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USDA backs off manure-spreading rule

Farmers had feared they would need to add storage facilities

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Washington, Dec 16, 2011 | Sean Magers (202-225-4611) | comments
WASHINGTON — The smell of freshly spread manure on winter mornings won’t be lost forever, thanks to an about-face by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Agriculture Department announced new standards for the spreading of fertilizer, including manure, jettisoning an earlier version that would have banned the spreading of manure on frozen ground.
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WASHINGTON — The smell of freshly spread manure on winter mornings won’t be lost forever, thanks to an about-face by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Agriculture Department announced new standards for the spreading of fertilizer, including manure, jettisoning an earlier version that would have banned the spreading of manure on frozen ground.

Without the ability to spread manure in winter, north country farmers would have had to build storage facilities big enough to hold a few months’ worth of manure — costing $250,000 or more for a typical farm, critics said.

“We are very pleased to see the USDA take a rational approach in creating the guidelines for family farms regarding nutrient management,” Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said in a news release. “I was happy to work with the New York Farm Bureau this year to address serious concerns their members had with the initial draft policy when it was released.”

The USDA announced the new guidelines on Tuesday. They will become the standard for Natural Resources Conservation Service, which works with farmers to develop manure and nutrient management techniques that protect water supplies, including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

The standards take effect in January 2013. Farmers who enroll in nutrient management programs with the USDA, which is common, will have to comply with the new standard.

In a news release, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new standard will give states more flexibility to adapt manure management practices to local and even site-specific needs and conditions, as well as to expand use of technology in devising methods of managing nutrients on the farm.

New York Farm Bureau reported that more than half of the public comments submitted to the USDA on the initial version of the standards were from New York, in large part because of the group’s lobbying campaign. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Mr. Owens wrote to Mr. Vilsack last February on the issue, urging the department to ease the restriction on winter spreading.

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