Large open feedlots face a July 31, 2007 compliance deadline by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources despite a recent federal announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to delay the deadline for requiring nutrient management plans.
Open feedlots defined as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are to have a federal operating permit called a NPDES permit (national pollution discharge elimination system permit) and nutrient management plans (NMPs) by July 31, 2007. The U.S. EPA in May proposed extending that deadline date to Feb. 27, 2009. Public comment is now being accepted on that proposal.
No change in Iowa deadline, says DNR
That, however, will not change Iowa's deadline, says Gene Tinker, state animal feeding operations coordinator with the Iowa DNR in Des Moines. "There's no change in Iowa," he says. "The Iowa Legislature set the deadline in 2006. We have no leeway to pass emergency rules to change the date."
NPDES permits and NMPs are required for all open feedlots defined as CAFOs as of April 14, 2003. These are generally feedlots greater than 1,000 head of cattle in size, plus smaller feedlots with manmade conveyances draining feed yards and those with streams running through the yard.
About 150 CAFOs in Iowa have been granted permits as of today. Applications for new construction permits submitted after April 30, 2007 must also include a NMP. A new DNR system for processing applications was implemented last year in which DNR meets with the farmer and their engineer prior to the permit applications being submitted. This has resulted in faster processing of applications, says Tinker.
Most large open feedlots in Iowa have been identified and registered with DNR, he says. A few open feedlots are not seeking permits because they will not discharge pollutants. According to a court decision in 2005, open feedlots that will not discharge will not need an NPDES permit. "It's clearly up to the feedlot owner whether or not they will have a discharge and need a permit," says Tinker.
If they do not have a permit, the risks include a state penalty or action by EPA that may mean a fine of up to $32,000 per day.
Why EPA wants to delay the deadline
EPA is proposing extending the deadline because the agency says it needs more time to respond to public comments and to determine what information needs to be in NMPs as well as when the plans need to be amended. The agency says more time is needed to adequately write its rules. EPA officials have said the proposed extension will not supersede state requirements with earlier deadlines.
"The state of Iowa is maintaining its original deadline of July 31," says Randy Clark, a DNR attorney. "The July 31 deadline is required by state law in Iowa, so it would take a change in state law to change the date that these plans need to be in place."
Livestock producers need to have the plans approved by DNR before removing or land-applying any manure or feedlot nutrients. "Producers need to start on these plans now because they will take time to develop," says Clark. "There's also a requirement to notify the public and we are sending out letters to about 150 producers to help them develop public notices. It will take about 40 days for the notice to be published and the public to have time to comment on the nutrient management plans."
Where to get help and information
You can find a form for the plan (DNR form 542-2021) at www.iowadnr.com/afo/forms.html or by calling the nearest DNR field office. More forms, including record keeping forms, are available on the Iowa Manure Management Action Group site extension.agron.iastate.edu/immag/
DNR environmental specialists in the field offices can answer questions about feedlot and manure management plan requirements. The DNR has offices and phone numbers at these locations:
Northeast Iowa, Manchester 563-927-2640
North central Iowa, Mason City 641-424-4073
Northwest Iowa, Spencer 712-262-4177
Southwest Iowa, Atlantic 712-243-1934
South central Iowa, Des Moines 515-725-0268
Southeast Iowa, Washington, 319-653-2135
A list of companies or consultants who are approved by the government to write nutrient management plans for livestock farmers is also available on the IMMAG Web page. Livestock producers who have developed a comprehensive nutrient management plan to secure federal cost-share funding can submit that plant to DNR for the NMP. It must meet all the nutrient management plan requirements to be approved by DNR.