Don’t bury your head in manure pit

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It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your manure is?
Whether you own one horse or 500 Holsteins, it is your job to move, handle, store and manage manure responsibly.
“But we’ve always done it this way,” or “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that” won’t cut it if you’re slapped with a fine or sued for excessive runoff or repeated fish kills or elevated ammonia emissions.
It’s getting scary out there and you’d better pay attention to what’s going on. You can’t dismiss concerns as environmentalist rants any longer.
At a forum in northwestern Ohio earlier this year, an opponent to a large dairy farm called the farm’s manure application “a form of mental and physical cruelty.” That’s the extreme.
But when the Ohio Academy of Science talks about manure for three hours at a research symposium, as they did April 2 in Bowling Green, that’s a sign of the changing times.
Can I visit? Today’s Farm and Dairy print edition contains a recap of discussions from last month’s Ohio Livestock Coalition symposium (see page A10). During the event, Wes Jamison, a professor at Iowa’s Dordt College, asked participants, “Would you be willing at a moment’s notice to open your farm to public scrutiny. If your answer is ‘no,’ you’ve got some work to do.”
Most farmers, I wager, would answer ‘no.’
Environmental regulations are not going away. Public scrutiny is not going away.
In the East. Consider what’s on the drawing board in New Jersey: a strict three-tiered manure management proposal.
Level I covers farms with seven or fewer animal units – including horses. Producers would need to follow best management practices for manure.
Farms with eight to 29 animal units would need to file a self-certified plan.
In the third level, farms with more than 30 animal units would need a state-approved manure management plan, with maps of soils and water resources; soil tests; manure nutrient analyses; and a field-specific application plan.
In addition to storage restrictions, farms would need an emergency plan. And livestock must be fenced out of streams.
Facts of life. Accidents happen. Equipment fails or operators make a mistake and overapply. But producers may not follow their manure management plan and overapply, or apply at the wrong time and the wrong place. Or ignore saturated soils or dry, cracked soils, or broken tile lines – and apply anyway.
Better management is the key to all of this.
This is not a just a “large farm” problem. They’re the ones garnering the most attention right now, and thus the most complaints and investigations. But no one, no species, no size herd can ignore it.
As all politicians know, public perception is reality.
Get your barnyard in order.
(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at editor@farmanddairy.com.)

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

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