Odor and Nutrient Management Newsletter

Summer 2001

Iowa Plan for Open Feedlots

by Karen Grimes, Department of Natural Resources

More than 800 open feedlot producers have registered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) since the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) and the DNR agreed on a three-part plan to bring open feedlots into compliance with current laws on March 21. The federal and state laws have been in place since the 1970s but have not been actively enforced.

The agreement was driven by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criticism of the DNR’s permitting and enforcement efforts. The EPA reviewed state programs and inspected open feedlots in the four-state EPA Region VII of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri last year. The EPA’s data show that Iowa has issued permits for less than 10 percent of the 310 open feedlots that need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

The three-part plan includes voluntary registration by producers, an in-house environmental assessment by the DNR to determine environmental priorities, and producer compliance with current regulations.

Producers who want to take advantage of the program have until December 31 of this year to register their feedlots. Those who register will not be fined by the DNR if they need a federal permit and do not have one. The DNR also has agreed not to conduct routine inspections on registered open feedlots during 2001 and not to fine producers for minor water quality violations, provided they are working to comply with the regulations.

Producers with registered open feedlots also can expect the EPA to bypass them during 2001. Any inspections done by the EPA will focus on unregistered, unpermitted open feedlots. EPA inspections could result in substantial penalties for producers who are required to have permits but do not have them.

Permits are issued through the DNR and are required for open feedlots with more than 1,000 animal units (1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cattle, or 2,500 swine). Depending on their location, smaller operations with more than 300 animal units (for example, 300 beef cattle or 200 dairy cows) also may need a permit.

Cows standing on dirt mound - Photo by Angie Rieck-Hinz, ISUThe voluntary registration with the DNR will start the permit process. After registration, there will be an in-house assessment by using existing geographic information systems (GIS) soils and topography maps to assign a high, medium, or low environmental priority to each feedlot. Then DNR field staff will go on-site to work with producers, to determine whether the in-house assessment is accurate and decide whether anything needs to be done to reach compliance. The goal is to have all open feedlots in compliance within 5 years. Higher priority lots will be the first to receive visits and will be asked to have a compliance schedule within 2 years. Lots with 300 or less animal units will not be prioritized or assessed by the DNR.

Current state and federal laws require all open feedlots to settle out solids and for all manure to be land applied in a way that will not cause surface or groundwater pollution. Additional controls are required of feedlots that need a permit.

More information and registration forms can be found on the Iowa Manure Management Action Group’s (IMMAG) Web site, located at http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/immag/ and the DNR Web site at http://www.state.ia.us/dnr/organiza/epd/

In addition to the ICA and the DNR, the following groups contributed to the Iowa Plan for Open Feedlots: Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Beef Center, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Agriculture, Conservation Districts of Iowa, Iowa Environmental Council, Izaak Walton League, and Iowa Dairy Products Association.

For more information, contact Wayne Gieselman, DNR Animal Feeding Operations Coordinator, at 515-281-5817; Barb Lynch, DNR Field Office 3 Supervisor, at 712-262-4177; Carol Balvanz, Vice President of Public Policy, ICA, at 515-296-2266; Dave Petty, Past President, ICA, at 641-486-2220; or John Lawrence, Director, IowaBeefCenter, at 515-294-6290.

Number of Registered Lots as of June 19, 2001.




Total number of registered lots



     More than 1,000 animal units



     More than 300 and up to 1,000 animal units



     300 or less animal units



Location of Registered Lots as of June 19, 2001.




Northeast Iowa



North central Iowa



Northwest Iowa



Southwest Iowa



South central Iowa



Southeast Iowa






*Three registration forms did not have a county location.

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Iowa Manure Matters: Odor and Nutrient Management is published by Iowa State University Extension, with funding support from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service through Cooperative Agreement No. 74-6114-8-22. To subscribe or change the address of a current subscription, write to Angela Rieck-Hinz, 2104 Agronomy Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 50011-1010 or call 515-294-9590, fax 515-294-9985 or email: amrieck@iastate.edu. Please indicate you are inquiring about the Odor and Nutrient Management Newsletter. The newsletter's coordinators are Angela Rieck-Hinz, extension program specialist, Department of Agronomy, Wendy Powers, environmental extension specialist, Department of Animal Science, and Robert Burns, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering; the editor is Jean McGuire, the subscription manager is Rachel Klein, the production designer is Beth Kroeschell, and the web page designer is Liisa Jarvinen.

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