Farmers, don’t be caught off guard

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Attention, all livestock producers: Ohio is changing. The days of “don’t worry about it until someone complains” is not such a good idea anymore.

It’s not easy farming today. Aside from the weather and commodity markets, now you need to worry even more about water quality, soil erosion and your neighbors.

Complaints

A vast majority of all complaints filed against livestock producers come from neighbors or just a random passerby who may or may not know anything about your operation.

Soil and water conservation districts are able to assist with water quality issues, but may not be able to resolve neighbor issues. It is very easy for citizens to just pick up the phone and file a complaint. They may have never discussed their concern with you or our office.

What happens immediately once the 1-800 number is called is a massive notification is sent out to staff members of ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources, Ohio Department of Agriculture, and Ohio EPA, just to name a few. Staff from OEPA may also show up at your door, possibly unannounced.

If our office is notified, we will try to contact you or be on site to assist with any information they may need as part of the investigation.

What’s pollution

Also, remember under the Pollution Abatement guidelines as defined in section 1501:15-5-01 to 1501:15-5-18 of the Ohio Administrative Code, pollution is not just sediment or animal waste.

By definition; “Manure” means any of the following wastes used in or resulting from the production of agricultural animals or direct agricultural products, such as milk or eggs: animal excreta, discarded products, process waste water, process generated waste water, waste feed, silage drainage, and compost products resulting from mortality composting, on farm biodigester operation residue that includes at least 75 per cent manure, or the composting of animal excreta.

Are you properly managing all of these on your operation?

Do you know where your silage leachate runs? Where does your milkhouse water discharge? Is your animal waste storage designed to NRCS specifications? How about any runoff from a compost pile, distilled feed, etc…?

These are all components that will be looked at if a complaint is filed.

Take action. Don’t wait — take action on these items now. The consequence to your operation could be quite costly.

If you have an earthen storage that was not built with assistance from your local NRCS or soil and water conservation district, I would suggest that you make certain you are not contaminating the ground water around you. These storages must be properly lined in order to prevent leachate.

Also, assess feedlot runoff as well as runoff from any commodities, compost, bunk silos and silage bags. If your operation is not in compliance and a pollution violation is found, you may be required to obtain a NPDES permit and be fined.

Damages

You may also be required to pay for any damages such as fish kills, pollution of water wells, etc

Trust me; you will be much happier if you can avoid ever having to go through this.

Not going away. Due to the algae issues with the Grand Lake State Mary’s and also the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, much focus is now on Ohio. You might say that we are all wearing the target on our back.

U.S. EPA has indicated to Ohio EPA that they will focus resources on Ohio livestock farms to determine compliance with the Clean Water Act and the need for NPDES permits.

The world is a different place. Technology has allowed for great advancements, but can also be a negative. Do you know you are being watched? At any given time your operation may be being monitored by aerial views, Google Earth, or random drive-bys.

U.S. EPA may be using these, as well as other methods, to identify operations that are potentially discharging and impairing the waters of Ohio.

Can’t go back

As a dairy producer myself, I do not want to frighten you, only make you aware of how different things are today from the “good ol’ days.”

Talk to your neighbors. Be courteous of them and educate them of your operation so they are reassured that you are not negatively impacting the environment or their quality of life. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and to protect our valuable resources.

Positive?

I see some of this new found attention as a positive. This is our wake-up call to evaluate our operations. Ask my husband, I am constantly harping on him about things I think he is doing wrong.

Public perception is everything. We should all be doing the best job that we can. If we would make water quality and soil conservation a priority in all of our day-to-day decisions, there would be no reason to have any concerns.

If some of the anti-farming comments bother you then ask yourself, “Am I doing everything correctly?” Or, are you in fact contributing to the problem?

Assistance

If you have concerns or would like advice on any of these issues contact your local soil and water conservation district.

Our offices are here to help. Technical assistance provided by the SWCD during these visits is free. Implementation of needed conservation practices will help ensure that the operation is conservation friendly.

About the Author

Cathy Berg, Program Administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District for 15 past years. Bachelor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University. Major in Agronomy with soils specialization and a minor in Natural Resources Management. More Stories by Cathy Berg

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