Licensing rules change for commercial ag waste technicians
SLAYTON — Livestock producers and commercial animal waste technicians are invited to a Commercial Animal Waste Technician certification workshop March 12, at the Pizza Ranch in Slayton.
The event, which will cover new licensing rules that took effect Jan. 1, begins with registration at 9:30 a.m. and continues to 2 p.m.
Doug Bos, assistant director of the Rock County Land Management Office in Luverne, was among a group of 25 individuals that worked to rewrite the rules and regulations of manure application in the state. The group included representatives from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, University of Minnesota Extension and the County Feedlot Officers Association. One-third of the group’s members were certified animal waste technicians.
“When we looked at how much manure the commercial applicators put on, we realized how important it was that they know all of the rules and regulations so that manure is applied correctly,” Bos said. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of livestock manure generated in southwest Minnesota is applied to crop land by commercial applicators.
“That’s why we thought it was very important that we have a solid program,” Bos said. “Overall, our applicators do a good job and are conscientious.”
Yet, as in anything, a few bad apples can put a black eye on the industry, he added.
The new rules provide more of a consistent licensing structure, which includes requiring a licensed site manager and a licensed applicator. Each license is effective for one year.
“The other thing is we simplified the process for continuing education credits,” explained Bos. “The site manager will have to attend a workshop once every other year, and applicators will have to do a two-hour web-based education process every other year, and for their initial licensure.”
Bos said the changes in licensure provide for more face-to-face trainings for commercial animal waste technicians to “emphasize the importance of applying manure in an environmentally correct manner.”
There will continue to be an option for applicators to retest online to maintain their certification if they are unable to attend a workshop.
Another rules change requires each application company to be licensed — a process already required in both South Dakota and Iowa — with each license effective for one year.
“Before, the applicator or the company’s owner had the same type of license. It was one license that lasted for three years, and several people could work under the supervision of one person,” Bos said. Under the old rules, the certified applicator didn’t even need to be on site, but rather “in contact” with the person doing the application of manure.
“A commercial application company owner could have been on vacation and had their non-licensed employees applying manure,” Bos said. “There was little oversight or enforcement.”
Previously, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture had only $6,500 annually to operate the program and, thus, some things happened that shouldn’t have.
“There were a few bad actors that were giving the industry a black eye,” he said.
An added benefit of the new rules is increased flexibility in becoming certified through a web-based training program.
“If a company needs to hire a new applicator in a pinch, the process is simplified with this web-based training and testing,” Bos said. “A new applicator will be able to take training, test and apply (manure) after that. Prior, they would have to study, take a test and then wait for a license, which could take a couple of weeks.”
The March 12 Commercial Animal Waste Technician workshop is offered free of charge to farmers, while commercial ag waste technicians will pay a fee to cover the cost of the meal and the meeting. There are approximately 40 to 45 commercial applicator technicians in southwest Minnesota.
Bos said any producer interested in current issues in manure management is welcome to attend, along with commercial applicators of both liquid and solid manure.
The meeting in Slayton is the closest for individuals in southwest Minnesota. Other workshops are planned in Mankato and the Twin Cities.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.