Farm Horizons, June 2013

Knowledge, efficiency, and effectiveness needed when applying manure

By Lori Brinkman
Assistant Carver County Feedlot Administrator

If you do an Internet search on Manure Application Compliance in Minnesota, 4.8 million results will come up, directing you to information on the subject. Without a doubt, you could learn more than you ever wanted to know about land application of manure compliance in Minnesota. After sifting through all of the information, you could probably find all the data needed to relate compliance information to your own farm, but it might take a while. While your methods may be effective in seeking general land application of manure information, the efficiency in finding the information needed and applying it to your own situation is all wrong.

A wise man once said that efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

A lot of manure and nutrient management programs have been created throughout the years to educate farmers about manure management compliance at a local level. Some programs pay for manure testing, some pay for soil testing, some offer calibration services, and some pay incentives to reward the effort required to put together a manure and nutrient management plan.

In fact, an Internet search of manure management incentive programs will yield 84,000 results. That is a lot of programs, and, likely, a lot of money. For the dollars spent, one would hope that those programs have been effective in achieving compliance, as well as assisting farmers to save a dollar or two on their yearly crop inputs.

So, after all of the time and money spent on manure and nutrient management compliance over the past 15 years, how effective has it been in efficiently directing resources to gain manure application compliance?

If the number of Letters of Warning, or Notices of Violation issued in 2013 are any indicator, not very, and it is important to note that not every violation got a letter.

How do we get manure application compliance information to farmers efficiently, so that we can be effective in reaching our goals for land application compliance?

A new initiative in Carver County will provide information to landowners on a field-by-field basis to assist them in meeting their land application of manure compliance requirements. Individual feedlot site inspections will continue to be part of the County Feedlot Program. However, feedlot staff will now integrate geographic information system (GIS) technology into inspections to coordinate with landowners on their future manure application plans, and provide a sensitive area plan specific to each field.

Given this information, producers will know before harvest time what their setback requirements to each sensitive area are, and can plan future manure land application accordingly. It is much like a farm that utilizes grid soil sampling to direct resources to specific field grids to improve productivity. In the case of soil grid sampling, it is about having the right nutrient amounts, in the right place, at the right time.

In the case of manure management, it is about placing the right nutrient source, in the right place, at the right time. For county staff, it is about directing resources efficiently to be effective in reaching water quality improvement goals set before us.

Sensitive area plans will be conducted in association with feedlot site inspections in Carver County, but county staff will coordinate site visits for all interested producers.

If you are interested in developing a sensitive area plan for your farm, contact Carver County Environmental Services at (952) 361-1811.

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