Letter to the Editor

Producers respond to compliance challenges

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dear Editor,

Winter weather and large spring rains have created challenges for all of us in the livestock business this year. Among these, are Nebraska Department of Environmen-tal Quality -- NDEQ -- compliance issues.

The article in Tuesday's paper regarding NDEQ compliance by individual livestock operators in our area has sparked significant local debate over the past two days. We would like to respond to this debate in the following manner.

First: Discussion and debate of these issues should be considered positive in that it will ultimately lead to improvement in our operating procedures. It will also help point out to state and federal officials any regulations that are of less value, resulting in a more efficient regulatory system for all concerned.

Second: It is important to remember that we are in the livestock business for a number of reasons that we ALL share. Among these, are the economic enhancement of our region by providing jobs and a market outlet for area farmers' grain and forage production. Livestock operators also support many other area agribusiness services, including but not limited to, trucking firms, veterinary services, farm supply stores, etc. These things are true for the 20 head, to the 20,000 head livestock operator. We ALL provide significant added value to Southwest Nebraska and our surrounding region.

With this in mind, we want to offer our support of all area livestock producers, and hope the community will support these hard working individuals, as well. It is important to understand that livestock operators are working hard every day to comply with environmental regulations, but please know that extreme weather and constantly changing regulations can complicate the issue at hand.

So what are some things livestock operators in our area are doing to be responsible neighbors?

Shelterbelts have been planted between livestock operations and neighbors in an effort to provide a dust barrier.

Innovative vegetative transfer area -- VTA -- systems have been developed for effluent control. Advantages include reduced odor and pests.

Livestock operators have made jobs and contract labor opportunities available to their neighbors.

If extreme weather results in a discharge, livestock operators have been proactive in their clean-up efforts, and at their expense.

A cutting-edge, low-horsepower, anaerobic waste treatment system has been implemented. Advantages include reduced odor, use of the same water supply multiple times, and nearly a 100 percent reduction of pathogens in the re-use water.

In summary, we have local engineering firms available that specialize in livestock waste management. We encourage county livestock operators to contact these folks in an effort to stay current with the most recent environmental compliance requirements.

Please understand that our county commissioners have a tough job when it comes to dealing with these issues. They must balance citizen concerns with the economic advantages livestock production brings to our region. It is not an easy job, and they should be commended for taking on a project most of us would not consider.

Finally, we are privileged to have many innovative and responsible livestock operators who call Red Willow County home. We thank all of these individuals and appreciate their contribution to the economic well-being of our community and region.


Dr. Patsy Houghton

Owner/General Manager

Heartland Cattle Co.

Cal Siegfried

Owner/General Manager

Cornerstone Cattle Co.

EDITOR'S NOTE -- An article in the Gazette reporting discussion by the Red Willow County Commis-sioners about local dairies mentioned a family-owned feedlot southeast of McCook. While not mentioned by name, James Uerling said his feedlot is approved by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and is in compliance with all state regulations. Operators have not been contacted by commissioners with any environmental concerns, he said. Commissioner Leigh Hoyt said, however, he still had questions about whether or not the feedlot is in compliance.

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