Permits required for some confinement operations
OGALLALA, Neb. – The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality requires that large confinement operations receive permits before applying manure to croplands, said a University of Nebraska-Lincoln specialist.
Pasture-based production systems do not usually have to meet this requirement, said Rick Koelsch, UNL’s assistant dean of agricultural programs.
Size is the second factor for determining whether an operation needs a permit, he said. A system that confines 1,000 beef animals or 2,400 swine in one location must have a permit.
NDEQ rules governing manure application require a nutrient management plan at the beginning of the growing season that projects how much manure will be applied to what fields, Koelsch said. The planned applications much match the needs of the crop.
“The whole idea of environmental protection is that we don’t put on more nutrients than the crop takes up,” Koelsch said.
Rates in Nebraska are usually based on nitrogen. Producers must take into account any fertilizer applied and any residual nitrogen from last year’s soybean crop. After adding up all sources of nitrogen, the producer can apply only as much additional nitrogen as is required to meet the crop’s needs.
Records are NDEQ’s only way of assessing the producer’s stewardship, Koelsch said. In addition to the nutrient management plan, producers must keep track of what they actually applied to each field. At season’s end, they must compare the plan to actual application. If the two differ substantially, there should be some explanation of the reasons for that difference.
A second concern for NDEQ is the proximity of manure application to surface water, Koelsch said. Producers must observe a set-back of 100 feed from surface water. By maintaining a permanent grass buffer, a producer can reduce that set-back to 35 feet.
Koelsch said that any accidental release of manure should be reported to NDEQ within 24 hours, at least by telephone. That report should be followed in writing within five days. This reporting should be done even if there is no chance that the manure will reach a stream.
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