lots. On March 9, 2016, WDNR announced that it would require review and approval of engineering plans and specifications for calf hutch lots on WPDES-permitted farms. WDNR’s calf hutch directive would have treated calf hutch lots as “reviewable facility or systems” under NR 243 and would have required compliance with standards not incorporated into law.

Frustrated after more than a year’s worth of attempts by DBA to convince WDNR to reverse these two illegal actions (actions which resulted in a number of enforcement actions being initiated by WDNR against DBA farmer members), DBA filed suit against WDNR earlier this summer in Brown County Circuit Court.

What does the settlement do?

The settlement provides immediate regulatory relief for Wisconsin dairy farmers and avoids the delay and expense of additional litigation. The settlement is public and can be viewed here.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, WDNR agreed to recognize VTAs constructed and managed in accordance with NRCS Standard 635 (2002 WI) as valid and lawful runoff control systems. WDNR also agreed to withdraw its draft guidance on VTAs and notify affected permit holders and interested stakeholders within 30 days.

With respect to calf hutch lots, WDNR agreed that calf hutch lots are not a “reviewable facility or system” requiring an engineering plan and specification review and approval, to rescind its earlier directive requiring such reviews, and to provide notice to affected permit holders and stakeholders within 30 days.

Importantly, the settlement also requires WDNR to limit its enforcement of standards or rules relating to FSA leachate/runoff controls to those authorized by statute or administrative rule. WDNR also agreed that it would not consider calf hutch lots “reviewable facilities” in the future unless specifically required by a lawfully enacted statute or promulgated administrative rule.

Permit holders should know that the settlement does not alter the discharge standard applicable to dairy CAFOs under NR 243 and farms’ WPDES permits nor the duty to apply for coverage under such permits; the settlement does, however, clarify that WDNR may no longer presume that a discharge is occurring or will occur from a farm. Under NR 243.13, a CAFO generally may not discharge manure or process wastewater to navigable waters from the production area, except where there is a precipitation caused discharge from the containment, the containment has been designed to capture the 25 year/24-hour rain event, and the production area is operated in accordance with inspection, maintenance and record keeping requirements, as defined in the rule. This standard is set by state and federal law. Beyond this requirement to prohibit the discharge of pollutants to navigable waters, WDNR may not further impose a standard requiring “zero discharge” whatsoever from the production area or VTA. DBA members have been frustrated with WDNR’s presumption of a discharge and implementation of a “zero discharge” standard without regard to important modifiers that allow such a discharge under certain circumstances.

What should farm owners do next?

As alleged in the lawsuit, WDNR has been enforcing regulatory standards and requirements that exceed its authority through a variety of means. These include (1) informing WPDES permit applicants that their application would not be approved unless their leachate and runoff control systems were redesigned to comply with new requirements; (2) issuing Notices of Noncompliance, Notices of Violation, and holding Enforcement Conferences with affected dairy farms; and (3) taking further enforcement actions against dairy farms alleged to be in noncompliance with WDNR’s new standards.

Any WPDES permit holder who has been subject to any of these actions should be aware that the settlement may impact their legal rights and options for responding to WDNR. Timely review and action may be required to preserve these rights as farms proceed through permitting and enforcement actions.

For WPDES Permit Applicants: WPDES permit holders seeking issuance of an initial WPDES permit or reissuance of an expiring WPDES permit should review the status of their permit application with knowledgeable legal counsel and engineering professionals familiar with the program and the settlement. Specifically, this review should consider whether WDNR is (1) requiring an engineering review of existing FSA runoff controls, which is no longer justified given the settlement of the DBA lawsuit; (2) requiring an engineering review of a calf hutch lot, which is not permitted under the terms of the settlement; or (3) making a finding of noncompliance or returning a submission as incomplete based on standards or requirements that are now unenforceable based on the settlement agreement.

Additionally, if the farm has received (or expects to receive) a draft permit in the future, this document should be carefully reviewed to ensure that the permit’s terms and conditions do not exceed WDNR’s legal authority.

For Farms Subject to Enforcement Action: Numerous WPDES permit holders have been issued a Notice of Violation or Notice of Noncompliance related to the farms’ alleged failure to comply with WDNR’s 2016 guidance on FSA leachate and runoff control systems or calf hutch lots. Farms should have legal counsel evaluate the continuing basis for any enforcement action, particularly as they related to alleged discharges from FSAs or calf hutch lots, inadequate FSA or calf hutch runoff control and collection systems, or failure to maintain 180 days of manure and process wastewater storage.

Dairy farmers with questions about how the settlement may affect their farm’s regulatory obligations should contact a Michael Best attorney.
Published in State
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, Washington, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released guidance to assist farmers in reporting air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at farms.

The EPA is making this information available to provide time for farmers to review and prepare for the reporting deadline, currently set for November 15, 2017

EPA is working diligently to address undue regulatory burden on American farmers,” said Administrator Scott Pruitt. “While we continue to examine our options for reporting requirements for emissions from animal waste, EPA’s guidance is designed to help farmers comply with the current requirements.”

On December 18, 2008, EPA published a final rule that exempted farms from reporting air releases of hazardous substances from animal waste. On April 11, 2017, the DC Circuit Court vacated this final rule. In response to a request from EPA, the DC Circuit Court extended the date by which farms must begin reporting these releases to November 15, 2017. Unless the court further delays this date, all farms (including those previously exempted) that have releases of hazardous substances to air from animal wastes equal to or greater than the reportable quantities for those hazardous substances within any 24-hour period must provide notification of such releases.

The EPA guidance information includes links to resources that farmers can use to calculate emissions tailored to specific species of livestock. To view EPA’s guidance and Frequently Asked Questions on reporting air emissions from animal waste, click here: https://www.epa.gov/epcra/cercla-and-epcra-reporting-requirements-air-releases-hazardous-substances-animal-waste-farms.

The EPA will revise this guidance, as necessary, to reflect additional information to assist farm owners and operators to meet reporting obligations. Interested parties may submit comments or suggestions by November 24, 2017.
Published in Air quality
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 26, 2017, Atlantic, IA – Staff from the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s Atlantic field office were in the field recently checking for the source of a manure spill that reached a tributary of East Tarkio Creek in Page County.

Staff responded to an Oct. 25 report of a manure spill that occurred the previous evening when a stuck pump valve caused manure to pool at a confinement near Clarinda. DNR staff found manure pooled at the site, and in roadside and drainage ditches that flow into an unnamed tributary of the East Tarkio Creek.

An estimated 7,000 gallons of manure was released during manure pumping by a commercial manure applicator. The applicator immediately limed the ditch and placed hay bales to keep manure from moving downstream. The DNR is requiring him to build a temporary dam in the ditch and excavate soil to prevent more manure from reaching the stream. Staff found no dead fish, but the investigation is ongoing.

Published in State
October 26, 2017, Oakland, MD – The University of Maryland Extension Office of Garrett County will partner with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Garrett Soil Conservation District to host three days of a free workshop and on-farm demonstrations on manure injection and nutrient management practices Nov. 7 to 9. The agenda will have participants traveling to Frostburg, Grantsville, Oakland, and Accident farms.

Participants do not need to attend all three days, and are only required to register for the first day of demos, as a free lunch will be provided to those attending. Those in need of it will also receive continuing education units from the Maryland Nutrient Management Program.

“Rising fertilizer costs require farmers to maximize the use of ‘free’ nutrients available in manure,” said a spokesperson. “Incorporating manure into the soil is an effective management strategy for keeping these valuable nutrients in the field.”

This program offers practical strategies for injecting manure into the soil to allow incorporation while maintaining a no-tillage management system. Farmers will have an opportunity to talk to custom applicators, discuss costs, and learn about cost-share programs for manure injection and manure transport.

The workshop will begin November 7 at Ganoe Farms, Frostburg, with registration, coffee, and doughnuts offered at 8:30 a.m. Demonstrations will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. at Ganoe’s. The group will then travel to Delvin, Dale, and Wayne Mast’s farm in Grantsville, where a complimentary lunch will be provided at 11:30 a.m. Guest speakers Joe Bartenfelder, Maryland Agriculture Secretary, and Norm Astle, Maryland Cost-Share Programs, will be heard until approximately 2 p.m. The day will continue at Robert Bender’s Accident farm from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. with manure injection demonstrations. Those interested are asked to register no later than November 1 by calling the Garrett Soil Conservation District at 301-334-6951.

Additional farm demonstrations will take place on Nov. 8, beginning at Randall Steyer’s farm in Oakland, and followed by demos at Nevin’s Sines’ farm in Oakland and Kenton Bender’s farm in Accident. The last day, November 9, will also offer farm demonstrations only at David Yoder’s farm and two Grantsville dairy farms, which are yet to be determined.

Registration is not required for the November 8 and 9 farm demonstrations.
Published in Dairy
October 23, 2017, Lancaster, PA – State environmental officials on Friday continued clean-up efforts at a Lancaster County creek contaminated by a manure spill.

A manure storage facility at a farm in Pequea Township ruptured, releasing an estimated 250,000 gallons of manure into an unnamed tributary to Stehman Run, which runs into the Conestoga River. READ MORE
Published in Other
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
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