A Kewaunee County ordinance regulating manure irrigation is heading to the County Board for a first reading next Tuesday, but county officials are going to try an alternative to a companion ordinance that regulates manure haulers.
County Conservationist Davina Bonness told the Land and Water Conservation Committee on Tuesday that the proposed manure hauler ordinance was drafted to take effect Jan. 1, 2019, so if “Plan B” doesn’t work, the county can always go ahead and pass the ordinance anyway.
By county policy, if passed, the irrigation ordinance would come back to the County Board for a second reading, any amendments, and final approval at its October meeting.
Bonness said the ordinance gives the county greater control over regulating practices such as spray irrigation of liquid manure than if they wait for the state to pass regulations.
“If the DNR came up with a rule for manure irrigation tomorrow, and they allowed spray and guns and above-the-crop-canopy (manure spreading) and blah-blah-blah, we would have to accept that ordinance. We cannot go stricter than state standards,” Bonness said. “We’re being strict because we need to protect the public health also.”
Among provisions of the Waste Irrigation Ordinance are requirements that liquid manure be distributed using low-pressure systems and cannot be sprayed – the liquid must be spread by droplets. Also, the spreader cannot be higher than 18 inches off empty land or below the canopy of any crop.
The ordinances are Kewaunee County’s latest effort to deal with the practice of spreading large amounts of liquid manure onto fields in the winter and fall, which is considered a major source of groundwater contamination issues in the county.
The new approach to rules for manure haulers grew out of a meeting Monday night between county officials, farmers and haulers.
The proposed waste hauler ordinance would require all haulers to be certified by the county, and applicators would have to be equipped with flow meters that generate an electronic record of how much manure has been applied to fields.
“There were a lot of farmers who were concerned about the costs and trying to comply with it, the training efforts, the GPS, the flow meters and trying to comply,” Bonness said. “There was a lot of back and forth, and I proposed a policy for 2018.”
The policy sets up a voluntary reporting process that would be tried in 2018, and if it doesn’t work the ordinance that takes effect in 2019 could be passed, she said.
“Right now our office does not receive any hauling records from any farms,” Bonness said.
A draft of the policy asks farmers to provide a spring-to-spring spreading plan; provide actual manure-spreading applications by Jan. 31; provide a manure sample per hauling event; and submit to hauling audits.
“This gives the farms, the crop advisers, and the haulers one year to supply what we need – and we want logs, you know, if they have the flow meter readings we want those, we want invoices, bills, whatever showing what is on the field and what the application rate is to our office,” Bonness said.
County Board Chairman Robert Weidner said the farmers seemed generally accepting of the plan as an alternative to the proposed waste hauler ordinance.
“I cautioned the group of farmers and haulers, I said the ordinance is not going away, the ordinance is going to at most be deferred for further discussion,” Weidner said. “We need to have reasonable assurance that Davina’s suggested program is going to be successful and have the effect of improving our water quality, which is above all our mission.”
Committee Chairman John Pagel said he was encouraged to see all of the people who attended the meeting in agreement with Bonness’ plan, which he said is aimed at flushing out the “bad operators.”
“They want to do the same thing, so they’ll provide the information like they never have before to Davina’s office, so they have the information before they haul and when they’re done – that’s never been done before,” Pagel said.