Environmental concerns and community acceptance are demanding more of your attention and skill. Your future success will in part be influenced by developing environmentally responsible and community-accepted production systems.

Even though most of you are conscientious and responsible, you must continue to improve your environmental management.

You must thoroughly evaluate potential sites for new and growing production units to ensure suitability and compatibility based on available land, water and air resources. You need adequate land area to apply and utilize manure nutrients.

You must also have access to a water supply of sufficient quantity and quality to meet your operation's production needs. Lack of available land or an inadequate water supply will result in a site being unsuitable for production.

In addition to these features, several others directly affect the potential success of a production site.

Let's take a look:

  • Accessibility: Availability of all-weather access roads or the ability to develop them is critical. Proximity to a highway is important for access during construction, delivery of input supplies and market access.
  • Location and isolation: As you locate buildings, manure handling and land application areas, you must consider the separation distance and direction to neighbors, prevailing winds and air drainage. Don't forget soil type, topography and proximity to bodies of water.
  • Design: Proper design of building ventilation and manure collection, handling and utilization systems is critical.
  • Management: Day-to-day operation of facilities and the manure handling, storage and treatment system, as well as manure land application strategies, can directly affect environmental impact.
  • Community relations: Acceptance by neighbors, local officials and the community is important.

Environmental compliance requirements will vary between locations. A systematic approach to site selection and evaluation is the initial step in planning any new or expanded production unit.

Space available to develop a site can influence many aspects of the project. Space is needed for the building site, manure land application and adequate separation to prevent disease spread. Space may dictate the site's size or expansion potential.

There are no absolute separation distances that eliminate the potential for environmental impact or community concern. Typically, the minimum recommended distance between a production site and neighbor is at least 1,000 feet.

Also observe separation distances from manure storages and land application areas to protect surface- and ground-water resources. Maintain appropriate separation from private wells, public water supplies, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, drainage ditches and other surface water bodies. Typical separation distances vary from 100 feet up to 1,000 feet depending on the manure storage type and land application practice. Check state and local requirements.

Prevailing wind direction and air drainage patterns can affect the suitability of a site and its acceptance. Research local weather records to determine seasonal wind directions. Include prevailing wind direction and air drainage patterns in your decisions. When the site and surrounding topography is relatively flat, prevailing wind direction and distance to neighboring residences are important. If the site is sloping, air drainage must be considered and may control the siting decision.

Neighboring residences or communities that are in a down-slope direction, swale or valley may have an increased potential to odor exposure. Locate facilities to minimize the impact of summer prevailing winds on those areas. If residences are in the prevailing downwind direction, greater separation distances are needed.

Mixing and dilution of odor sources can reduce odor concentration and detection downwind. Filtering barriers, such as ground cover or trees located downwind from a production site, manure storage and land application area can reduce odor movement.

Consider using tree barriers (including bushes), hills, berms, natural topography and fencing screens to direct odor sources up into the atmosphere. Establish visual barriers that block public views of production facilities and manure storages.

To determine odor risk, use an odor exposure diagram. Use a map identifying all private residences and public facilities within a 1-mile radius or more of the production site. Record the number of residences or public facilities located in each 1/4-mile increment. The more residences or public facilities, the greater the risk.

Also mark a directional arrow pointing north and indicate prevailing wind directions during summer, spring, fall and the time of year you apply manure. Identify potential odor sources such as the production buildings, manure storage structures, treatment lagoons and land application sites. Evaluate the potential odor risk based on separation distance and number of residences or public facilities located in the downwind direction at different times of the year.

The appearance of your livestock production facilities and farmstead is vital to projecting a positive image. Modern production facilities should present an image of being nonpolluting, well maintained, productive and appropriate for the local surroundings. Develop a landscape and facility management plan.

Develop a manure management and environmental operations plan that maximizes nutrient use, protects the environment and considers neighborhood activities.

And develop an emergency response plan to address accidental manure spills. Consider site features that can minimize the impact of a spill, such as berms, drainage patterns and distance to water bodies.

In most cases, proper facility management will complement an environmental operations plan. Management decisions that consider proper odor-control and manure-handling practices provide the most immediate and least costly alternative for environmental management.

Good community relations or "neighborliness" can go a long way to reduce adverse reactions. Be proactive in demonstrating the value of your operation and its people to the community.

Be sure your business maintains a positive image. What your neighbors see affects their attitudes and perceptions about your production enterprise.

Mike Veenhuisen is a consulting engineer with Livestock Engineering Solutions in Greenwood, Ind.

No Moratorium for Minnesota

The Minnesota legislative session ended in April without restrictions on feedlot size. Lawmakers did pass a ban on earthen manure storage for hogs units and will provide $1.3 million for an in-depth study of the state's livestock industry.

The state also will fund several livestock initiatives. This includes $9 million to the state agriculture department for low-interest loans to assist livestock producers with less than 500 animal units to upgrade feedlots to meet new environmental standards. Another $1 million will go to the Board of Soil and Water Resources for small to mid-size farms to upgrade feedlots. The University of Minnesota will receive $2.6 million for swine research facilities, and $370,000 will fund three positions to work on alternative swine production and manure odor management.

After much debate, efforts to place a moratorium on livestock feedlots exceeding 750 animal units failed. The moratorium would have interfered with a two- to three-year environmental impact study. Lawmakers did support the study, including funding. It will look at the environmental, social and economic impact of Minnesota's livestock industry.

Minnesota Pork Producers Association legislative liaison Jerry Schoenfeld says livestock producers will likely see more regulatory oversight as a result of this year's session. But, it's not because there's a rush of new state laws; rather it's from public pressure that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency be more stringent in its permitting process and enforcement.

Laws that passed the legislature with MPPA support include licensing requirements for commercial manure handlers and denying feedlot permits to people with prior environmental violations.

The state's Feedlot and Manure Management Advisory Committee will draft recommendations on rules to grant general or individual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems for livestock facilities having 1,000 to 2,000 animal units. Affected facilities that need an individual permit may be those in shoreland areas or having earthen storage basins. Feedlots with more than 2,000 animal units will need individual NPDES permits.

Several livestock issues are being studied with reports scheduled for the 1999 legislative session. One such study addresses licensing of noncommercial manure handlers. This includes pork producers who apply manure to their own or rented land.

This past year, MPPA received good support from a majority of House and Senate members, Schoenfeld says. "There is little question the entire industry has taken a hit publicly. But here people tend to forget that the majority of our state legislators supported us," he adds.

Positive results from the session included an increasing number of MPPA
members who became involved in the legislative process.

Submitted by Amy Brandel, Minnesota Pork Producers Association's communications director.