The problems inherent in measuring odor have slowed down one of the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) odor programs. But NPPC expects to roll out the Odor Solutions Initiative soon.

The ambitious initiative calls for NPPC to evaluate odor reduction technology on commercial hog farms. Air samples will be taken on the farms before and after the technology is used. The results will be published for producers. The Pork Board has allocated $3.5 million for the testing.

NPPC had hoped to start testing the technologies this fall. But developing a fair and consistent way to collect and test the air samples slowed down the project. The NPPC committee handling this initiative sent test air samples to several odor testing labs. All the tests came back different, yet the samples were the same. This was just one of several problems the committee had to overcome before beginning the initiative.

These problems highlight the difficulty producers face in the odor arena. The scientific methods haven't met the need to solve the odor problem.

"To date, we haven't had a level playing field in evaluating these technologies," reports Dan Uthe, NPPC environmental services. While several universities have conducted odor research projects, Uthe says those projects are designed for each university's specific research purpose. The projects also are not on a national basis.

The Odor Solutions Initiative includes two categories of technologies: national and regional. The types of technologies include: biological, chemical, management and mechanical equipment.

Last summer, NPPC received proposals from a couple hundred businesses with odor reduction products volunteering for the tests. NPPC is evaluating the proposals to determine which ones to test.

NPPC also is working on the testing procedure. "One reason we're late is the difficulty deciding where to collect the air sample and how," Uthe explains. "We're going to have to grab a sample for say 10 min. or one hour, not over a 24-hour, 7-days/week basis. But we're slowly getting the problems ironed out."

Right now, some air tests are being conducted on the hog farms before the testing begins. These baseline measurements are necessary for checking the before and after effects of the technologies.

Once the testing of the products begins, Uthe says the tests will continue through all seasons of the year. He believes the first results will come through in 11/2-2 years from now.

Early Results Encouraging Pork producers generally are doing a good job environmentally, according to the results of the first visits in the On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program. By early fall, 100 hog farms across the U.S. had been visited as part of the unique National Pork Board funded program.

"While we identify environmental risks and challenges (on each farm), we also identify the things the producers are doing right," reports Dan Uthe, environmental services, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). "We found a lot more things producers are doing right than wrong."

The assistance program calls for free environmental and odor assessments on hog operations in the U.S. A team of two trained, environmental experts will conduct each assessment. While cost of the assessment is free, producers must bear the cost of any changes they chose to make following the assessment.

One year ago, the first on-farm assessments were conducted on 24 pilot farms in four states. Since then, the assessments have been revised and training started for the people conducting the assessments.

Uthe says about 300 people have been trained to do the assessments. Training involves a two-day workshop and then two farm visits. This training has been popular. "We've had to turn away potential assessors because we've limited class size to 30 people," he adds.

The people going through the training include engineers, soil scientists, animal scientists and personnel from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, extension service and universities.

The on-farm assessment team will include an assessor from private business and one from the public sector. This allows a blending of expertise.

In addition, the on-farm assessment program has hired a third-party qualifier. The qualifier is a private firm, Sustainable Environmental Solutions, often used by EPA. The qualifier will spot check individual assessments to verify that assessments in one state are the same as in other states.

Farm assessments are coordinated by state pork producer organizations.