Items filtered by date: January 2014

From The Equiery:

The United States Department of Agriculture-Animal Plant Health Inspection Service will hold six meetings across the country to hear the public’s thoughts and concerns on import quarantine centers and the services they provide to all animals, including horses. This is an opportunity for the horse industry to comment on possible changes that can be made to better facilitate the importation of horses and semen.
During the meetings, APHIS will be asking users to respond to the following questions:
  • What factors do you consider when preparing to import horses requiring quarantine?
  • What factors do you consider when choosing locations for horse quarantines?
  • How can e-commerce enhance the importation process?
  • What are your experiences with quarantine facilities in other countries?
  • How do you see your need for quarantine services changing over the next 5 to 10 years?
  • What other options, ideas or topics should USDA consider relevant to current horse import quarantine processes?
The Maryland meeting will be held March 3, 2014 at the APHIS headquarters in Riverdale (4700 River Road, Riverdale, MD 20737). For more information, please call 301-851-3454.
Published in Equine Health

Here are the Horse Council's comments on the Draft Guidance for Agricultural Practices and Structures:

February 10, 2014
To: Brian Clevinger, MDE Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program
Robert Sommers, MDE Secretary
Earl Hance, MDA Secretary
Re: Draft Guidance For Agricultural Practices and Structures DRAFT
Mr. Clevinger,
It has been a pleasure working with Herb Sachs, MDA, and many others on the issues that created the need for this guideline. We spoke to Secretary Sommers about this at last week's Ag Dinner and have had a number of meetings with Secretary Hance on the topic.
The lack of a definition of agricultural structures was a problem that allowed some counties to require Erosion and Sediment Control plans for site preparation for barns, sheds, and indoor riding arenas. Some of those counties also required that farmers hire civil engineers to stamp site plans even when Soil Conservation District staff were involved in the projects. The costs in many cases were exorbitant and the engineers often had no experience with farm management issues. We applaud MDE for drafting guidelines that will amend the regulation that contradicted state law on the need for Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for agricultural structures.
We also applaud the Department for drafting a model Stormwater Management Plan application that does not require the involvement of civil engineers. The sketch plan required in your model application appears to be well within the abilities of Soil Conservation District staff, which in our view is the appropriate agency to work with farmers on erosion and runoff issues.
Your proposed definition of an agricultural structure is the following:
An Agricultural Structure means a structure built on a farm used to further crop and livestock production and conservation of related soil and water resources. The structure may be used for basic processing of products produced on the farm on which it is located. Basic processing does not change the form of the product, but does include treatment such as cutting, drying, and packing necessary for storing and marketing. Agricultural structures cannot be used for human occupancy, nor are they intended for access by the general public.
This definition states that an agricultural structure must be "used to further crop and livestock production." Under the provisions of the 2009 Horses as Agriculture statute (Agriculture, sections 2-701(d) and 2-702.1), caring for and training horses and similar activities are clearly defined as agriculture. Some counties might argue
that these activities are not "livestock production" unless exclusively devoted to breeding. Under that interpretation, the definition would exclude most barns, sheds and private riding arenas.
We propose that the definition of an agricultural structure include as an allowed use "keeping and managing livestock." Horses are classified as livestock in state and federal law, and "keeping and managing" covers the typical activities that take place on horse farms.
Maryland Horse Council understands the rationale behind excluding buildings "intended for access by the general public." Counties have struggled with the meaning of this restriction in local law, and generally conclude that a building where horses are boarded is not a public use building because each "client" is under contract to have his or her livestock managed at the facility or has a rental agreement to use the livestock housed at the facility. Public use in the horse industry generally refers to stores, show facilities that attract spectators, and racetracks.
Unless the definition of an agricultural structure is amended to include buildings used to keep and manage horses, the horse farms that make up 587,000 acres of the state's farmland will be required to comply with the same site preparation rules as urban developers. Civil engineers would replace Soil Conservation District staff as the liaison between the farm owners and county government during farm modernization projects, leaving the farm owners less incentive to maintain the Cooperator Agreements that are the foundation Soil Conservation Districts' positive influence on farms.
Maryland Horse Council encourages MDE to seek input from other sectors of agriculture on this definition as well. The exclusion of many kinds of value added production seems to have no policy rationale. Private wineries, dairies that produce ice cream, and any number of other activities that take place under the roofs of agricultural buildings have the same effect on erosion and sediment loss regardless of the activity. We believe that when the General Assembly exempted agricultural structures from erosion and sediment control plan requirements it envisioned agriculture in broader terms than this definition allows. We see no policy argument in favor of the narrow definition in the draft that has been circulated.
Please contact me or our President, Jane Seigler, if you seek further input from the horse industry on this or related issues.
Steuart Pittman
Legislative Committee Chair, Maryland Horse Council

Published in Legislative

Here are the comments filed by MHC with the MD Department of the Environment on its proposed new regulations governing composting. Click here for a link to the full text of the draft regs.

February 10, 2014

Ms. Hilary Miller, Deputy Director
Land Management Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Blvd., Suite 610
Baltimore, MD 21230-1719

RE: proposed regulations 26.04.11 Composting Facilities

Dear Ms. Miller:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes horse farms, horse related businesses, individual enthusiasts, and breed, interest and discipline associations. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders who make their living with horses, or just own and love them.

MHC is pleased to submit the following comments regarding the above referenced regulations that are being proposed by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

The proposal would establish a broad and complex new scheme for regulating composting facilities, which - at least in the non-farm context - have been largely unregulated previously. However, agricultural composting has been facilitated and overseen by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the local Soil Conservation Districts for decades, and that history and practice should be used to inform how these new MDE regulations would affect agricultural composting, especially where manure is the primary feedstock.

As we understand it, under MDE's proposal on-farm composting facilities must be permitted unless:
the composted material is produced and used on-site or at a facility controlled by the same operator, (hereinafter "on-site") (section .05 B (2)), or
the composting facility is located on a farm that is required to register with MDE because it uses greater than 5000 square feet "in support of composting," accepts materials from off-site, and uses that compost on-site (section .05 B (3)), or
is a Tier 1 (primarily yard waste) or Tier 2 facility (certain other materials including animal manure and bedding) under 5000 square feet "in support of composting," that complies with certain specified general environmental standards and whose windrows or piles are lower than 9 feet (Section .05 B (04)). It is not clear whether this particular provision also includes horse farms that compost animal manure and bedding, or whether it is intended to refer only to non-farm Tire 1 and Tier 2 facilities. This confusion is also implicated in the provisions of section .11 (General Permits)

MHC respectfully submits that the proposed regulations fail to take into account the unique characteristics of composting as it typically occurs on horse farms.

Many horse farms compost the manure and bedding that is removed from barns and sheds during regular cleaning. This material is produced on-farm, although the straw, wood shavings or other bedding material is typically purchased off-site. Although the proposed regulations state that manure including bedding is a Type 2 feedstock, they do not make clear whether use of bedding that is purchased off-site would preclude application of exemptions for feedstocks produced on-site. The regulations should be clarified to state that animal manure that contains animal bedding used on-site (regardless of its source) constitutes a feedstock that is produced on-site.

According to NRCS information, a 23 horse operation will use an 80' x 60'(4,800 sq ft) pad for 180 days composting capacity. Thus, any operation with 24 or more stalled horses will require a pad of greater than 5,000 square feet. There are dozens, if not scores of horse farms in Maryland that meet this threshold. The proposed regulations should be amended to increase the 5,000 square foot limit to accommodate larger horse operations.

The proposed regulations do not discuss what is perhaps the most typical model for horse farm composting operations, i.e., only on-farm generated materials (manure and bedding) are composted, and the resulting compost is sold or given away to other local farms, residences, landscapers, etc. The regulations should be amended to make clear that composting facilities that use only materials generated on-site, but distribute them off-site are exempt from the permitting requirements as long as they are in compliance with applicable MDA regulations.

In some cases, horse farms take in manure from other farms not owned or controlled by them, who do not have the capacity to compost their own manure. These facilities may distribute the final composted material to other farms, residences or landscape companies. The regulations should be amended to increase the 5,000 square foot limit for these facilities to, for example, 40,00 square feet as consistent with the Forest Conservation Act, and exempt them from the permitting requirement as long as they are in compliance with applicable MDA regulations.

Composted horse manure is a valuable and as yet under-utilized resource. According to a 2010 equine census,* Maryland is home to 79,100 equine animals housed at 16,000 locations with 188,000 acres devoted strictly to horses. At an average rate of 55 pounds of manure excreted per horse per day,** Maryland's horses produce an estimated 1,443,575,000 lbs of manure per year. Horse manure is a good substrate to use for compost. First, it's drier than other livestock feces, therefore it's easier to transport from one location to another. Second, it has a 5:1:2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium** and thus is relatively balanced in nutrients when it's applied as a soil amendment. Third, when the feces include animal bedding products such as sawdust or wood shavings it is close to an ideal 25:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. It is in the best interest not only of horse farm owners, but of all Maryland citizens and of our environment to ensure that this product is recycled to its highest and best use, by minimizing barriers to that use. Unreasonable restrictions on manure composting and distribution of the composted end product as a soil amendment will only result in more manure ending up in landfills, rather than benefitting our soils, crops, gardens and roadsides.

MHC appreciates the opportunity to comment on these proposed regulations, and urges MDE to adopt the recommendations set forth here.

Respectfully submitted,
Jane Seigler

* MASS (Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service). 2002. Maryland Equine: Results of the 2002 Maryland Equine Census. Annapolis, MD: Maryland Department of Agriculture.
** Lawrence, L., J.R. Bicudo, and E. Wheeler. 2003. Horse manure characteristics literature and database review. In Proc. International Anim., Ag. Food Processing Wastes Symp., Research Triangle Park, NC, Oct. 12-15., 277-284. St. Joseph, MI: Am. Soc. Ag. and Biol. Engineers.

Published in Legislative

Congress has [finally] passed the federal Farm Bill, which contains a number of provisions important to horse people. The President is expected to sign it. Click here for an analysis from the American Horse Council.

Published in Legislative