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Right-to-Farm: Site Selection for New and Expanding Livestock Operations (Part 2)*     

Gerald May, Extension Air Quality Educator
Roberta Osborne, Extension Dairy Educator

For many farms, winter provides a break from constant outdoor activity and the opportunity to plan for future farm projects. However, on livestock farms the regular animal care responsibilities still need to be done and the challenges of snow and cold weather make every day chores much more difficult to complete. But even the busiest of farms need to plan their upcoming spring and summer activities. For many farms, Spring is the time to plan the summer’s major projects and many livestock farms may be in the midst of planning new animal housing and manure storage facilities.
The Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) for Site Selection and Odor Control for New and Expanding Livestock Production Facilities (Siting GAAMPs) should be part of that planning process. Most farms complete the Site Verification process in order to maintain the protection from nuisance lawsuits provided by the Michigan Right to Farm Act. Farms that move ahead with construction projects without first getting Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) site verification risk losing the protections provided by the Right to Farm Act and in some cases, be forced to shutdown.

Other Advantages:
•  Siting GAAMP verification maintains the farm’s opportunity to participate in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). The MAEAP verification requires the farm to meet all applicable GAAMPs. New and expanded livestock facilities built after August 2003 must meet Siting GAAMP standards to be verified in the MAEAP program. The site verification process remains available for farmers after the project is complete, but this type of planning is always easier when done as part of the pre-construction process.
•  Siting GAAMP verification ensures that the farm considers the social and community impacts of the facility prior to construction. Property line setbacks and odor management plans are both intended to help livestock farms minimize their impact on neighbors and the rural community.
•  Verification also ensures the farm plans for an adequate land base and the appropriate use of accumulated manure nutrients after the new or expanded facilities are placed in production.
•  Meeting Siting GAAMP ensures that the manure storage facilities meet current environmental standards. The Siting GAAMP verification process requires a professional engineer (PE)- stamped design verifying the storage will meet NRCS 313 or Midwest Plan Service standards. The PE must also monitor the construction process and provide “as built” documentation verifying the manure storage structure meets design specifications. This documentation also allows for a smoother transition to becoming a M-DEQ permitted farm should the livestock facility continue to grow and exceed the Large CAFO threshold.
•  Siting GAAMPs also consider the facility’s impact on groundwater and any nearby residential water wells.

How Long Will the Process Take?
The time consuming portion of the process includes gathering all the information required within the site verification checklist and completing the manure systems management plan, and other complementary documentation. Weather conditions, including frozen ground or extremely wet soils, may delay the subsurface soils evaluation. In these instances the verification request may be submitted to MDARD for review pending the results of the evaluation. All fields included in the Manure Management System Plan (MMSP) must have soil test results that are less than three years old and were collected on increments of 20 acres or less. Having acceptable soil test results are key to timely completion of the verification request.

The Verification Request
The approval or verification process begins with a livestock producer submitting a Site Verification request to MDARD. If the farm owner requests MDARD assistance, then MDARD staff will visit the site to conduct a preliminary evaluation. Extension Educators from MSU may also be invited to the early site visit. Often times these early visits will determine if the site has potential and if there are any extenuating circumstances the owner will need to consider during the application process. The site verification request requires the farm to provide the following to MDARD:
•  the completed MDARD site verification checklist containing all the required information;
•  a site plan including the location of all utilities such as fuel storage, water wells and driveways;
•  a complete manure management systems plan (MMSP);
•  an odor management plan when needed;
•  if in-ground manure storage (earthen or concrete) is included in the project, a subsurface soils evaluation indicating the seasonal high water table must be included in the verification request
•  a PE-stamped design certifying the manure storage structure meets NRCS 313 or Midwest Plan Service standards;
•  results of the well isolation distance worksheet or a letter from the local health department verifying the well location. The well isolation distance worksheet is available at local NRCS offices;
•  aerial photos highlighting adjacent property owners and non-farm residents within ½ mile; and,
•  a topographical map and soils map of the site.

Who Is Available to Help?

The MDARD staff and MSU Extension Educators are available to answer questions, make preliminary site visits and help with the overall process. Many of Michigan’s Certified comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) providers also assist with completing the site verification process.

Siting GAAMPs provide a planning process that can be used to properly plan new and expanding facilities, increase the suitability of a particular site and enhance neighbor relations. The siting GAAMP process helps to ensure high environmental and social standards so that the Michigan livestock industry can continue to grow.

To learn more about Site Selection GAAMP and to download an application form, go to the MDARD website: http://www.michigan.gov/mdard/0,4610,7-125-1567_1599_1605---,00.html.

* Part 1 of this article (in the MDR January 2012 issue) focused on the RTF law changes.

Michigan Dairy Review is published and mailed to all Michigan dairy farmers and individuals working in allied industries. With its ever increasing on-line presence, the MDR target audience has spread beyond Michigan and the U.S.; today electronic subscribers are located in places such as Australia, The Scandinavia, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Peru, and New Zealand.  

The MDR is the primary communications vehicle for research findings, extension programming, and teaching between faculty and staff in MSU dairy programs and the dairy industry. The MDR web site is paid for by the C. E. Meadows Endowment.

April 2012 Topics

Grassland Renovation

Right-to-Farm: Site Selection [2]

Manure Setbacks

Weather Provides Opportunity

Cleaning Overwinter Sites

MSU Extension Educational Sessions

Dairy Farmers' Views of Dairy Policies

When is a Milk Price a "Good" Milk Price?

2012 Employment Taxes

Detecting Mycoplasma Mastitis

Communication with Consumers

New Scholaships for Dairy Students

Dairy Students Awarded Over $95,000

Real-world Experience Via Internship