Wet fall conditions are making manure storage management challenges for AFOs and CAFOs

Cornell CALS PRODAIRY, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service

The extended wet fall continues to frustrate field crop harvest and is starting to generate some concern for manure storage capacity. It is a violation of NYS law for any farm to cause a water quality violation. Manure runoff from farm fields can result in such a violation.

Whether your farm is a CAFO or not, it is important to take stock of manure storage capacity: at current fill rates, know how long before the storage will reach maximum fill level, and have a plan in place to avoid a situation of overtopping. CAFO farms should reach out to their planner to review emergency and winter/wet weather spreading plans.

Farms who are concerned about storage levels but do not have a CAFO planner should reach out to Soil and Water Conservation or Natural Resources Conservation Service staff to get help with identifying lower risk fields and other practices to reduce risk of runoff when having to spread to avoid overtopping.

Although the goal is always to avoid spreading when conditions are poor, it’s important to be prepared in case your back is against the wall with extended wet field conditions and a storage that is at risk of overtopping.

For CAFO’s, emergency spreading to avoid an overflow must be communicated to DEC either through a written incident report or in the Annual Compliance Report. If, during emergency spreading, maximum application rates identified in the permit are exceeded, DEC must be notified within 24 hours followed by a written incident report in 5 business days. Additionally, storages that overflow MUST be evaluated for structural integrity and re-certified by a Professional Engineer (PE). A PE evaluation after an overflow is a smart safety practice for all other farms. For making field application decisions, farmer knowledge of safe fields is critical.

During winter weather conditions, defined as more than 4” of snow or 4” of frost in the soil, CAFO farms must follow the Winter and Wet Weather Manure Application Guidelines, and it is recommended that CAFOs follow these same guidelines during wet conditions. The document provides useful guidance for non-CAFO’s as well.

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