There are many ways that pollution can happen on the farm, and it is one of the biggest topics in that concerns the non-farm public about the growth of agriculture. Every farmer is a great steward of the environment, but incidents can happen and we as agriculturalists need to be prepared in the event of spill, leak, or complaint.
Manure spills and runoff are one of the largest pollution concerns that livestock farmers have, especially those utilizing liquid forms of manure. This fall has been an incredibly wet one, and that means it is hard to get manure out to the fields, so manure pits are swelling from the extra volume of rainwater and months of manure that was stored through the summer to get crops off the fields. On top of that, any manure that has been applied to fields is now drawing concerns of runoff, as many inches of rain have nowhere to go other than drain off the surface, taking manure and nutrients with it. There are some ways to help mitigate this- injecting manure in the ground is one of the best ways to decrease the likelihood of runoff, plus it keeps more of the nutrients in the soil where you need them most. You can also run light tillage equipment over the fields you spread on, but this is a bit less effective at nutrient retention and can also cause issues with soil erosion through the winter. Planning manure storage for adequate capacity can mitigate this as well, to plan an extra couple feet of storage just for annual rainfall. Work with your local NRCS office to get help designing and building manure storage structures.
Oil and fuels are used on every farm, and often we are looking to have a greater capacity on hand as machinery grows. Fuel tanks, especially large ones, should be put on a concrete pad and surrounded by a barrier so that no equipment can breach the tank. Keep plenty of oil absorbent on hand to mitigate small spills and ensure to dispose of waste oil and its related components properly to prevent pollution.
Fertilizer and sprays can also be major pollutants kept on the farm, and many farms are building designated chemical buildings to store product and equipment used for these items. These buildings generally have recessed floors and perimeter drains so that any spills happening while loading chemicals don’t cause pollution to surrounding areas.
Develop a plan of action with your Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office if you have a pollutant spill on the farm. This can include people to notify, cleanup services, and even your legal team to help mitigate any broad effects on your business. Be sure to check with your insurance agent to make sure that you are covered for pollution on your policy.
Utilizing these tips, you can help agriculture sustain its image of environmental stewardship and reduce your risk of a pollutant spill around the farm.
If you have questions or would like a review to see if your current insurance provides the protection you need, please contact Neil Collins at 315-893-7790
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