Legislation You Should Be Watching

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

It�s not often that I will call your attention to a piece of legislation in another state. However, what just happened in Iowa should be a wake-up call to every person involved with animal agriculture because it will be a model for similar legislation in many states. It is Senate File 2293. I found a mark-up copy at the following address on the Internet:

Senate File 2293 is legislation targeted toward animal confinement facilities and requires that some very technical environmental rules be followed in order to expand or build a new facility. Many parts read almost like the new EPA regulations, but probably take them a little further in some areas. As I read through it, there were several items that caught my attention.

1. Fees will be collected from animal confine-ment owners that will be used by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to pay for environmental inspectors.

2. In order to get a permit to build a new or expanded facility, the application will be scored by a system called a matrix. This will consist of objective criteria that are scored on a numerical scale (from 0 to 5, for example) with the higher number meaning the application complies with the regulation in question better than a lower number. If the score isn�t high enough, you don�t get the permit. The committee that does the scoring and approves permits will be comprised of members ranging from university representatives to environmental councils. Even small animal facilities would be required to get a permit and go through the process. The process will probably go through a public hearing phase.

3. Handling of manure will follow what I consider are EPA regulations (nutrient plan in place, storage facilities, application, etc.), except that the limiting factor on manure application to land will be phosphorus. Nitrogen is also mentioned, but the main concern will be phosphorus. If you exceed the limit, you can�t apply any more manure on that land until the nutrient levels are reduced. This will probably require that more land be available for application. Here in the West, farms with little or no land base could be in serious trouble unless they find another way to handle the problem. There is also a section on odor and what would happen if someone complained. Specifically mentioned were ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and odor. While I couldn�t find mention of any specific levels, the intent was that if an odor was present, they would track it back to the offending facility. The facility would then have to implement management practices to reduce the odor.

4. Set back distances from a residence (not the owner�s), commercial enterprise, religious institution or educational institution were also detailed and depended on number of animal units on the facility (if I understood the draft I read, they also put a size limit on confinement facilities). These set-back distances ranged from 1250 feet to 3000 feet (smaller facility to larger). They also listed distances from wells, surface water, streams, or wetlands. Ditches that might drain into a water source were also considered. Damage to wildlife because of waste from a facility would also incur a penalty that the owner would have to pay.

While it remains to be seen how much of this legislation survives the probable court challenges, many of these items shouldn�t be much different from what you are doing or are in the process of doing. The odor, set-back distances and phosphorus requirements are definitely where the laws are heading and would be harder for many farms to comply with. Even though these rules were for new construction, the restrictions on odor, phosphorus and potential for waste to get into surface and ground water probably will be enforced for all farms. If you think it can�t happen here, I know of several similar things in the works in Idaho right now. Will you be ready when it happens to you? ©