On-farm fertilizer storage now regulated

SALEM, Ohio – Tom Beck’s a busy man, farming his 2,000 bean and corn acres in Henry County, Ohio.
For him, having on-farm bulk fertilizer storage means he gets a better deal on prices and the convenience of spreading it any time of the day, any day of the week.
In the last 20 years, that storage has paid for itself many times over with the savings he gets from buying his fertilizer in bulk, he said.
But two years ago he faced a new rule regarding his storage.
Regulation. At the time, private farms with on-farm fertilizer storage weren’t regulated. But in 2002, the Ohio Department of Agriculture recognized more large farms were adding storage and said they needed some rules.
So the department mandated any farm that stores 5,000 or more gallons of fertilizer for more than 30 days needs to offer protection in case of spills or leaks.
This protection is called a secondary containment dike and farmers with existing fertilizer storage must have it in place by Jan. 1, 2007. Farmers building new storage facilities must adhere to the regulation immediately.
Dusty Sonnenberg, Henry County extension educator, compares the dike to a glorified swimming pool.
It’s a pit with walls and the storage tank sits inside, he said. If the tank springs a leak, the spill will go into the dike rather than into the ground.
Precaution. Beck inspects his 28,000-gallon storage tank yearly and watches carefully for anything that might need fixed.
For him, putting in a 38-by-44 foot dike was an expense he didn’t need. Even so, he knew it was a precaution worth taking.
Last year he began talking with other farmers, and after settling on a dike, he applied to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for approval.
In the meantime, he talked with his local Soil and Water Conservation District and found out there was Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) money available for his project.
He was approved for a 50 percent cost share and his dike was completed last August.
Getting help. Henry County Soil and Water Conservation District administrator Bob George said secondary containment dikes typically cost about $10,000, depending on the size of the tank, but most counties offer EQIP cost-share funds.
George has already helped several farmers put in bulk fertilizer storage; most are larger grain farms with more than 1,500 acres.
For these farms, buying in bulk saves money, he said. They can take advantage of the lower fall prices if they have the storage available.
“Farmers are looking to cut inputs because they aren’t getting any more for their commodities,” George said.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)
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