While every winter differs in Wisconsin, almost every winter has days when the snow melts quickly, it rains and manure runoff from farm fields becomes a greater threat. Back in 2004 and 2005 there were several runoff incidents which led to fish kills in some streams, that is when the Department of Natural Resources formed a task force to look at what could be done to prevent that from happening again. Working with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the University of Wisconsin Discovery Farms, a plan was developed to raise farmer awareness of the risks of spreading manure on snow-covered ground as well as an advisory system which is used to assess the risk of runoff. Tom Bauman with the Bureau of Watershed Management and Runoff Management says as a result, farmers now develop nutrient management plans plus there are emergency response plans in place to deal with a spill.
Steve Sisbach works in enforcement at DNR; he says the key to any spill is to contain the spill as quickly as possible. State law does require that you report a spill to authorities and that you do whatever is necessary to contain the spill. U.W. Extension along with the Professional Nutrient Applicators of Wisconsin have conducted spill demonstrations around the state, videos of those containment exercises are now available on the web. Sisbach stresses DNR is there to help.
Bauman says February and March tend to present the greatest threat for runoff and urges farmers to pay attention to the weather forecast. If a farmer is in a position where storage is full and they need to move some manure Bauman says “work with their agronomist or the local land conservation department to try to identify fields that have the lowest risk for land application.” Another possibility is to share storage capacity with a neighbor.
Sisbach stresses the need to have a response plan in place in case of a spill, there is as one-page form available on the DNR website which is designed to have readily available should the need arise.
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