Farmers must reguster feedlots

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 1/24/01.

All farms in Stearns County with active feedlots and manure storage areas need to be registered with Stearns County Environmental Services by Dec. 31, 2001.

More than 70 farmers attended the Stearns County feedlot rule update meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 16, in Avon. A similar meeting was held Tuesday morning in Melrose with 88 farmers in attendance.

The meeting was to help inform and answer questions area farmers might have about the new feedlot rule.

The state deadline for registration is Jan. 1, 2002. Once a farm is registered with the county, it does not have to be re-registered with the state.

Farms will need to reregister every four years with the county. Farms that have not had animals for five years are not required to register.

Feedlot registration has already started in Stearns County. According to David Johnson of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), there are about 2,900 feedlots in the county. Only 600 still need to register.

Farms not registered will be receiving letters as to where workshops are located that will help them fill out registration forms.

As part of the registration period, the MPCA will be making farm site visits to do feedlot evaluations and environmental worksheets. They will be looking at the size of the lot, the number of animals on the lot, and how often it is cleaned. They also will be inspecting for potential sources of pollution.

Environmental worksheets can take anywhere from a week to a month to complete, depending on the size of the feedlot.

Feedlots located near surface water and requiring an open lot certification will receive priority.

Johnson said many farmers don't take into consideration snow melt runoff from barn or shed roofs when looking at water sources.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) defines a feedlot as a place where the concentration of animals is such that a vegetative cover cannot be maintained.

Under the new county zoning laws, feedlots can be built within 700 feet of a residential area if the feedlot has odor control or within 1,400 feet if they do not have odor control. Feedlots must be 300 feet from streams.

The same setbacks apply to someone building a house in a rural area. Home owners will need a permit to build close to a feedlot.

The setback distance can vary only if a conditional use permit is obtained.

Farms with runoff problems are those where manure runs off a feedlot or building and enters surface water either a lake, stream, drainage ditch, tile inlet, or wetland.

Compliance deadlines
Farmers with less than 300 animal units are not required to be in compliance until 2010.

They can apply for a 2005-2010 open lot certification. The owner will need to complete at least one corrective measure by the Oct. 1, 2005 deadline. The final corrective measure needs to be completed by Oct. 1, 2010, or upon expansion in animal numbers.

Feedlot owners with more than 300 animal units will have different deadlines. The deadlines vary with the problem, Johnson said.

MPCA recommends all farmers install a vegetated buffer area or filter strip which will spread out the runoff and slow down the discharge from a feedlot or manure storage area.

Farmers that expand willl have to install protective measures to prevent feedlot pollution.

Just like cities need to keep track of the BOD levels in their wastewater treatment ponds, farmers will need to record their waste levels. Farms will need to achieve a 50 percent or greater reduction in discharges of phosphorus and bio-chemical oxygen demand loading by Oct. 1, 2005.

The farmer will need to retain data for the MPCA to review if they ever want to make changes to their operation.

Farmers will also need to provide a sketch of the building layout, where waters are located in the area around the buildings, and where open lots are located.

Manure management
Dennis Fuchs, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) supervisor, cautioned farmers that it is prohibited to spread manure within 300 feet of protected water. Protected waters are defined as ponds or ditches where water is five feet deep or where the seasonal water table is within two feet of the surface.

Under the manure management plans, there is no storage limit for a daily haul system and no limitation as to how much manure is hauled unto a field unless it is near a protected water area designated by the DNR.

If stockpiling manure, there is a one-year limit. The basin should contain a clay or synthetic liner.

Farms will need to meet criteria if stockpiling so they won't affect the watertable. Tests will be required to ensure that the water is migrating into the soil and not into the water table.

If farmers cannot meet the standards, they will need to rebuild their manure storage facility or feedlot or close down their operation.

Technical assistance
Fuchs said there is technical assistance available to all landowners. The amount of financial help depends on the existing problem and priority assigned the project.

"We are a nonregulatory office and we are here to help find solutions," Fuchs told the farmers.

Fuchs urged the farmers to complete the FLEVAL computer program at Stearns County Environmental Services. This program can indicate if there is a potential problem. Priority areas for FLEVAL are open feedlots with less than 300 animal units.

Fuchs reminded the landowners that the SWCD and their local watershed districts should be the first place to stop for assistance.

Fuchs said they have access to grant funds that will help offset the costs of upgrading feedlots and manure storage facilities.

Last year, Stearns County had $750,000 in EQIP money to help fund projects. This year, $350,000 has been designated.

Farms with coarse-textured soils and in shore land areas, are eligible for funds.

The BWSR feedlot program provides funds to upgrade animal waste management systems. Last year the county received $560,000 but it hasn't heard the amount of funding for 2001 yet.

For more information, contact Stearns County SWCD at 320-251-7800, ext. 3; Stearns County Environmental Services at 1-800-450-0852; the Stearns County Extension office at 1-800-450-6171; or the MPCA feedlot division at 1-800-657-3864.

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