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Iowa law changes may effect area beef producers

The Akron Hometowner of Akron, Iowa

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Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of stories regarding information presented at the Jan. 13 Beef Feedlot Meeting, held in Sioux Center and sponsored by Iowa Cattlemen's Association, Iowa State University Extension, and Lyon and Sioux Counties' cattlemen's associations.

Beef producers will soon face the impact of new Iowa environmental laws, according to Iowa Department of Natural Resources Field Office 3 Supervisor Kenneth Hessenius. One change went into effect Dec. 31 and another change will start April 1. Plus, there may be more changes in this current legislative session.

Rendering Services

As of April 1, Iowa rendering services will no longer accept beef animals over 30 months of age. Producers will have to prove the age of their deceased beef animals as well as rendering costs may be hundreds of dollars per animal.

According to Hessenius, beef producers have several options:

Composting of deceased beef animals is legal.

He noted there has been some interest in community composting locations.

Incineration is legal but the incinerator must be capable of handling the size of beef animals.

Burial of deceased animal-can also be done. There are some stipulations regarding how far burials must be from wells and the land's water table.

Although winter may make burial difficult, Hessenius recommended producers who choose this option, dig a burial pit before the ground is frozen, and keep the area covered with hay or straw.

Landfills may accept deceased beef animals.

Plymouth County Solid Waste Agency has a policy stating that it will not take animal carcasses, said Landfill Manager Mark Kunkel.

According to Northwest Iowa Solid Waste Agency Director David Homkomp, the landfill near Sheldon will probably accept these animal carcasses. He didn't expect there to be too many.

Combined Housing Types

A new combined housing types law means producers may now need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for livestock operations.

There are two distinct types of livestock operations in Iowa:

Confinements, which are where all the animals are contained in a unit with a roof such as a hoop building or monoslope building for cattle; and

Open feedlots, which are where animals are confined but not totally in a roofed unit.

The major change in legislation is that now housing types for the same type of animals are added together, regardless of housing type, if they are on the same site or adjacent. If a facility discharges (manure), then an NPDES permit is needed.

For example: An open feedlot and a confinement, both containing steers and heifers, are considered as one operation; therefore, the animal numbers of each would be combined. So, if a producer had 600 beef animal units in each, then a NPDES permit would be required. Permits are required for bovine operations with 700 mature dairy cattle, milked or dry; or 1,000 veal calves; or 1,000 cattle other than mature dairy or veal.

Also, same operation types but different animal types are combined.

For example, an operation with an open cattle feedlot and open swine feedlot may need both a construction permit and an NPDES permit if the combined animal units' number meets permit requirements.

An example would be a open beef feedlot with 600 animal units and an open swine feedlot with 700 animal units. Another example is a beef confinement with 600 animal units and a swine confinement with 700 animal units.

These combinations are not just for beef and swine but other types of animals such as sheep and poultry, said Hessenius. For operations to be combined, they must be under the same ownership or management.

The exception is that a confinement of one animal type is not added to an open feedlot of another animal type. Therefore, the animal units of a beef open feedlot and a swine confinement would not be combined.

The Iowa Legislature didn't designate a separation distance between units for them to be classified as separate operations so the Iowa DNR will be addressing this by rule.

"The distance the DNR is putting forth is 1,250 feet as far as permitting," said Hessenius. "Whether that distance will stand or not remains to be seen."

It could be 2,500 feet, he added.

"If you're thinking about compliance by separating your operations, I'd go father instead of closer," said Hessenius. "If you can go a half mile, I'd go a half mile. I can't think of any scenario where it would be greater than one-half mile."

"We are going to propose 1,250 feet because that's the current requirement for adjacency between two open lots," said Hessenius, "so it makes sense to keep it the same distance."

The separation distance is figured from "closest point to closest point by general survey methods," he said.

The permit application dead-line for livestock producers needing permits under the new law was Dec. 31,2008.

Hessenius encouraged producers who need permits to comply with the law and if they haven't made application, to do so.

"You're better off to apply," said Hessenius, adding that it was estimated that 100 - 200 producers needed NPDES permits. "If you do nothing, both the (Environmental Protection Agency) and the DNR will be interested in you in the future."

Manure Stockpiling

Although there were no significant legislative environmental changes for confinement operations' manure management, a bill regarding manure stockpiling barely failed the 2008 Iowa Legislative Session.

"It will probably come back again (in the current legislative session)," said Hessenius.

"The (manure management) rules are quite different for both (types of housing)," said Hessenius, "but nothing changed significantly for confinement rules in 2008, which is good news for all of us."

Both confinements and open feedlots have to meet manure application separation distances, said Hessenius.

The rule is if manure is not injected or incorporated, land application of manure must be:

Greater than 200 feet from designated areas such as wells and water sources.

Greater than 800 feet from high quality water resources.

Greater than 100 feet from property lines to a manure wetted perimeter from a spray irrigation system; and

Greater than 750 feet from a church, school, residence, or public use area.

Generally, the 750 feet is for confinement manure, however, if manure is not injected or incorporated and it's within 700 feet of these, then the producer must have written permission from that property owner.

"We do get a lot of those calls (on manure application)," said Hessenius. "We don't enjoy those calls. They aren't happy. Then we call you, and you're not happy. Then everyone's not happy."

"Please keep in mind your neighbors when you're doing it," he said, adding a recent complaint was of a producer applying manure near a residence on Thanksgiving Day with the prevailing winds blowing at the residence. "What can you say about something like that? I assume he didn't like his neighbor."

"Really, you have to think about those kinds of things," he told the producers at the Beef Feedlot Meeting.

"The livestock industry has changed," said Hessenius, noting northwest Iowa has a significant number of livestock operations — about 70 percent of the state's open feedlots are concentrated in northwest Iowa's Lyon, Plymouth and Sioux counties. "We raise a lot of livestock in an area now so the potential impact is a lot higher and the regulations have caught up with that."

"If you're going to stay in the business, you gotta get with the program," he said. "It's just the way'it is...Compliance with environmental regulations is part of your operations so let's work together and get to that point."

"These laws affect everyone," said Hessenius, "and everyone must comply."

New Legislation

Current law doesn't differentiate between swine confinement (liquid) manure and beef confinement deep-bedded (solid) manure although the DNR recognizes that "deep-bedded manure from confinement barns has characteristics that make it a lot more environmentally friendly than some of the other manure types," said Hessenius, adding the DNR plans to be supportive of legislative bills regarding this, depending on what kind of bill is proposed. The bill must both protect the environment and allow this part of the industry to flourish.

"That's probably our highest priority this year," said Iowa Cattlemen's Association District 1 Director John Fluit Jr., explaining the ICA plans to bring a bill to the 2009 Iowa Legislature "that producers like and can live with."

"As producers, we can't do things like we used to," said Fluit. "That's the end of the story. I think people realize that you need to spread manure next to their house if they live in the country but get it incorporated within 24 - 48 hours, and even if it still smells a little bit, they at least know you're trying."

The ICA will work toward getting a code amendment to define liquid and solid manure separately.

"That's the direction we're heading but don't know if we can get that done," said Fluit.

Hessenius also informed producers the current version of manure application on frozen ground regulation will likely pass through the Environmental Protection Commission. This includes banning manure application from Feb. 15 to April 15.

There will be a public hearing on this issue, and both Fluit and Hessenius encouraged producers to attend and comment. Written comments may also be submitted.

For more information, visit the DNR's Web site at or the ICA's Web site at

Copyright 2009 The Akron Hometowner, Akron, Iowa. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 4, 2009

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