A ban on manure applied to bean ground will go into effect in the year 2011. That's according to a proposed rule approved by the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission at its monthly meeting in December. The EPC voted 7 to 2 to send the controversial rule out for public comment. This is for land where soybeans will be the next crop planted.
The EPC, a nine-member board overseeing state environmental rules and regulations, made the decision after months of discussion. The ban would prohibit the application of all liquid and open feedlot manure to land where soybeans will be planted as the next crop. Public hearings on the ban will be held, with dates and locations to be announced.
The panel is imposing the ban to try to reduce nitrates in Iowa's waters. The ban will go into effect unless the EPC says in the future that there is scientific evidence showing manure applied to soybean ground is not a problem. EPC would have to adopt a new rule rejecting the ban.
Still need scientific evidence
EPC modified the language of the ban to include a stipulation that the commission review research studies at least six months prior to the ban. The review is required or the rule doesn't go into effect. "The danger is this ban will lead people to think we've solved the problem. But we need scientific information," says commissioner Henry Marquard, an attorney from Muscatine.
Marquard voted for the ban. So did commissioners Lisa Davis Cook of West Des Moines, Suzanne Morrow of Storm Lake, Jerry Peckumn of Jefferson, Mary Gail Scott of Cedar Rapids, Francis Thicke of Fairfield and Donna Buell of Spirit Lake. Opposing the ban were Darrell Hanson of Manchester and Dave Petty of Eldora.
The proposal consumed hours of discussion at EPC meetings in 2006, with some commissioners viewing the application of manure only as a method for farmers to get rid of "waste." Farmers, of course, view manure as a valuable resource to provide nutrients for crops.
Shouldn't view manure as "waste"
Iowa State University agronomists told the EPC that soybean plants use nutrients in livestock manure before fixing nitrogen from the air. Many farmers testified to the EPC contradicting the "waste" viewpoint citing the value of liquid swine manure because of its yield benefits to soybeans and especially to corn.
Many farmers question the real intent of the EPC rule saying the EPC can't prove there will be a benefit to water quality from the ban.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says about 40% of the livestock manure management plans in Iowa contain a provision for applying swine manure to soybean ground. However, a DNR review of the plans shows that only 10% to 20% of the farmers actually apply manure using the provision.
Interim restriction written into new rule
The new rule limits both liquid hog manure and manure from open feedlots applied on soybean ground to 100 pounds maximum per acre. This is an interim restriction, until the total ban takes place in 2011.
Farmers who currently are using official DNR manure management plans are limited to a 200 pound per acre maximum application rate for manure. ISU researchers say the rate should be 100 to 125 pounds. "We voted for the 100 pound rate restriction simply because it is lower," says EPC commissioner Darrell Hanson. "I'm not sure that's a valid reason."
The only exception to the application ban would be if weather problems occur and the farmer can't get corn planted and has to switch to soybeans. The commission set June 1 as the weather date.
Commissioner Dave Petty tried to introduce a motion that EPC urge the state to spend some money to research how much nitrate comes from soybeans. But that drew opposition from other commissioners who want the ban and who oppose spending money on research that might show benefits to crops or disprove the assumed environmental impact from the practice of applying manure to bean ground. Commissioner Donna Buell stated that other spending needs are of greater priority for DNR.