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Winter manure application prohibited in Michigan for factory farms


April 3, 2020
By Manure Manager

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Michigan farms are prohibited from applying animal waste as cropland fertilizer in January, February and March unless they meet certain conditions under a new general permit for factory-sized agribusiness operations.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) said the new restriction on winter manure application is intended to prevent nutrients from entering waterways, where they can spawn harmful algal blooms and cause bacterial contamination.

EGLE issued its revised five-year National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) last week. It applies to about 260 of Michigan’s largest livestock operations.

Environmental groups say the new permit is better than the previous one but still flawed. Farm industry advocates said they’re happy the state responded to their requests to ease restrictions in the draft permit, but that farms will still face challenges complying with the tighter regulations.

Michigan will allow farms to apply manure between January and March if there is less than two inches of frost, four inches of snow, the soil tests low for phosphorus levels and the manure is immediately injected or tilled into the field.

The new permit allows manure transportation for composting, treatment, or to out-of-state recipients between January and March, as long as it’s not applied to land during those months.

The permit takes effect April 1. Issuance of coverage certificates is delayed at least 60 days because of the COVID-19 pandemic.