In early July, Ohio was scheduled to implement livestock environmental rules that were hammered out by a 24-member bipartisan committee.

The committee was unique in that it was comprised of all major state agricultural and fringe farm groups, plus government, environmental and health group officials, says pork producer representative Pat Hord of Bucyrus, OH.

The diverse committee worked diligently, but often disagreed on the smallest points, recalls Hord. It took from June through December 2001 for the group to work out the general framework of the proposed rules that are based upon legislation (Senate Bill 141). It's taken 1½ years since then to iron out the details, culminating in 55 rules and 250 pages of regulations, he says.

Ground rules set by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) kept things on track. The committee was bound to develop science-based guidelines, says Hord.

The rules are “something I feel good about, our industry can live with and allows us to grow in Ohio,” he adds. Hord Livestock is a seven-member family operation which owns several thousand sows, farms 3,500 acres and has contract finishing arrangements with 30-35 area growers.

Transfer of Authority

When the rules become final, all farms with more than 1,000 animal units (2,500 hogs or more, 55 lb. or heavier) at one site under common ownership will need a state permit to install (PTI), providing assurance of proper building and site design, and a state permit to operate (PTO), for assurance of development of best management plans, explains David White, executive director of the Ohio Livestock Coalition, a member of the committee. PTI's are effective for as long as they are needed. PTO's must be renewed every five years, he says.

Those operations that currently hold permits from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be reviewed and certified. Their permit will be transferred to the ODA, where they will apply for a PTO, notes White.

ODA is assuming jurisdiction for livestock permitting, except for a few animal operations that are permitted to discharge directly into state waters, he adds. These operations will come under the jurisdiction of the ODA once it is granted authority for issuing National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits from the EPA.

Rules Rundown

White provides a brief rundown of some of the new environmental rules:

  • If a concentrated animal feeding facility (CAFF) of more than 1,000 animal units (AU) is using a solid manure handling system (over 20% solids), it cannot be sited closer than 500 ft. from the nearest neighboring residence not under the ownership of the producer. The bill defines a major CAFF as an operation that exceeds 10,000 AU. The separation distance is doubled for this group.

  • For liquid manure systems (20% or less solids), which would include most properly managed swine lagoons and deep-pit hog barns, the siting distances from the facility are doubled, says White.

  • For setbacks, manure injection application can take place no closer than 50 ft. from a neighboring residence. For surface application followed by incorporation within 24 hours, the setback is 100 ft. For surface application not followed by incorporation within 24 hours, the setback is 300 ft.

  • Manure management plans must be developed that minimize water pollution and protect state waters. An emergency response plan is mandated for quick and efficient cleanup of manure spills.

  • A mortality management plan must include best management practices for livestock disposal. Approved methods are burying, burning, rendering or composting.

A first in the nation, the Ohio law also requires an insect and rodent control plan, says White. To understand just how serious this issue is, the maximum penalty for water pollution violations is $10,000/day. The maximum penalty for insect or rodent control violations is $25,000/day.

This provision was hatched from a large egg farm's nuisance suit won by citizens. “It is a good idea to develop a program of best management practices designed to minimize these populations and their potential impact on your neighbors,” explains White.