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Three things I learned on the bus

Three things I learned on the bus

On the way to catch a flight back home from the 2013 ASABE International Conference in Kansas City, MO, I shared a shuttle ride with three professors from Purdue University. One was from the farm safety industry, another from the livestock industry, and the third was an expert on grain handling.

I asked the standard question of what’s new in their respective fields. For the next 20 minutes, here’s what I learned from the back seat:

  1. Safety: I mentioned to the professor riding shotgun that the area of safety seemed to come up a lot during the conference. I then brought up proposed legislation in Wisconsin that would require large farm implements like manure carts and grain tanks to be held to the same size and weight restrictions as semitrucks now that implements are approaching a similar weight. I asked him whether farmers in his home state of Indiana are worried about the same legislation being considered there.
Farm implement lighting is gaining attention as a serious safety issue.

“I don’t think most of them believe it’s going to be happen,” said Professor William Field, Ed.D., Purdue University. He said a bigger issue there is farm implement lighting. “There is a tremendous amount of farm equipment on the highway with no lighting,” Field says. “This includes trailers, hay wagons, grain carts, and tillage equipment.”

Almost all states have some level of working and lighting requirements, Fields adds, but they often exempt farm equipment. This exemption is being given serious consideration in most states due to high profile motor vehicle crashes.

2. Grain storage.  Bagging grain, including corn and soybeans, is a new trend or concept being talked about on farms, said the grain storage expert, Professor Richard Stroshine, also with Purdue. “Just like elevators used to put overflow grain in piles, this would be a similar thing, only you’d put the overflow in these grain bags.” He said because the bags are sealed and airtight, the grain is less likely to develop mold, and insects can be controlled usually without the use of chemicals.

The downside is that you have to buy a machines that can bag the grain and then unload the bags, which he says can cost  up to $60,000 depending on where you purchase the machines. He says the technology is popular in Argentina, and manufacturers there are finding new markets in the states. He added that Mississippi State just completed a study of the technology.

3. Livestock odor emissions. The third professor,Albert Heber also with Purdue, was involved in doing a study on the amount of odor and air-pollutant emissions produced by livestock manure, measuring it down to each individual animal. “I’ve been accused of siding with the livestock industry, but most stakeholders know I was approved by the EPA to do the study,” Heber says.

EPA is carefully studying the data collected by the study and developing emission factors, based on the amount of pollutant per animal per day, so they can estimate farm emission rates and compare to regulatory thresholds.  The harmful emissions include ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and dust.

It turned out to be a pretty informative ride, worth far more than the $36 I paid the driver.


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