Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 2, 2013

Garrett Coggon: Focus on official requirements

By GARRET COGGON
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — Winter is often a time for growers to step back and reevaluate their operations, assessing the past year and planning for the next growing season. It can also be a good chance to catch up on paperwork and ensure your operation is meeting applicable state and federal requirements.

While reviewing compliance isn’t at the top of anyone’s to-do list, Michigan growers have several unique tools to assist them in the process. Our local growers are generally very good stewards of the land; listed below are a few details that will assist growers in staying up to date on the changing requirements and ensure farm operations run smoothly.

Water Use Reporting: All those who have the capacity to pump a total of 70 gpm from all wells on one piece of property are required to report their annual water use to the state. The deadline for agriculture is April 1, and this needs to be done online by visiting www.deq.state.mi.us/wur and clicking on the MDARD logo.

Growers considering installing a new large-capacity withdrawal (pump capacity greater than 70 gpm) also need to obtain clearance by utilizing the MI Water Withdrawal Tool, www.miwwat.org. These programs work in concert to ensure that withdrawals do not cause an adverse resource impact on nearby groundwater or surface water supplies. In Michigan, we have abundant water supplies; however, this tasks us with the responsibility to use these resources wisely and protect them from degradation.

Nutrient Management: Now is also a good time to review soil samples and leaf tissue analysis in order to hone your nutrient management plan for 2013. Efficient use of N fertilizer is important economically, agronomically and environmentally. Paying attention to your site-specific N recommendations, MSU crop guidelines, compatible sources of N and good N management practices will lead to greater efficiency.

It may be worth considering split nitrogen application in order to retain the ability to adjust fertilization rates to crop load as well as preventing nitrogen from leaching out of the root zone. Excess nitrates in groundwater can be a concern for both humans and livestock.

Emergency Planning: A good relationship with your local fire department is important to protect your property and your emergency response team in the event of an emergency on the farm. It is helpful to educate your local firefighters on electrical shut-offs, hazardous product storage, water resources, farm maps and other details of your operation to ensure they can respond safely and effectively.

Once you have developed an emergency plan, consider sharing it with your employees so they are aware of the proper response procedures. Emergency planning can be required if your operation stores certain quantities of “Extremely Hazardous Substances,” i.e., more than 2.5 gallons of paraquat dichloride (Gramoxone). Planning templates are available from your local MAEAP technician.

SPCC plans: On May 10, farms with total bulk oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons will be required by the Environmental Protection Agency to prepare and implement a spill prevention control and countermeasure plan. This applies to those operations with quantities of oil, stored in containers of greater than 55-gallon capacity, which could reasonably discharge into surface water. Farms with oil storage capacity below this threshold are exempted from the planning requirements.

Each of the processes will also assist growers in attaining MAEAP Verification. That ensures that farms are actively sustaining the landscapes that surround us — the water we drink, the air we breathe and the lakes and streams we recreate in — while producing top-quality Michigan-grown agricultural products.

To learn more about what MAEAP can do for you, contact Jessica Rasch or me at the Grand Traverse Conservation District:, 941-0960.

Garrett Coggon is Safe Food & MAEAP Technician for the Grand Traverse Conservation District in Traverse City.