Iowa farmers are continuously improving and working within local, state and federal regulations to successfully raise livestock in the state, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) official says.
"I think most of them are doing a good job following the rules," says Jeff Prier, senior environmental specialist for the Iowa DNR.
Especially when it comes to manure management, Prier said.
Manure as resource
"Most farmers are seeing manure as a valuable resource, so they’re being more efficient with it," he said. "They’ve learned a lot in the last 18 years."
Farmers are carefully considering how to contain their manure in a way that doesn’t have a negative effect on their water resources.
A manure management plan helps farmers decide how they’re going to contain their manure, even before livestock is a part of their farm.
"A manure plan helps producers determine land application," Prier said.
"Everybody is a little different; farms that have the same buildings will have different nutrients and different application rates from building to building," Prier said.
Therefore, soil sampling and manure sampling help farmers decide application rates based on which pieces of their fields need the fertilizer.
And if a water quality violation does occur, farmers understand that there are consequences, Prier said.
By evaluating the situation, DNR officers work through the enforcement management system to determine corrective action.
The key to avoiding violations, Prier said, is proper management.
"More people are injecting manure now, so there’s less chance for runoff," he said.
Injecting manure also minimizes odors, which strengthens relationships between livestock farmers and their neighbors, he said.
Also benefitting neighbor relations is a conversation before barns or feedlots are even added to a farm, said Brian Waddingham with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. "To help ensure a successful outcome, it’s important to communicate in advance with your neighbors and to keep the lines of communication open after the barn is build," he said. "We encourage farmers to establish a relationship with their neighbors whether they are a beginning farmer, an established farmer looking to grow or a farmer just wanting to maintain the status quo."