Minnesota regulations require producers to have air quality, pollution prevention and emergency plans.

A new set of feedlot regulations may go into effect this fall in Minnesota. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) developed the regulations and published them in late 1999.

Earlier this year, more than 3,000 citizens and producers attended 14 hearings around the state. Approximately 500 citizens testified about the new rules before an administrative law judge. Another 750 citizens presented written comments to the judge. In late April, the state legislature passed a bill changing some of the rules and placing more restrictions on MPCA.

This month, the administrative law judge will make recommendations on the proposed rules. The judge's report will go before the MPCA Citizens Board early this summer. Upon the board's approval, the rules will be ready for implementation, says Julie Swiler, spokesperson for MPCA.

Common Sense The new rules are stricter than the past regulations, but the legislation added a dose of common sense to the regulations, says David Preisler, executive director of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association.

That common sense comes into play for both odor and hydrogen sulfide standards. Producers will be exempt from state hydrogen sulfide standards for a 21-day period for manure handling and application. In order to get the exemption, producers must notify the MPCA or county feedlot officer. Producers also are allowed to secure air quality easements from neighbors to facilities. The five-year agreements mean state air quality rules are applicable at the edge of the neighbor's property line.

"That change will really reward the producers who are good neighbors," Preisler says.

AU Calculation Changed Other changes that affect pork producers include changing the calculation of animal units (AU) from 0.4 to 0.3 AU per finishing hog weighing 55 to 300 lb.

A moratorium on construction of manure lagoons will continue until the state's generic environmental impact statement study is finished in two years.

The rules were updated to:

* Require all producers with feedlots greater than 50 AU to register by Oct. 1, 2001 and re-register every four years;

* Allow producers with facilities less than 300 AU until Oct. 1, 2005 to make interim corrections of pollution problems and until Oct. 1, 2010 to be in full compliance with the regulations;

* Require producers to secure permits for construction, expansion and correction of pollution hazards in feedlots;

* Require either state disposal or federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for operation of a concentrated animal feeding operation or a facility greater than 1,000 AU;

* Require owners of feedlots from 300 to 1,000 AU to be certified as private manure applicators through Minnesota Department of Agriculture educational programs;

* Require air emission plans - including measures to mitigate conditions when a feedlot exceeds the state hydrogen sulfide standards - along with a pollution prevention plan and an emergency response plan in case of an unauthorized discharge;

* Require manure application requirements, including notification of the county feedlot authorities before manure handling, injection or incorporation of manure within 24 hours of land application and best management practices for control of odor as defined by the University of Minnesota;

* Require manure nutrient testing and application in accordance with University of Minnesota Extension Service recommendations; and

* Require design standards for liquid manure storage and inspections by a registered engineer or Natural Resources Conservation Service staff.

The legislation also requires the MPCA to respond to a permit request within 60 days or the permit is automatically granted.

Cost/Share Program The legislation also says that owners of less than 300 AU feedlots cannot be required to spend more than $3,000 upgrading the facility unless state cost/share money is available for 75% of the cost. Likewise, owners of 300- to 500-AU feedlots are not required to spend more than $10,000 without 75% cost/share money or $50,000, whichever is less. The legislation did not appropriate funds for cost/share programs.

"We want to make sure the environmental issues get fixed. It shouldn't be a money issue," she says. "The legislature now has to deal with that issue."

Based on the cost/share portion of the legislation and additional staffing requirements at MPCA, the legislature asked MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for a report before the 2001 legislative session.