Comments on manure rule accepted through Feb. 1

CALMAR, Iowa - Iowans have until Feb. 1 to comment on proposed rules restricting liquid manure application on frozen or snow covered ground.

CALMAR, Iowa - Iowans have until Feb. 1 to comment on proposed rules restricting liquid manure application on frozen or snow covered ground.

Gene Tinker, animal feeding operation coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the rules could receive tweaking by this year's Legislature. He described the rules during a hearing on the rules at the Dairy Center at Calmar last week.

The new rules came about as a result of Iowans petitioning the Environmental Protection Commission, Tinker said. When the EPC developed stand alone rules, the 2009 Legislature offered its input by passing Senate File 432.

For many years Iowa State University has recommended not applying manure on snow covered ground, Tinker said. Citizens also voiced concerns about runoff in the watershed that supplies drinking water to Des Moines. High levels of contaminants were tracked to runoff from manure applied on snow covered ground.

Some have criticized that the DNR is going beyond legislative intent, but much of language for the rules comes straight from the 2009 legislation, Tinker said. In some cases the rules had to spell out how to accomplish the legislation.


The law does not apply to manure from open feedlots or dry manure. It applies to confinement facilities with liquid manure that have 500 or more animal units.

"But all producers must prevent pollution as they land apply manure," Tinker said.

The new law, which took effect Dec. 21, limits liquid surface application from Dec. 21 to April 1 if the ground is snow-covered.

During the restricted period, producers can only apply in emergency situations, defined in law as "unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the producer such as natural disaster, unusual weather conditions or equipment or structural failure," Tinker said. Producers must notify the regional DNR filed office before they apply, and they can only apply to fields that are identified for emergency applications in their manure management plans and have a Phosphorus Index of 2 or less.

If there are intakes down gradient of the application area, producers must temporarily block the intakes.

The rule says confinement feeding operations without alternatives to manure application must have sufficient storage capacity to retain manure generated from Dec. 21 to April 1 under normal circumstances to properly account for the volume of manure to be stored.

"In my opinion the operations that are at the greatest risk are those that are larger than small animal feeding operations that were built prior to 1985 and have not expanded so they do not have a manure management plan," Tinker said. "To have emergency application, they have to identify the fields where they are applying in their manure management plan. Many do not have 180 days of storage."

In addition to developing manure management plans, they may have to build additional storage depending upon how this is resolved in the final rule, Tinker said.


There are those including Environmental Protection Commission member Gene Ver Steeg who believe that the DNR went beyond what the Legislature intended with the rule, Tinker said. Ver Steeg wants the Legislature to be more descriptive. DNR attorneys stand by their interpretation.

"My personal opinion is that in addition to making comment on this today, you might also want to talk to your legislator about this," Tinker said.

The DNR will work with producers who have a legitimate emergency, Tinker said.

Based on public input, DNR staff may revise the rule. Once any changes are made, the Environmental Protection Commission will consider the final rule.

There will be a final hearing at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at Muse Norris Conference Center at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City. Written comments may be submitted until Feb. 1 to Tinker at DNR, 502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines, Iowa 50319 or faxed to (515) 281-8895 or e-mailed to

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