In an effort to further improve Washington's dairy manure handling procedures, the Washington State Department of Agriculture is paying Whatcom County Conservation District $20,000 to evaluate waste storage pond efficiency and look into potential seepage.
Another $15,000 in WSDA funding is appropriate to a second manure-related project. The money goes to AgWeatherNet, a network of automated weather stations operated by Washington State University, to help alleviate the potential of applying manure to frozen ground.
The grants are viewed as an extension of state mandated dairy management regulations for certification of dairy nutrient management plans. The law requires that local dairies meet state criteria for manure handling, and undergo specific inspection on a prescribed basis by local conservation districts to assure standards are met.
Under the $20,000 Whatcom County Conservation District grant, manure lagoons built before current standards were set by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service are subject to leakage. The project intends to evaluate older ponds and include a seepage test to see how much of the nutrients from the manure are leaching into the groundwater beneath the holding areas.
In the $15,000 AgWeatherNet project, the focus is on application of manure to frozen ground which increases chances of runoff from the field and into nearby bodies of water. The project will gauge temperature from the top two inches of soil in the Yakima Valley through a network of soil probes.
Farmers can get near real-time soil temperatures through the AgWeatherNet website or by subscribing to a soil temperature alert system to help them time their manure applications onto ground that is not frozen.
The grants are funded through the civil penalties WADA issued to dairies that have violated the Dairy Nutrient Management Act. In all, six grant proposals were received. Visit www.agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/livestock-nutrient for more details on the funded research.