Lamson, Dugan and Murray, LLP, Attorneys at Law

Wet Weather Problems Pt. 1: Manure Application and Iowa Law

Posted in Farm Management, Government Regulations, Uncategorized

This spring it rains 3 days for every 1 day it doesn’t rain in Iowa.  At least it seems.manure tank with tractor  

While the headlines concentrate on the delayed planting and replanting caused by flooded fields, livestock producers are scrambling to find ways to drain holding ponds filling up with rainwater.   

Livestock operators can relieve pressure on the holdings ponds by applying the manure onto the neighboring fields.  Manure application is an important aspect of any operation’s manure management plan and violations for over application of manure nitrogen can result in substantial fines.  Consequently, operators have to be careful where they apply the manure based on the nitrogen allowances for a given field. 

Generally, manure application is simple enough once a plan is established.  However, this year the weather has delayed planting for many farmers in Iowa and some farmers may decide to plant soybeans in fields orginally planned for corn.  Iowa generally limits manure nitrogen to 100 pounds of available nitrogen per acre for land planted to soybeans, which may be dramatically less than the nitrogen already applied or to be applied by the livestock operator.     

Luckily, the Iowa Administrative Code provides for changes in a farmer’s crop schedule.  Chapter 65.17(6) of the Iowa Administrative Code provides:

“The confinement feeding operation owner shall not be penalized for exceeding the nitrogen or phosphorus application rate for an unplanned crop, if crop schedules are altered because of weather, farm program changes, market factor changes, or other unforeseeable circumstances. However, the penalty preclusion in the previous sentence does not apply to a confinement feeding operation owner subject to the NPDES permit program.”

Furthermore, the 100 pound manure nitrogen limitation for soybeans does not apply after June 1 of each year.  ICA 65.17(18)(c)  After June 1, the nitrogen rate would be based on the “optimum crop yields as determined by IAC 65.17(6)” and the corresponding Table 4 at the end of the chapter.    

The Iowa Administrative Code provides some flexibility for manure management issues caused by the wet spring in Iowa.  However, that doesn’t mean livestock operators don’t have to be careful in their manure applications under the current conditions and should always consult their certified crop adviser. 

For more information on these issues and tips see: Manure Management Concerns Caused by Recent Wet Weather.

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