January conference to provide farmers with current information about Michigan agriculture

Upcoming conference aims to provide current cutting edge information on changing market conditions, weather variability, changes to the U. S. Farm Bill, challenges when considering oil and gas leasing and the current and future federal regulatory climate.

The Michigan Ag Commodities Education Expo (MACEE) aims to provide current cutting edge information pertinent to all sectors of Michigan agriculture. Important topics to be discussed include changing market conditions, weather variability, changes to the U. S. Farm Bill and challenges when considering oil and gas leasing. The federal regulatory climate impacting agriculture production will also be discussed. Sally Shaver of Shaver Consulting, and formally of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, will discuss current and future environmental challenges for agriculture. The Expo will be held on January 26, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing, MI.

The National Air Emission Monitoring Study (NAEM Study) was initiated in 2005. The study was a joint agreement between U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), livestock producers and livestock commodity organizations. In return for signing a consent agreement and paying a small fine, EPA provided cooperating farms immunity from any Clean Air Act violations and any Comprehensive Environmental Response and Compensation Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) reporting requirements while the study was taking place.

The purpose of the NAEM Study was to monitor emissions of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), ammonia (NH3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and dust particles from poultry (broilers and layers), dairy and swine farms. Once the emissions data were collected EPA was to develop emission estimating methodologies providing producers factors for estimating the emissions from their farms on a daily and annual basis. At the conclusion of the data interpretation phase livestock operations will be expected to use those factors to determine and meet their reporting requirements under CERCLA and EPCRA. Those farms exceeding Clean Air Act allowances for criteria pollutants (dust and ammonia) will be expected to install mitigation practices.

In 2007 the Study began monitoring emissions on farms. On farm monitoring was complete in 2010 and the raw data from the study released in late 2010 and early 2011. A total of 25 farms in nine states were included in the study: nine dairy, eleven swine, two broiler chicken and three laying hen farms. EPA is currently in the process of convening a Science Advisory Board who will be responsible for using the study’s raw data to develop factors for estimating the NH3, H2S, VOC and dust emissions from farms across the United States.

In 2008, using the local and state emergency response requirements in EPCRA, EPA required all large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) who had not participated in the 2005 consent agreement to report their estimated H2S and NH3 releases to their county and state emergency planning committees. This requirement set off a flurry of activity by both University and commodity organizations because the data for estimating the emissions were inconsistent and sparse. Consistent methods were quickly agreed on between cooperating Extension specialists and producers were able to meet their obligation on a relatively short time line.

The above two EPA actions provide examples of increasing agency oversight concerning air emissions from livestock and poultry farms.

While current agency and rural resident interest relates to air emissions associated with livestock and poultry production that may not always be the case. As concern over climate variability and change increases, and emissions of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) come under greater scrutiny, all of production agriculture may be under increased regulation. But, agriculture is also recognized as a carbon sink. The increased concern over GHG emissions may provide economic opportunity for farm operations.

The primary GHGs associated with agriculture are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Carbon dioxide and CH4 emissions are most related to livestock production but all users of nitrogen fertilizer need to be concerned about the nitrogen cycle, reactive nitrogen (Nr) and the emissions of N2O. Nitrous oxide has 298 times the global warming potential of CO2. It is released from soils with excess N via anaerobic bacteria activity when the soil is under anaerobic conditions. Anaerobic conditions develop when the soil is saturated with water (think spring and fall precipitation). Future concerns with GHG emissions, and concentrations of reactive N in the environment, may result in monitoring of the timing, rate and placement of N applications.

The Michigan Ag Commodities Education Expo aims to prepare producers and their consultants for the immediate challenges they face on a daily basis while providing information about issues they may face in the future. Ms. Shaver’s presentation will help farmers understand the current federal regulatory climate and increase their awareness of issues they may face in future. Be sure to attend the January 26, 2012 MACEE.

The Michigan Ag Commodity Educational Expo takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The registration fee is $75. You can register electronically by visiting http://bit.ly/MACEE, or you can register by contacting Megghan Honke at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 517-353-3175, ext. 229. 

Related Articles