In this final weekend of the 2009 Iowa legislative session lawmakers have voted to establish new regulations for spreading liquid livestock manure on snow-covered fields and frozen ground.
Critics say much of the liquid manure applied to farm fields in the winter months runs off into the state’s lakes, rivers and streams. Representative John Whitaker, a Democrat from Hillsboro, has farmed all his life.
"We looked at this said probably the most contamination occurs when there is a snow melt and probably the best thing that we can do for the nevironment is to lengthen the time when we ban the spreading of liquid manure on snow-covered ground," Whitaker says.
Under the bill, liquid manure may not be spread on farm fields between December 21 and April 1. Representative Ray Zirkelbach, a Democrat from Monticello, says it’s a good compromise.
"It creates a safer, cleaner and better environment for all Iowans and is better for the agricultural industry," Zirkelbach says.
Senate President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg who raises livestock, believes farmers would rather have these restrictions written into law rather than have Department of Natural Resources staff write rules.
"The bill’s very restriction and it’s certainly, environmentally, a much better law than current law," Kibbie says, "and it kind of gives the industry a roadmap on what they have to do."
The bill, for example, lays out guidelines for what farmers may do with dry manure, too. Representative Larry Marek, a Democrat from Riverside, says liquid manure from livestock confinements is valuable these days.
"Washington County has about 900 buildings and a lot of our economy in Washington County and in our state is based on livestock production," Marek says. "These wastes are very valuable as festilizer sources, especially in these times of high fertilizer prices."
Manure in both liquid and dry form is applied as fertilizer to farm fields to boost nitrogen levels. Most farmers "incorporate" the manure, which means farmers use a special implement to "inject" the manure into the ground rather than spreading it on the surface.