SF 432: Restricting liquid manure applications
W0 hen both sides of an argument walk away disgusted over a compromise reached on a new law, one lawmaker said that that’s a positive sign.
“We didn’t make everyone happy,” said state Sen. Rich Olive, D-Story City, vice chairman of the Senate ag committee, “so it must be a pretty good law.”
Olive was referring to Senate File 432, which was passed in the latter days of the 2009 Iowa legislative session, regulating the application of liquid manure on frozen and snow-covered ground.
At issue was a set of manure application restrictions proposed by the Department of Natural Resources and the state’s Environmental Protection Committee. The law that was passed April 24 by a 41-7 margin.
The final version of the bill was similar to what the House passed, which restricts applying liquid manure on snow-covered ground from Dec. 21 through April 1, and restricts spreading on frozen ground from Feb. 1 through April 1. These restrictions can be setaside in event of emergencies.
As lawmakers and others hammered out a number of compromises on the bill, Olive told Farm News that “we got some push back from producers and we got some push back from DNR and EPC.”
In the end, he added, “This is really a good step to protecting our water quality.”
However, he added he expects environmental groups will revisit the law within the next few years.
That view is shared by state Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, who serves on the House ag committee. “There are groups always trying to change the goal line on producers,” Worthan said, who serves as a board member for the Buena Vista Cattleman’s Association.
He noted that environmental groups tend to “focus on perfection based on a problem in one place.
“And it’s not fair to the producers,” he said. Nevertheless, he’s satisfied with SF 432, adding that the EPC’s original proposals “demonstrated a lack of knowledge about agriculture.” He doesn’t think the bill will change many manure management plans among livestock producers.
“Fertilizer is too valuable,” Worthan said, “No one will apply it on frozen ground if he thinks it’ll get away from him. They want to get it incorporated” into the soil.
Chris Pedersen, of Clear Lake, president of the National Farmers Union in Iowa, agrees saying that the biggest problems with applying manure on frozen ground has been with large integrated producers.
However, he said he had hoped that SF 432 would have restricted application on frozen ground regardless of the calendar.
“I wish they would have let the DNR and EPC do their work first,” Pedersen said, “and then we could see where we were at.”
He acknowledged that everyone at the negotiation table wanted clean water, but added that SF 432 was not strong enough legislation.
Nevertheless, he said for livestock producers “if they are doing everything right, they don’t have anything to fear” from SF 432.
Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, a member of the Senate ag committee, works as a herdsman on a dairy operation in Osceola County. He agreed that SF 432 should cause no major alterations in most manure management plans in Iowa.
He was in favor of a provision allowing producers to simply notify the DNR before spreading manure in the winter in event of an emergency, rather than having to wait for permission.
Sonia Skidmore, of Des Moines, who is a community organizer for the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said CCI wanted more restrictions, but its primary goal “was to stop manure application on snow-covered ground.” She said that the DNR would issue guidelines before next winter as to what constitutes an emergency, before liquid manure can be applied on frozen acres.
But Christina Gruenhagen, government relations counsel for the Iowa Farm Bureau, pointed out that SF 432 already specifies what qualifies as an emergency, including structure or machinery failure, unusual weather patterns that would fill open manure structures, or some other natural disaster that is out of a producer’s control.
“But improper planning on the part of the producer does not qualify,” Gruenhagen said.
Contact Larry Kershner by e-mail at email@example.com.
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