Ag Briefs

Winter manure applications: Steps to take to prevent runoff, nutrient loss and water contamination

Snow-covered and frozen soils make land application of manure a challenge. Producers run the risk of runoff, leading to loss of soil nutrients and potential contamination of water resources. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency advises the following:

Watch weather and field conditions closely for a safe window to apply manure.

State and local requirements vary, depending on feedlot size, federal or state permit status, and local laws.

Refer to your state or local permit for specific details on land application restrictions.

When in doubt about restrictions, contact your MPCA or county feedlot official with questions. Get contact information on the MPCA’s Feedlot Staff Contacts webpage.

The agency recommends these steps to prevent manure runoff:

Farmers who apply manure during winter should review their manure management plan now to determine which fields are the most suitable to receive winter applications.

Fields for winter application should be level, distant from sensitive features, and have crop residue.

Consider lowering application rates.

Monitor field edges to verify that manure runoff is not occurring. If runoff is occurring, report it to the Minnesota Duty Officer at 800-422-0798.

If frozen soil prevents incorporating manure, a 300-foot setback from sensitive features such as streams is required.

Avoid spreading when furrows contain ice or snow.

Avoid surface applications:

When there is 2 inches of snow or more and the weather forecast predicts temperatures to exceed 40 degrees Fahrenheit within the next 24 hours.

When the ground is frozen and/or snow covered and the weather forecast predicts a 50 percent chance of a 0.25 inch or more of rain in the next 24 hours.

During February and March when most runoff events occur.

For more information, visit the Land application of manure webpage.

Missouri farmer charged with illegally using weed killer

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A southeast Missouri farmer has been indicted on federal charges of illegally applying a weed killer blamed for drifting and damaging crops in neighboring fields.

A 53-count federal indictment was announced Tuesday against Bobby David Lowrey, 51, of Parma. He is accused of illegally applying the herbicide dicamba on his cotton and soybean crops outside of Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, and lying to investigators when confronted about it.

Lowrey does not have a listed attorney who can speak on his behalf. A phone number for his home is no longer in service.

Dicamba has long been on the market, but problems have occurred in recent years as farmers began to plant new seeds engineered to be resistant to the herbicide. Dicamba can easily evaporate after being applied and can drift on the wind into neighboring fields.

“Although weed killers like Dicamba have been around for decades, it is critical that applicators follow manufacturer instructions when applying them,” EPA Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Martinez said in a statement. “The misuse of this product has resulted in significant crop damage at neighboring farms.”

The indictment said crops planted by Lowrey in 2016, which cover 6,700 acres, were modified to be resistant to dicamba. Federal prosecutors say Lowrey didn’t follow the rules and then lied when the Missouri Department of Agriculture investigated after neighboring farmers reported crop damage.

Lowrey faces 49 counts of misapplication of a pesticide, three counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of making a false statement. He could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Auditor says Iowa livestock farm fund was mishandled

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A state audit said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been mismanaging a multimillion-dollar fund set up to help oversee Iowa livestock farms and their manure.

The audit report issued Tuesday said the agency improperly transferred money from a fund meant to finance oversight of livestock farms.

“We did not identify any unallowable expenses,” Auditor Mary Mosiman said. “It’s just the way they were transferring the money violated Iowa law.”

The $1.6 million in fees collected annually from livestock farms is required to be used only for the program to ensure compliance with manure management and barn construction laws.

Under the law, the money cannot be used or appropriated for other purposes, and the DNR is barred from transferring money “from the compliance fund’s assessment account to another fund or account, including but not limited to the fund’s general account.”

So the audit doesn’t confirm the allegation that money was being diverted for other uses. The program’s former manager, Gene Tinker, said he believes the money was being misused, and he is appealing losing his job last year.

“I’ve always had questions on how they managed this fund because they were very secretive,” said Tinker, whose appeal has been on hold while the audit was being done.

The spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources didn’t respond to phone messages from The Associated Press Tuesday, but the agency responded to the auditor.

The DNR said the money from the fund was used to enforce the rules and regulations for large livestock farms.