County investigating violations of winter manure application rules

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County's Feedlot Officer has received several calls in recent weeks regarding possible violations of the winter application rule for livestock manure.

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County's Feedlot Officer has received several calls in recent weeks regarding possible violations of the winter application rule for livestock manure.

"We basically are responding right now to complaints," said Al Langseth of the Nobles County Environmental Services office, adding that no enforcement actions have been sent out yet this year.

"We've had calls with people concerned about water quality issues," said Langseth. "The potential is there for runoff all of the time. The farmers out there doing winter application just need to be more aware of what the rules are."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking counties to step up enforcement for those who violate the winter application rule. Langseth said since the information is part of Nobles County's feedlot ordinance, enforcement is possible.

"What we've done in the past is sent out a warning or a notice of violation," he said. Violation of the rule is a misdemeanor offense, and because the language is also a part of the state rules for manure application, it is enforceable by the county attorney.


Setback requirements for winter application of manure differ from summer application rules because of the producer's inability to incorporate the manure in frozen soil. One of the most prevalent violations in the winter is not adhering to the required 300-foot setback from an open tile intake, said Langseth.

"That's a direct conduit to waters in the state," he added. "If you put a 300-foot circle around tile intakes, it's nearly 6.5 acres. (Producers) just don't think about that. For them to visualize 300 feet, they've got to visualize a football field."

The danger in ignoring the setback requirements is that the snowmelt and spring thaw could carry the manure into the open water and promote algae growth.

"That's the biggest concern with the waters," said Langseth, adding that components in the manure will also increase the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), and could limit the amount of oxygen available to species in the water.

"You need to stay 300 feet away from open water, whether it's a lake, stream, intermittent stream, DNRprotected waters or drainage ditches without berms," Langseth said. "Those are all sources of open water, and whether there's ice on it or not, it's still considered open water."

Because of the diversity of livestock operations in Nobles County, Langseth said it would be difficult to move away from winter application of manure. Still, he sees a lot of producers opting to stockpile the manure until the ground thaws and it can be incorporated into the soil.

"The majority of (producers) are aware of the value of the manure and they do incorporate," said Langseth.

As an example of manure's value, Langseth said if beef solid manure contained 14 percent nitrogen, producers would only lose about 5 percent of that value if they incorporated the manure, versus the 40 percent nitrogen loss they would see if the manure was not worked into the soil within 96 hours of application.


"Several are stockpiling right now so they can incorporate later on," Langseth said.

Setback requirements for stockpiles are also 300 feet of flow distance away from any water source, and 50 feet away from the road. If the ground slopes toward the road, however, the required setback is 300 feet, he added.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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