State permit changes for large feedlots get favorable marks

Farm Forum

PIERRE (AP) — Environmental and livestock groups gave largely favorable marks on Sept. 17 to a plan to update standards for protecting South Dakota’s water supply from manure and waste produced by large-scale animal feeding operations.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources held an informational explanatory meeting on the revisions it is drafting to the state’s permit for large livestock operations. They could be completed by January.

Updates range from requiring more information about the ownership of an operation — people with at least a 10 percent stake would be disclosed — to requiring feedlots to meet new standards for conservation plans used by livestock operations. Those plans in part deal with managing manure spread on fields as fertilizer to protect state waters, said Kent Woodmansey, administrator of the agency’s Feedlot Permit Program.

“Our goal is to prevent water pollution,” he said. “The intent is to set the standards to protect surface and groundwater from the manure and wastewater that’s generated.”

Todd Wilkinson, president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said the proposal is “pretty reasonable.” Wilkinson said he anticipates the permit revisions will go smoothly “with some minor tweaking.”

“It’s a process that needs to happen periodically, he said. “Producers like me are very concerned about protecting the environment because that’s where we make our living.”

There are about 420 permitted concentrated animal feeding operations in South Dakota, nearly all in the eastern part of the state.

Kathy Tyler, a member of environmental group Dakota Rural Action, gave the draft permit a “B+.” Tyler said the organization would meet to discuss changes to propose before the permit heads to a formal review process. Dakota Rural Action had originally raised concerns that they weren’t included in drafting the revisions.

Tyler said she’s pleased that it would be a violation of a newly created state permit if a livestock facility discharges waste, though producers can do so in certain situations if they operate under a different permit.

The Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources could make the decision about whether to approve the changes by January. The alterations stem from changes in federal regulations, updated conservation standards for the livestock operations and as a result of suggestions from South Dakota farmers and others, Woodmansey said.