Dairy Channel: Tips for on-farm assessment, environmental review program

The On-Farm Assessment and Environmental Review program, a companion program to the Livestock Environmental Assurance Program of the Ohio Livestock Coalition, provides producers with the opportunity to undergo a voluntary, confidential and comprehensive assessment of their operations to make sure they are doing things right in regard to water quality, pest control and odors.

The program is free to all livestock producers because of support from Congress through America’s Clean Water Foundation. The program is sponsored jointly by America’s Clean Water Foundation a national nonprofit organization created in 1989 “to serve as a forum to promote personal and community stewardship of water resources through a better understanding of and methods for achieving clean and safe water for all Americans.”

How it works. Producers request an assessment by contacting America’s Clean Water Foundation or their state’s national or state producer association.

In Ohio producers can contact the Ohio Livestock Coalition, David White, Executive Director, 614-249-2435 or dwhite@ofbf.org.

You will be provided with a copy of Form A, (Producer Checklist) which is to be completed and returned to: Ohio Livestock Coalition, P.O. Box 479, Columbus, OH 43216-0479, 614-249-2435.

The information will be kept confidential and a team of trained and certified professionals will conduct the assessment.

Producers will receive an unbiased assessment of water quality, pest and odor risks along with other environmental risks for the operation. During the assessment the team will point out and reinforce good practices already in place.

In addition, the team will provide information about practical, economical management practices to address problem areas.

Recommendations. The assessment team will provide information designed to help reduce and eliminate risk. They will also identify areas where producers can obtain technical and financial assistance, if needed.

The program is intended to help producers reduce costs and to mitigate actual or potential impacts on surface or ground water, better control pests and minimize odor generation.

Informational meeting. I spoke with David White this week as I prepared this article. We are planning an informational meeting this fall for all producers to provide information and answer questions about this important assessment process.

To complete the producer checklist you will need to know which watershed(s) your farm(s) is located in (watershed code). You will be asked to provide copies of your manure nutrient management plan, an aerial photo showing the location of each livestock facility and manure spreading location, and a plat map showing your proximity to other livestock operations nearby.

We will work in conjunction with your local soil and water conservation district to provide these documents for you.

The assessment team will also need copies of any biosecurity protocols in place for your operations.

On-farm assessment. After the completed producer checklist and supporting documents are returned to Ohio Livestock Commission, the on-farm assessment will be scheduled at the convenience of the producer.

The on-farm assessment team will take all appropriate steps to follow each farm’s biosecurity protocols and to guard against any potential transmission of disease pathogens from farm to farm.

Each farm manager will accompany the team during the assessment and will receive a written report on the assessment, including recommendations in the following areas:

* Overall site management, including proximity to neighbors, wells, surface water lakes, and streams, run-on and runoff controls and facility emergency management plans.

* Building management, including ventilation, pest control and drainage.

* Manure management including storage structures and manure handling equipment.

* Mortality management.

* Nutrient management including management plans and land application practices.

It will take some time to complete this assessment process, but I can’t think of a better way to make sure your operation is handling environmental stewardship and risk in a positive, pro-active way.

(The author is an agricultural extension agent in Columbiana County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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