Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Agriculture Consultant Offers Warnings About Indiana's New Confined Feeding Operation (CFO) Regulations

An environmental and agricultural consultant, Scott Severson, recently wrote an article for Indiana's dairy farmers cautioning them about some of the new restrictions contained in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's (IDEM) new regulations for confined feeding operations (CFOs) and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).  IDEM's upcoming CFO and CAFO regulations are still in draft form, so it is not too late to send IDEM your comments in for review.  Scott's article appears below:  

There are several items in the proposed rule that will add long term compliance expense for many of your regulated members.  When compared to the current CFO rule, in most cases, the proposed rule will hit CFO’s harder than CAFO’s.  I will focus on two such items that have the most immediate and noticeable impact: 

1.  Virtually Eliminates Manure Application to Frozen or Snow Covered Ground:
·                    The proposed rule allows CFO’s to apply manure to frozen or snow covered ground only on an emergency basis.  In practice this means your regulated IPDP members cannot rely on winter time spreading as part of their long term manure management operations.  Even when they can winter time spread in an environmentally sound manner, they will eventually incur the cost of expanding manure storage so winter time spreading does not occur.
·                    Both the existing CFO rule (at 327 IAC 16-10-3) and CAFO rule (at 327 IAC 15-15-14) allow manure application on frozen or snow covered ground subject to specific management plan conditions.  IDEM has no supportable basis to abandon the existing provisions and create a blanket prohibition on frozen ground application. The rule should be revised to allow land application on frozen or snow covered ground in accordance with existing CFO rule conditions.

2.       Manure Application Rates Based on Phosphorus not Nitrogen:
·                    The proposed rule will eventually require all CFO’s to limit manure application based on phosphorus content not nitrogen content.  Under the proposed rule manure cannot be applied to a field with a soil test of greater than 200 ppm phosphorus, even when manure can be applied to that field with little or no known environmental risk.  For many IPDP members, this will lead to immediate operational changes.  Many producers will need to reduce manure application rates in half to meet phosphorus limits and as a practical result, will incur costs associated with needing twice the amount of acres used for manure application.  In some cases, purchase of supplemental nitrogen fertilizer will be necessary due to an application rate based on phosphorus not nitrogen.  This too will add costs.
·                    Indiana is not required by EPA to add phosphorus application limitations to its CFO regulations.  I am not suggesting that phosphorus is not a concern, but there are already two existing mechanisms in Indiana to address manure application and phosphorus issues: the Office of the State Chemist, and IDEM’s Watershed Planning Branch.  IDEM’s proposed phosphorus standard is a third mechanism to address phosphorus concerns.  In accordance with the Governor’s commitment to reduce burdensome regulations on business, do we need to maintain or expand a third mechanism to manage phosphorus?
·                    There is no flexibility in the proposed phosphorus rule.  Every field is different.  A producer should have the ability to make a site specific demonstration that an alternate soil test phosphorus number would be equally protective of the environment.
·                    How does this regulation benefit the environment and at what cost?  The provisions regarding land application of phosphorus will eventually burden most farms with a known measureable compliance expense.   It is unknown whether that cost will result in equal or greater economic benefit.  Soil erosion and conservation management practices also play a role—indeed, may play a bigger role—in reducing phosphorus impact on surface water.  This is why I suggested above, that we focus on the two mechanisms in place already that will give us a bigger bang for the buck compared to the proposed IDEM phosphorus standard.

The common threat we all face, in the animal feeding industry, is not necessarily IDEM but rather the external forces that pressure IDEM to make certain policy decisions.  We should not think more burdensome regulation is always inevitable and give up.  Voicing our concerns now, in appropriate manner, will produce positive results. 

Scott Severson is an agriculture and environmental consultant for Earthwise, Inc.  He can be reached at: EarthWise, Inc., 63 Franklin Street, Valparaiso, IN 46383, phone: 219.531.0266, email: 

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