What to do when Runoff Happens

From heavy rains in the south to May snowfall in the north, Wisconsin’s weather has been very unpredictable lately. This spring’s irregular weather underscores why it’s important to pay attention to the weather when planning manure applications.  Making the right decision in timing manure applications can go a long way toward avoiding manure runoff that can cost valuable nutrients to potentially affect Wisconsin’s waters.

Another important part of planning manure applications is having an emergency response plan and a nutrient management plan for your farm.

A nutrient management plan can help prevent a spill or runoff from happening in the first place.  Nutrient management plans help identify fields that have a low risk of runoff for times of the year when conditions are risky for runoff but manure must be applied.  Farmers can talk to their agronomist to help create a nutrient plan that will help guide where and when to spread manure. The plan will also help farmers decrease their fertilizer costs, maximize productivity of the manure and reduce the risk for runoff into streams and drinking water.

But as we all know, the weather can throw a wrench in even the best of plans, and unexpected runoff and accidents can happen. That is why having an emergency response plan is important and is easy to do.  Such a plan helps you know who to call, what steps you’re going to take when something goes wrong and what supplies to have on hand. Part of creating an emergency response plan also helps identify other options to land applying manure under risky spreading conditions, such as using a neighbor’s storage facility.  The better the decision you can make and the faster you can respond, the more likely you can contain the manure and minimize the damage.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection have easy–to-follow emergency plans that you can print, fill out and post. Put it in the tractor, farm office or any other place that will be quick to grab if a spill or runoff occurs on your farm. And remember, if a spill does occur on your farm you need to report the spill immediately. You can do this by calling the 24-hour spill emergency hotline-1-800-943-0003.

Having a nutrient management plan and runoff emergency plan are great ways to prevent runoff and keep Wisconsin’s waters clean.  When farmers plan now, they reduce their runoff risk later.

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