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Farmers encouraged to call before they haul

WORTHINGTON -- It's that time of year again -- combines are ready to harvest yet another crop, wagons and trailers are on standby, and the hauling of manure will begin soon after this year's crop is in the bins.

Before crop producers get caught up in the full swing of harvest, Nobles County Feedlot Officer Alan Langseth encourages those who plan to apply manure on harvested fields to call the county's environmental services office and request an odor exemption.

A simple phone call can save time and, in some cases, the hassle of being subjected to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) air quality testing, he said.

Since the state legislature adopted an odor exemption policy in 2000, livestock producers have been asked to report the dates they plan to empty manure pits, clean out barns and haul waste to awaiting farm fields. The exemption allows producers up to 21 days each year to do their manure hauling without concern for exceeding the state's air quality standards.

With the continued spread of urbanites into rural areas of Minnesota, Langseth said not everyone is aware of the farmer's need to spread livestock manure on fields each fall.

"Some (applicators) have good neighbors, and they realize that it's part of living in the country," Langseth said, "and then there are others that have a low tolerance for any kind of odor."

Odors emitted from livestock facilities are generally greater in the fall as producers agitate manure collected in a storage lagoon or pit before transferring the waste into application systems. Agitating the manure stirs up hydrogen sulfide -- the chemical component that gives manure its odor.

"The odor is (greater) than the day-to-day occurrence," Langseth said.

If a complaint is made to the county environmental services office regarding excessive odor emissions, he is required to visit the site and verify the complaint. After that, the MPCA may opt to visit the farm to test hydrogen sulfide levels in the air. Those found in violation could face a fine.

To avoid site visits, Langseth said applicators simply need to call his office and report when manure will be removed from storage facilities and hauled to awaiting fields. In the past, he said, few have taken advantage of the exemption.

"We're getting about 40 (requests) a year and we've got over 400 farmers," Langseth said. "Not all of them have the quantity (of animals), but if they want that exemption, all they have to do is call."

Applicators must provide their name, the site they will be pumping from, the dates they will be hauling and where they will be hauling the waste. Applicators within Nobles County should call 376-3109 or 372-8227 for the odor exemption. After hours, applicators may leave the necessary information on the office's answering system.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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