Wisconsin dairy farmers will be interested to note that the state legislature has temporarily suspended the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources rules which would impose air emissions limitations and air permitting requirements on the state’s livestock farms, according to Jordan Lamb, partner with DeWitt Ross & Stevens law firm.

The action affects several rules that have to do with dairy and other livestock operations in the state.

First it impacts NR 445, which establishes acceptable ambient air concentrations for ammonia for air emissions from agricultural waste (including livestock manure, animal waste byproducts, litter and bedding). It also impacts NR 406 and 407, which impose air permitting requirements associated with those limitations. 

Without the action by the legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR), these rules would have gone into effect for Wisconsin farmers on Aug. 1, she points out in the latest Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin’s Capital Link newsletter. 

The Natural Resources Board voted against allowing an administrative rule change that would have removed agricultural waste from NR 445, 406 and 407 at its June meeting. It appears that, in part, this vote may have been intended to allow the legislature to address the situation through statute, says Lamb. “The Board, however, is not foreclosed from addressing the issue at a future meeting,” she adds.

The JCRAR has introduced Assembly Bill 195, legislation that would statutorily remove agricultural waste from these rules.

But keep in mind that there’s a process to go through before farmers can count on that regulatory relief. In order to become law, that legislation must have public hearings in the legislature, move through both houses and be signed by the governor.

So far, the legislation has been referred to the Assembly Natural Resources committee.

The current suspension of these rules as applied to farms will expire at the end of this legislative session in the spring of 2012.

Meanwhile, researchers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continue to sift through a two-year National Air Emissions Monitoring Study that was completed earlier this year that gives a look at air quality on and around livestock farms.

The research team collected data from more than 2,300 sensors at a total of 38 barns on 14 farms in North Carolina, Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma, California, New York, Washington and Wisconsin. For barns, there were five dairy sites, five pork production sites, three egg-layer sites and one broiler ranch. Outdoor swine and dairy manure lagoons were monitored at nine farms. A dairy corral in Texas also was tested.

The team measured for emissions of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, three sizes of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds. Emission rates were calculated every minute.