More than butts in the chairs

John Lawrence’s message from Sept. 12, 2017

Two sure signs of fall: the leaves start turning … and the manure starts churning. For many in Iowa agriculture, manure hauling waits until harvest is completed. However, for custom applicators the work often starts as soon as an individual field is harvested. There is a lot of manure to apply and a relatively short time to apply it – between harvest and frozen ground. (Liquid manure typically is injected beneath the soil surface.) Our Dan Andersen, @DrManure, estimates that approximately 17 percent of Iowa’s cropland receives manure; that’s about 3.8 million acres. (Dan is an agricultural engineering extension specialist and assistant professor at Iowa State.)

R.K. Bliss noted that Bulletin Extension Agronomy No. 1, published in 1907, addressed the value of manure, how to prevent losses, and economical preservation and application. Today, 110 years later, we still educate on those topics, plus worker safety and water quality. (Watch “Utilizing Manure Value.”) The cornerstone of Iowa manure education is the Manure Applicator Certification program approved by the Iowa Legislature in 1998, directed by Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and developed and delivered by ISU Extension and Outreach. Did you know?

  • Each year we train approximately 550 Iowa commercial businesses and their 2,000+ employees. An additional 30 businesses and 120 employees from surrounding states are trained to operate in Iowa.
  • We educate approximately 2,800 confinement site applicators, farmers who apply manure from their facilities.
  • Many applicators attend one of 60+ scheduled meetings across the state and others watch the presentation on a DVD at their county extension offices. Thanks to our county staff for making the training available and convenient.

However, the MAC program is more than regulations and economics, and it is more than butts in the chairs. Improper manure handling can have deadly consequences, and the MAC program helps farmers learn how to protect themselves, their employees, their livestock and the environment. For example, a Plymouth County farmer was working with her husband to agitate a pit, and when she saw pigs behaving strangely, she knew how to respond. She immediately ran out of the building and lowered the curtains to bring in fresh air. Some of the pigs did not survive, yet Sue is alive because she knew the signs of pit gas poisoning – something she learned from ag engineering specialist Kris Kohl during an ISU Extension and Outreach training session. Watch the video to hear Kris tell the story.

County Fair Memorandum of Understanding

County fairs require many people working together to be successful. With turnover on fair boards, within FFA programs, and in our county offices, good communication and documentation are essential. So last spring Bob Dodds and I started talking with the Association of Iowa Fairs and Iowa FFA to improve and formalize the agreements among our three organizations at the local level. A committee with members from all three organizations is developing a template (or you could call it a checklist) to facilitate local discussions. Watch this video for an overview of our process. We’d appreciate your input over the next few weeks. The committee will meet again by mid-November to consider the feedback and complete the template/checklist by early December. Counties then can use it to review their existing MOU or draft a new one.

A couple more notes:

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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