Purpose and Overview of LPEAP
Farmers and ranchers are the primary stewards of our natural resources, and have played an essential role in past efforts to improve water quality. A strong livestock industry is essential to Nebraska's economic stability, to the prosperity of rural communities, and to the sustainability of a reliable and safe public food supply.
The purpose of this project is to implement appropriate technologies for reducing the environmental impact of small livestock operations. New regulations in 1998 (LB1209) called for all livestock operations to comply with the zero-discharge requirement of waste control facilities. New changes to the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO's) in 2003 prompted changes in how small operations could be included in the regulatory program.
Providing Incentives for BMP's
Almost all livestock operations have the potential to adversely affect water quality; however, until a discharge is observed and reported by personnel, these facilities do not have to comply. Title 130, Livestock Waste Control Regulations Chapter 1, paragraph 043, states "Small concentrated animal feeding operation" means an animal feeding operation that is designated (by the NDEQ Director) as a concentrated animal feeding operation and is not a medium concentrated animal feeding operation. As a general rule, even with the recent change resulting from LB 916 (2004), operations with less than 300 AU's are exempt operations and do not have to apply for permits or control structures unless they have an observed discharge into waters of the state or U.S. The objective of this project is to provide incentives so that small livestock operators can take a pro-active approach to livestock waste treatment while demonstrating appropriate treatment technologies and Best Management Practices (BMP's). Only operations that are exempted by regulations or are deemed exempt by NDEQ are allowed to apply for this project.
Providing Options for Small AFO's
While the vast majority of cattle are actually housed at large facilities, the number of individual operations is vast. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (2002), there are 971,400 operations with cattle (20% are feedlots). Of these operations, 71% are small and medium (less than 999 head) and 29 percent are large (1,000 head and greater). Roughly 90% of feedlots in Nebraska are less than 999 head. In Nebraska there are 3,206 feedlots; of those 69% are small, 20% are medium and 11% are large. Thus the alternative technologies developed by this project have application to the 24,942 cow-calf operations in Nebraska in many situations; of which 77% are small and 19% are medium size. To date there have been very few options available for open lot runoff management to operations of these sizes.
Since operations under 300 AU's are generally exempt from mandatory regulation, providing assistance to these producers is an important step in making the livestock industry more environmentally and economically sound.
Livestock Producer Application Process:
The purpose of the project is to promote and encourage the use of alternative technologies for minimizing the negative impact of livestock on water quality and the environment. The LPEAP approach is to provide livestock producers with a program that provides funds for good stewardship activities. For those producers who want to practice good stewardship, this program provides a simple, timely means to obtain assistance. The application for assistance fits on one sheet of paper. The application requires an exemption letter, a budget (including contractor bids), and construction drawings or a sketch of the practice. For construction projects, detailed engineering drawings will be developed for the contractors in the planning phase.
Criteria for Cost Share Funding Distribution:
1. Cost share funding is appropriated at the discretion of the oversight committee between 50% and 60%. The oversight committee will make the decisions on a case-by-case basis.
2. Funding allocations will be at the discretion of the oversight committee and will be on a case-by-case basis. Operations will be selected based on the following criteria:
a. Operation must be under 300 AU's or exempt from the livestock waste permit program.
b. Potential to pollute surface or ground water connected to minimizing environmental risk.
c. Financial need (Producers that show, without the funding, they could not afford to install a system, will be given priority).
d. Other cost share ineligibility. Priority will be given to operations that are not eligible for other cost share funds.
e. Type of system to be used (sedimentation system, constructed wetland, vegetative filter strips, etc.) It is desirable to have a representation of all project types (i.e. not too many crossings and few VTA's). Creative projects will be given special attention during the selection process.
f. Geographic region (priority will be given so that all regions of the state are served, with more emphasis on western NE).
g. Project cost per animal unit (AU). Projects with a lower cost per animal served are also weighed in the decision making process. In addition, the effectiveness of the practice is accounted for in this determination.
Organization and Partner Involvement:
1. Day to day activities will be directed by the project coordinators (UN-CE). They are responsible for collecting applications, promoting the project, assembling the budgets, and develop the engineering and management plans.
2. The partners associated with the project help promote the project and the alternative technologies. Commodity groups promote the program through their newsletters and publications.
3. Interested producers can download applications and necessary information on the project.
Role of Oversight Committee:
The oversight committee, consisting of livestock waste and industry experts, directs the cost share program. They review applications for cost share assistance, evaluate the progress of the project and generate the annual reports to the Environmental Trust Fund (ETF). This arrangement has proven successful early in the project and allows for unbiased decisions regarding who receives funding. It also allows the partners in the project to participate and become familiar with all of the projects.
A producer will:
- Submit a cost share application to the oversight committee
- If the application is approved, the funds will be available to the producer upon completed construction or implementation of the management practice
- UNL CE is responsible for administering the cost share funds.
Project Impact and Outreach:
1. A fact sheet summary or movie on each demonstration site will be developed for each project. Project summaries are distributed at meetings, tours, and on the internet. A small farm practices publication will be developed. This publication will be widely distributed across the state by Extension offices, commodity groups, and by NRD offices. In addition to promoting this project they will promote the Nebraska Environmental Trust Fund.
2. Meetings are held to make producers and technical consultants aware of the practices. These meetings will help enhance other livestock waste initiatives aimed at reducing runoff from land application and nutrient management planning.
a. Audience will include Extension Educators, NRD representatives, NDEQ inspectors, private consultants, NRCS personnel, commodity representatives, and livestock producers.
3. Technical workshops will also be conducted to explain the science, engineering, and construction techniques to private consultants; NRCS and DEQ engineers, and general contractors.
4. A goal of $1.6 M in projects was anticipated by 2008.
a. Currently our environment has benefited by the treatment and utilization of waste from just over 7,600 AU's. It is expected that that amount will be doubled in the next three years bringing the total to 15,000 AU. This would equate to 10,714 head of dairy cattle, 37,500 head of pigs, 15,000 head of slaughter steers, or 15 million chickens. To put this into human perspective, it would equate to 75,000 humans or roughly the population of Grand Island (42,000), Columbus (20,000), and Scottsbluff (14,000) combined.
The LPEAP cost share program will facilitate the construction, implementation, and demonstration of over 1.6 million dollars worth of facilities and new Best Management Practices in Nebraska over the course of the project. These livestock waste control facilities and devices would not have existed without assistance from the Environmental Trust Fund. Continuation of this project will ensure that these important environmental practices become conventional practice.