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March 16, 2009
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Contents
  • Dust Regulations Disappoint Producer Organizations
  • Small-Farm Waste Technology Research Planned
  • New Web Sites Connect Producers and Dealers
  • NRCS Extends Conservation Grant Deadline
  • Predicting 2009 Commercial Fertilizer Prices
  • Manure Management Conference Scheduled
  • Midwest Manure Summit Shares European Ideas
  • OSU Extension Workshop Tackles Legal Issues

  • ADVERTISEMENT





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      Dust Regulations Disappoint Producer Organizations
    Both the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) have expressed disappointment with a recent federal court ruling that upholds a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to regulate dust on farms under the Clean Air Act.

    NPPC and NCBA were among organizations that had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington to review EPA’s decision to regulate emissions of coarse particulate matter (PM), or dust, in rural areas. The organizations had argued that while EPA identified problems with coarse PM in urban areas – where it is mostly the byproduct of engine combustion – it failed to show any health effects associated with rural dust, which comes mostly from naturally occurring organic materials such as plants, sand and soil.

    While recognizing the distinctions between urban and rural PM sources, EPA nonetheless decided to regulate agricultural operations for coarse PM. NPPC points out in a recent news release that a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report found that there were no scientifically credible methods for estimating emissions from animal feeding operations.

    The appeals court accepted EPA’s decision as “reasonable.” In rejecting arguments from livestock organizations, the court adopted the so-called precautionary principle, placing the burden on the livestock industry to prove that its operations are not harming the public or the environment. Said the court: “In assessing the scientific evidence, the [livestock organizations] have mistakenly equated an absence of certainty about dangerousness with the existence of certainty about safety.” Prior to this decision, EPA had the burden of showing there was harm to human health and the environment that needed to be addressed and of explaining why its proposed regulation was necessary to address that harm.

    Under the regulations, livestock operations can be treated as stationary air emissions sources and can be required to obtain emissions permits under federal and state laws. As a result, farms could face monitoring for particulate matter such as dust from dirt roads and fields, from cattle movements in feedyards and for chemicals, including ammonia, that can form particulate matter. They also may be subject to Clean Air Act “new source review” requirements any time a modification or improvement is made to their operations.

    Tamara Thies, NCBA's chief environmental counsel says, “We are very disappointed with the Court’s decision. There is no scientific evidence that agriculture dust causes adverse health effects, and its regulation under the Clean Air Act is completely unjustified.” NPPC Environment Committee Chairman Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, MN, agrees, stating, “EPA issued the revised air-quality regulations despite acknowledging that it lacks any science to support imposing them on livestock production operations, and that apparently was okay with the court. More troubling, the court is requiring that we prove a negative.”

    Spronk continues, “We still believe that it simply is inappropriate to treat the naturally occurring emissions from an animal agricultural operation in the same manner as emissions from power plants or refineries.” EPA issued the particulate matter rule in 2006, before a two-year emissions monitoring study of animal feeding operations got underway. The study, which is expected to be completed by January 2010, was part of a 2005 agreement between EPA and the livestock industry. Data from the study is to be used by EPA to develop scientifically credible methodologies for estimating emissions from livestock operations and to promulgate new compliance standards and guidelines. More than 2,700 animal feeding operations, including 1,900 pork farms, signed the so-called air consent agreement.

    “Applying this new particulate matter standard to agriculture mandates a solution before deciding if a problem exists,” Spronk says.

    Michael Formica, NPPC’s chief environmental counsel, addresses the economic implications, "This is a bad decision that will have a profound and long-lasting impact on the struggling American economy. Farmers, business owners, workers and consumers struggling to put food on the table will be harmed by the court’s imprudent decision to use the ‘precautionary principle’ in determining the need for a particular government regulation.”

    Visit the NPPC web site at www.nppc.org/. NCBA information can be found at www.beefusa.org/.

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      Small-Farm Waste Technology Research Planned
    State and foundation grants exceeding $3 million will assist Michigan State University (MSU) researchers in developing technology for smaller farms to turn animal waste into usable heat, electricity and other valuable products.

    MSU’s planned Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education (ADRE) Center will consolidate new and existing programs in a planned 3,280-square-foot building at MSU’s expanding farm animal and environmental research complex. Researchers aim to develop and commercialize turn-key digester/microturbine modules for affordable waste-to-power systems for small and mid-sized farms.

    Farm waste management is a growing issue due to concerns over food contamination, pollutant runoff, odor and, most recently, greenhouse gas emissions. Petrochemical cost spikes, meanwhile, have added to farmers’ costs for fertilizer and fuel. The MSU ADRE Center will develop ways to efficiently convert manure liquid into methane for heat and electricity while extracting fiber for soil enrichment or ethanol manufacture and water for irrigation. Other valuable output could include animal feed and algae, which can be processed into biofuels.

    Anaerobic digestion is not a new concept, and has been applied in recent years by some large dairy farms to generate power. Development of scalable, modular systems could allow smaller farms, those with fewer than 500 head of cattle, to convert waste into valuable resources.

    The ADRE Center also is expected to house a recently created farm energy auditing program that could conduct digester/power system feasibility studies for dairy clients. It is slated for completion by mid- to late 2009.
    Learn more about the new facility and exciting research possibilities online at www.egr.msu.edu/age/.


      New Web Sites Connect Producers and Dealers
    Engineered Storage Products Company (ESPC) announces the re-launch of both the Harvestore.com and Slurrystore.com web sites featuring simple navigation and increased information capacity. Site visitors can quickly get in contact with authorized Harvestore and Slurrystore dealers through new features such as the “Request-a-Quote” function and “Dealer Locator” applications.

    Tony Thill, director of Marketing and Business Development for ESPC, says the new websites meet the technological demands of today’s farmer. “Farmers are more connected than ever, and a major goal of ours from the beginning was to make sure we kept their needs for fast service in mind. The new ‘Request-a-Quote’ form basically seats the user right in the office of one of our authorized Harvestore or Slurrystore dealers without the hassle of scheduling an appointment," he says.

    Harvestore.com and Slurrystore.com offer product information and allow users to read success stories from real Harvestore and Slurrystore owners and browse a comprehensive library of product data and services for either system.

    Visit www.harvestore.com or www.slurrystore.com.

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      NRCS Extends Conservation Grant Deadline
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces the application period for 2009 Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) funding has been extended to March 20. The previous deadline to submit applications was March 2.

    The Conservation Innovation Grants are aimed at helping achieve and promote innovation in critical areas such as water quality, energy, climate change, and pollinator habitat.

    Up to $20 million is available for this national competition, with awards divided up into several categories. The technology category will provide up to $6 million for proposals in new technologies that promote such areas as animal waste management, erosion control, grazing land productivity, irrigation water use, fertilizer use, energy use and carbon sequestration. Other categories and specifics about application requirements are explained in more detail online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig/.

    Project proposals must describe the geographic area and the natural resource concern or concerns being addressed. Applicants also must describe the innovative technologies or approaches which will be used. NRCS plans to fund projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations. The grant is not a research program, but rather a tool to stimulate the adoption of conservation approaches or technologies that have been studied sufficiently to indicate a high likelihood of success and are likely candidates for eventual transfer of the technology to the public.

    Applications must be received in the NRCS National Headquarters by close of business March 20. Learn more at your local USDA Service Center. View the complete announcement of program funding at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig/. To apply electronically, go to www.grants.gov/.

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      Predicting 2009 Commercial Fertilizer Prices
    Expected lower fertilizer prices in 2009 may lead to an increase in corn profitability relative to soybean profitability, according to a University of Illinois (U of I) Extension farm financial management specialist. "Difficulties within the financial sector became apparent last fall. The financial meltdown, along with public perceptions of economic problems, has led to concerns that a deep, world-wide recession is occurring," says Gary Schnitkey. As a result prices of many commodities have declined dramatically in the belief that demands for those commodities are being reduced. Among those commodities seeing declines are wholesale fertilizer prices, according to the U of I expert.

    He explains, "As of yet, prices farmers pay for fertilizers have not decreased as much as declines in wholesale prices. In fact, retail prices have not declined much at all in many areas of Illinois. Non-declining prices are attributed to large unsold fertilizer inventories held by many retailers." Schnitkey says retailers will lose money on those inventories if they follow wholesale prices down.

    "While retailers will suffer financial losses, there are incentives for farmers to delay purchasing fertilizers, waiting for fertilizer prices to decline. Waiting to purchase fertilizer poses some risks to farmer," Schnitkey states. Supplies may become limited if suppliers curtail production. Geopolitical events could also impact prices. "The point is not that these or other events will occur, but that there remain risks for higher fertilizer prices," Schnitkey states. "As farmers make planting decisions, up-to-date fertilizer prices should be used in calculating relative profitability."

    Schnitkey's report, "Fertilizer Prices Likely to Decline in 2009," can be found online (www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/manage/newsletters/fefo09_02/fefo09_02.html) on U of I Extension's farmdoc website.


      Manure Management Conference Scheduled
    New conservation practices, weather-related manure releases and manure storage capacity are among the hot topics on the program at the 2009 Livestock Manure Management Conference workshops scheduled for March 24 and 25 in Effingham and Princeton, IL.

    "The vegetative treatment area (or VTA) standard is a new tool that can be used for managing wastewater, such as feedlot runoff or water coming off an outside feed storage area," explains Ted Funk, Extension specialist and director of the conference. "There will be research-based numbers on how large to make the area, what soil types work best, what grass species work well, and what the limitations are. If producers are going to use this practice, they'll learn how to put it to work."

    A panel has been set up to discuss manure storage capacity planning, and several producers will talk about how they deal with challenges related to rainfall and full storage systems. Funk says another session of particular interest to swine producers will be a discussion of the status of key Illinois livestock court cases. "A large swine facility in Illinois had a water line through the wall of their manure pit fail and a lot of manure was released. As a result, the Illinois Department of Agriculture made a change in their rules and now you can no longer have pipes going through pit walls," Funk states.

    Funk expects the discussion to provide a forum for people in the industry to see why the rules changed, and what the effect is going to be. "The effect on new construction will be substantial. The cost and complexity of construction - taking water pipes over walls and not through them - will rise significantly. But the environmental risk is lessened, so the increased safety is a good thing," Funk says.

    A producer panel will talk about manure marketing. In addition, the workshops will cover current Farm Bill programs, the latest technology for manure management and precision farming.

    Each workshop will also host a trade show featuring vendors who offer the latest in manure management equipment and services.

    Workshop dates and locations include Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Effingham, and Thursday, March 26, at the Wise Guys Bar & Grill in Princeton. The workshop costs $40. Registration begins at 8:15 a.m. and the first session starts at 9:00 a.m. Lunch will be provided and the workshops adjourn at 4:00 p.m.

    Pre-registration is necessary. Call 800-345-6087 before March 17 to guarantee your space. The workshops are sponsored by the University of Illinois, the Illinois EPA, and the Illinois Pork Producers Association.


      Midwest Manure Summit Shares European Ideas
    While the idea of on-farm manure digesters and energy production on American farms is a fairly new trend, the technology has been used on European farms of all sizes for years.

    Manfred Faatz, Triesdorf, Germany, has operated a biogas plant on his own 120-cow dairy farm for nine years. He also conducts training workshops for farmers and industry on biogas production. His workshops include tips for appropriate technology usage, maximizing biogas production, and the economics of production.

    Faatz is scheduled to speak at the Midwest Manure Summit at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI, on March 24 and 25. His presentation will focus on the development of the agricultural biogas industry in Germany. He will provide an overview of the direction the industry is taking in Germany, and will speculate on how the United States could use a similar model.

    In addition to Faatz’s presentation, the two-day 2009 Midwest Manure Summit will feature university and industry manure experts from around the world.

    For more information or to register, please visit www.midwestmanure.com or contact conference coordinators Paul Dyk at 920-929-3170 or Mark Hagedorn at 920-391-4612. The event is hosted by University of Wisconsin-Extension and the UW-Extension Dairy Team.


      OSU Extension Workshop Tackles Legal Issues
    Legal issues in agriculture will be the focus of a one-day Ohio State University (OSU) Extension conference on March 25.

    Peggy Hall, director of OSU Extension's Agricultural and Resource Law Program, says, “Operating in today’s agriculture requires legal knowledge. This program will help farmers and others understand important legal issues that impact agriculture.”

    The Northwest Ohio Agricultural Law Conference will feature sessions taught by attorneys on legal risk assessment issues, authority over large livestock operations, using flexible farm rental agreements, Ohio conservancy district law, farm business planning strategies and will feature an agricultural law update.

    The conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Lighthouse Banquet Facility, located at 10055 W. US 224 in Findlay, OH. Registration is due March 20. The fee of $30 per person, and $20 for additional family or company members, includes lunch and materials. For more information or to register, visit www.aede.osu.edu/programs/aglaw or contact the OSU Extension office in Hancock County at 491-422-3851.

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