Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Manure Spreading on Frozen Ground Banned

— After years of using legal strategies to limit the practice of spreading manure on frozen ground, a campaign to change the law resulted in a ban that protects surface and groundwater.

Case Summary

Manure can be a natural and environmentally beneficial source of fertilizer for growing crops when the manure is applied under the right conditions. However, how and when that manure is spread can directly affect the quality of our streams and lakes, even our groundwater.

Spreading liquid manure on frozen or snow-covered ground can increase the risk that the manure will run off the field where it has been spread. Liquid and solid manure that has been applied on snow-covered ground may run off the field during spring snow-melts. One example of such an instance is the Treml’s case.

Midwest Environmental Advocates used the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (prohibiting “open dumps”) and the Clean Water Act to hold livestock factories accountable for spreading manure on frozen ground and allowing it to spill into public waters. After several cases using this strategy, it became clear that the best way to solve the problem was to get the law changed. Midwest Environmental Advocates and lots of very active citizens came together to ask that the rules be changed to ban the spreading of manure on frozen ground. It made sense, environmentally and economically, to apply manure when it is more likely to stay on the field, not when the ground is frozen and snow-covered and when the risk of runoff is highest.

Due to these efforts, in 2006 the Natural Resources Board unanimously approved changes to Chapter NR 243, the rule that sets the standards and management practices for Animal Feeding Operations, banning the spreading of manure on frozen and snow-covered ground.