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Producers to DNR: New manure rules stink

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

Jeff Koops, in front, was one of 16 people to make comments at Monday night’s public hearing in Orange City concerning the DNR’s proposed administrative rule changes for surface application of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground.

ORANGE CITY – The meeting rooms in the city hall building in the county seat town of Sioux County were filled to capacity Monday as livestock producers gathered to tell the Department of Natural Resources that its new rules regulating manure applications during winter months stink.

The DNR set a series of public hearings around Iowa to glean producer comments on proposed administrative rules governing manure application on frozen ground.

As outlined, the new rules would ban application of liquid and solid manure to frozen or snow-covered ground from Feb. 15 to April 15. Snow-covered ground is defined as areas with one-inch or more of snow covering the ground or any area of continuous ice coverage, explained Claire Hruby, DNR geologist.

She said that the reasoning behind this was a newspaper article chronicling how the water from the Raccoon River was showing high bacterial levels. This was traced to a tributary that showed a high concentration of liquid manure.

As a result the new administrative rules, which have been considered over the past 10 years, were brought forward for public comment.

Many of those attending were third and fourth generation farmers, such as Gene Vermeer, of Sioux Center, who said he was in attendance “because I feel my livelihood is being threatened by unnecessary rules.”

When manure is applied in the fall, said Kris Kohl, ISU ag engineering field specialist, it is best to wait until temperatures fall below 50 degrees to prevents denitrification, which is the micobiological conversion of nitrate nitrogen into nitrogen gas. Once converted the gas escapes into the air.

“Last fall, there were only nine days from the time the soil temperature dropped to 50 degrees to the soil freezing,” Kohl said. “Winter can set in very early in Northwest Iowa.”

Beth Doran, ISU beef specialist, expressed concern over the rules which prohibit manure application if there is a 50 percent or greater chance of rainfall, exceeding 0.25 inches within 48 hours of the application period.

“That is a very light rain,” Doran said, “with the probability of runoff minimal.”

As if to add credence to her remarks, the weather shifted its pattern against the predicted forecast. As the meeting began, a thunderstorm south of Sioux County, which was heading east, turned north, causing some farmers to leave early when cell phone calls informed them of wind damage to their farm buildings.

Roger Knoblock was the recipient of one of those phone calls, began his comment time with a remark as to how weather forecasts can change in minutes.

When he left home at 5 p.m. to attend the public hearing, he said, the storm was not heading his way.

Alvord area farmer Howard Mogler also opposed the administrative rules saying one size does not fit all.

“For a state our size,” Mogler said, “with its various climates, temperatures, rainfall and snow amounts, it looked to me like it was an easy way out for the EPC.” He warned that these rules could result in shifting Iowa’s cattle-feeding industry to southern states.

When 60 percent of corn produced in Iowa is fed to livestock, Mogler said, that would result in a lot of corn being trucked down our roads.

Ashton area farmer Keith Zylstra asked the question, “What will happen to the state if our livestock were gone? There is a huge amount of revenue produced in this state from livestock.”

Suggestions were made that money could better be spent encouraging conservation practices. Educating and rewarding those who do use buffer strips, terraces and soil conservation practices would be more effective.

John Fluit Jr., a Lyon County farmer, said the rules “lack common sense and a spirit of cooperation.”

Other producers noted that the proposed rules would result in the exact opposite of their intent. When manure is applied to frozen ground, compaction does not occur, producers said. When there is compaction, soils cannot absorb the rainfall, which results in run-off and soil erosion.

Another argument against this rule, was the damage that would be done to soft, spongy roads with the heavy loads of manure.

Many producers have complied with government regulations, Kent Pruisman, of Rock Valley, said. He added that in the last three years he has spent in excess of $500,000 to contain water from his feedlot. His conservation plan, approved by the NRCS says he needs to field-apply that bedded manure, “Now I have one agency that says I can’t and another that says I have to.”

Lee Maassen, of Maurice, was the last farmer to make comments, he concluded his time with this quote from William Jennings Bryan: “Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city.”

The proposed rules can be reviewed at:

http://www.iowadnr.gov/afo/newrules.html.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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