Non-point pollution becoming factor for area agricultural operations to address
Presently, numerous people involved in agriculture are being contacted by Dean Stacy from the Price River Soil Conservation District about a new state plan to eliminate or lower non-point pollution from their operations in the area.
During the last 30 years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has worked within the confines of the Clean Water Act to clean up industrial and municipal single point sources of pollution.
During that time, many sources of pollution were eliminated or mitigated to a lower factor. Within the confines of the federal law, the EPA is currently looking at lowering the amount of pollution coming from non-point source pollution which generally results from such things as storm sewer runoff and agricultural waste water runoff.
Because the designated area of control is so large and will take years to clean up, some of this regulation has been left to the state in the form of a volunteer program which Stacy is now promoting around the area.
The EPA provided a provision that allows individual states to develop their own plans for implementing the controls.
The strategy has resulted from a joint effort of the United States Department of Agriculture, the EPA and the Utah Department of Water Quality.
The national plan is called The Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations, in which agricultural operators can be classified in two different categories: an AFO (animal feeding operation ) or a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation).
In reality this effort has little to do with the feeding of the animals but more to do with the waste created by the animals that are being supplied sustenance.
The concern is that the larger the operation, the more waste there is to dispose of.
Even if the waste is used for fertilizer on fields where vegetation is grown, the waste can become a source of pollution depending on when, how and under what conditions the waste is spread over the ground.
During the process of developing the strategy, a formula was devised for farmers and ranchers to examine their operations and to determine what kind of an operation they are. One of the biggest keys to both kinds of operations is whether a discharge of waste water from the operation flows into what is termed "navigable waters."
Taking this term on site would mean that the waterway would have to be big enough to handle some type of water craft. But the term is more broadly used than that.
Navigable waters basically means that any water flow from the operators property cannot end up in a stream or reservoir. Often even irrigation ditches end up dumping excess into streams, so this is considered a discharge. There is minimum volume required for a release to be considered one.
One of the largest considerations are where animals are held during feeding and growing operations.
If the animals are fed and exist in a corral or enclosure, with no crops being grown within that area and water is discharged either through man made or natural sources into a stream, the operation is considered a source of pollution.
AFOs are the smaller type operation, but it isn't only based on numbers of animal units or size.
An AFO is defined as a lot or facility where animals are confined and fed for 45 days or more in any one year and vegetation is not produced on the area during the growing season. This means that two animals kept under these conditions would be a AFO.
Generally under this type of operation, animals that are raised in pastures are generally not considered to be a threat.
The key is that if plants are purposely grown in the area, the animals are confined to feed the livestock.
A CAFO is considerably different. It is largely dependent on size, based on what is called 1000 animal units, as determined by a table developed by the EPA-USDA.
However, operations with more than 1000 animal units are not considered a CAFO if the animals are housed or fed on areas where crops are produced during the normal growing season.
However, if discharges take place into a steam or water way that runs through or adjacent to a property where animals are raised, no matte what the size, the operation will in all probability be a CAFO.
Once designated as a CAFO, an operation must get a Utah pollution discharge elimination system permit.
Both kinds of operations should also look toward developing a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) which helps them control discharges off of their operations.
Currently, a significant part of what is being done in the area is voluntary. The federal government is allowing the states a five-year period to resolve many of the problems at the local level.
The program generally will follow some best management practices (BMP's) that are being successfully used in other areas, according to Stacy.
In terms, the actual feed lots and storage there are a number of important practices that should be followed.
Control and contain all runoff form manure stockpiles and other areas.
Berm or ditch divert all clean storm water away from the feed lot or manure stockpiles.
When scraping soil-based lots, avoid disrupting the compacted surfaces that keep moisture from leeching into ground water.
Pipe or enclose streams that run through the property.
Another area of concern that is connected to this situation is the application of manure as fertilizer to fields where plants are grown.
Analyzation of soil nutrients, crop nutrient requirements and the nutrients in the manure for proper application is essential.
Make sure equipment is set up to distribute manure properly and uniformly.
In corporate manure where possible as soon as possible after application to prevent runoff from reaching streams.
Avoid manure application when the ground is frozen or covered with snow. These conditions do not allow for incorporation with the soil before runoff occurs.
Manage irrigation water to control nitrates and phosphorus into the surface water.
These are only a few of the points that the program stresses, indicated the local soil conservation officials.
There are many more recommendations that can help agricultural operations control runoff and pollution of ground water and streams.
For additional information regarding the program, Carbon residents may contact Stacy at 637-0041, extension 24.