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Court Ruling On Manure Application To Farm Ground

This discussion by CALT is too long for me to summarize and is still under litigation, but the implications that in some cases manure is considered a solid waste has important ramiciations for those who have or are concerned about livestock operations.


Court Says Application of Manure To Farmland In Manner Inconsistent With Good Husbandry Agricultural Practices is Subject to Federal Regulation as Solid Waste



The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 subjects hazardous material to federal regulation if it is solid waste.[1] In general, RCRA is designed to address the problems related to hazardous waste disposal at local landfills.[2] RCRA establishes a permitting scheme to regulate the disposal of hazardous waste and determine liability. Hazardous waste must be “discarded” to be subject to regulation under the RCRA. Other than farm dump sites and on-farm fuel storage tanks, RCRA doesn’t have a great application to farming and ranching operations. Importantly, fertilizer is not considered “waste” under RCRA. However, in 2013, a federal court refused to grant several dairy operations summary judgment on the claim that RCRA didn’t apply to land application of manure on the basis that the over-application (and allegedly improper application) of manure to fields, and the leakage of manure from lagoons constituted a “discarding” of hazardous waste.[3] Now, the same court has determined that manure is a hazardous solid waste that is “discarded” and, therefore, subject to RCRA where the land application of that manure is inconsistent with sound agricultural practices and is spread on the land without regard to crop fertilization needs or best management practices.[4]



The court concluded that the defendant’s CAFO activity contaminated the groundwater and that its practices transformed the manure from fertilizer to solid waste that was subject to RCRA. The court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss and granted, in part, the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. The court’s opinion does not stand for the proposition that the land-application of manure or its storage in lagoons or composting of it is always subject to RCRA, as some environmental groups have claimed. But, when a CAFO (whether comprised of dairy cattle, poultry, beef cattle or other livestock) produces manure in such a quantity that it can’t be used as a beneficial agricultural product on the CAFO owner’s agricultural property or sold to third parties as part of the overall operation, it can be transformed into a regulable solid waste under RCRA. The court’s opinion indicates that the use of sound agronomic practices when spreading manure, regard for existing soil nutrient levels, proper construction of storage lagoons and careful composting of manure to prevent leaching into groundwater will not transform manure into solid waste under RCRA.

The court’s decision is likely to be appealed. We will keep you informed of any developments as they occur.


Update: On May 11, 2015, a settlement was reached in the case. It is reported that under the settlement, the defendant (and similar operations in the Washington's Yakima Valley) will limit manure application, utilize double liners in manure storage lagoons and provide clean drinking water to local residents until existing contamination is eliminated. "

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Honored Advisor

Re: Court Ruling On Manure Application To Farm Ground

The only thing I see that might be contrary to our Comprehensive Animail Waste Management Plan, long in place in NC, is the "sold to third party" wording.  We are not required to sell manure used on prperty belionging to others...simply to have a Waste Utilization Agreement in place, signed by the landowner whose land receives manure.  We share it on rented land, with the owner's written permission, and also on the kdis' land, with the same document in place. 


We have several times over the land we need, without those acres...they are just more convenient to reach.  If the transfer is to be done by sale only, that is ridiculous. 


I also wonder how all of this plays out with municipal biosolids applications.  Those are actually permitted pretty similarly to our manure from the CAFO here.  Both require:Analysis of the waste stream, proper soil pH, growing crop or a limited number of days to establishment of one:applications not to exceed the agronomic need of the crop. 


The only significant difference I am aware of is the we as farmers have to document that the manure does not exceed either the Realistic Yield Expectation (RYE) of the crop, or an established yield history above the RYE.  Either way, we must docuemtn yields, every drop that we apply, and myriad other things such as field conditions as we do that, who did the application, and every date, time and technical specs/callibrations of the equipment used in the application. 


Honestly, I think people on public waste systems ought to be charged a "s&*&t tax", every time they flush.  Maybe that is what munis call a "sewage rate".  The problem is that there are a lot of people who do not understand that making too much of this could backfire on them, too. 


Not worried about the science, but this plays right into Waterkeepers' and their ilk's hands.  Untiel thye can prove they personally produce no excrement, I think it is ludicrous to fault ag for using natural nutrients in a responsible manner.





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