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0606 ANM: Up in the air, again

Darren Olsen Published on 03 November 2006

Over the past couple of months, two situations within the world of animal nutrient management have come back into the limelight, forward movement of the EPA on monitoring air emissions from various agricultural facilities across the U.S. and a new look at who is actually required to obtain a discharge permit for CAFO operations. Neither development is going to change the face of agriculture today, but as information continues to flow, there is opportunity for change in the future.

The collection of data from over 2,500 operations throughout the U.S., appears to be a good idea, at least here at the beginning steps. I, for one, am all for finding the best information in order to deal with either presumed or real problems. I have taken some time to read through the proposals, the science behind the monitoring and the overall need for this information. For now, it has my approval (not that my disapproval would make too much of a difference) and I hope the information gathered will result in better knowledge and, in turn, the best decisions for everyone can be reached.

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The second issue, to me, shows how a lack of information and explanation can lead to headaches and problems for producers that might not have been warranted in the first place. It seems to me the further we have traveled down the road of permitting for CAFOs, the more convoluted and muddy the whole process has become.

It now seems to have been resolved to the point where an operation will only need a permit if they actually discharge byproducts into a water source. For many who have already obtained a permit, they are probably sitting there in frustration, wondering why this wasn’t decided before the whole process got started. A good question but one without an easy answer.

From what I can tell, it still might be a good idea for anyone with even the slightest potential of having a discharge event to have a permit. If something were to happen (a freak downpour that flooded a corral system or forced an overflow of a storage facility, for example), the farm would be in violation of the law and therefore, in some pretty deep crap (no pun intended).

It looks like it might be best to stay the course and keep a permit on your facility, just in case. You never know what might be coming down the pipe, the sky or wherever the problems may come from. This is one of those situations where safe is going to be better than sorry in the long run.

Clear as manure? It appears to be that way. And you still have to feed the animals, pay the employees and keep the business profitable. Not an easy task for anyone.

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I can only say things are going to continue to require some attention to detail, and operations will continue to need information to be able to make the best decisions for themselves. Until some things are clarified in the future, it is best to stay in touch with local and state officials to keep your operation in compliance with any changes that may come.

My best to each of you and your operations. Change makes for a interesting ride now and then, but who likes boring? ANM

—Darren Olsen, Editor

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