As a pork producer, you can do everything “right,” but if you have the “wrong” neighbor, it may not be enough, says Eldon McAfee, attorney with Brick Gentry P.C. in West Des Moines, Iowa.
“But at least you’ve tried,” he adds. “You will be rewarded somewhere along the line.”
From odor to flies, agricultural nuisance lawsuits in Iowa are hovering around the same level they have for the past five years. As McAfee says, on behalf of pork producers, one lawsuit is still too many.
If you’ve ever been through a lawsuit, regardless of whether you won or lost, McAfee says they are always a strain on everyone involved.
At the Iowa Pork Congress on Wednesday, McAfee offered seven tips that may help you avoid a nuisance lawsuit:
1. Consider location carefully when adding new buildings.
The further away you can be from neighbors, generally the better off you will be. First, you must meet state law requirements for separation distance. Because producers often want to locate buildings close to where manure will be applied, this means producers must also pay close attention to the location of neighbors’ residences. Consider prevailing winds and topography. McAfee says when possible, avoid a close neighbor to the north due to the prevailing southerly winds in warm weather months.
2. Use trees as buffers.
Take advantage of existing trees or plant fast-growing trees to help create wind blocks. The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers has a tree planting program, the Green Farmstead Partner program, McAfee adds.
3. Pay attention to ventilation management.
Producers often think about good ventilation as a way to keep pigs comfortable. But we sell ourselves short, McAfee says, when we forget that it’s also an important way to prevent odor. When ventilation isn’t right, pigs want to lay in manure. This often means more manure goes on the pig and less in the pit. Also consider whether tools that may help reduce dust and odor from ventilation fans, such as biofilters, electrostatic fences, and air dams, are necessary and reasonable for your operation.
4. Manage manure.
Management of manure storage and application is very important. Finishing barns with manure storage under the building are a big plus as far as odor control, he adds. Products added to the manure storage can help reduce odor and provide other benefits. In Iowa, producers primarily use injection or incorporation of the manure, McAfee says. That’s a big plus when it comes to minimizing odor during manure application, as well as avoiding excessive nutrient loss. Also, finishing barns with manure storage under the building are a big plus as far as odor control, he adds.
5. Keep it clean.
Simply put, appearance matters. From clean buildings and lots to clean pigs, less manure means less odor.
6. Manage mortalities.
How farmers handle mortalities can be a major sticking point with most neighbors. When representing producers in nuisance lawsuits, McAfee says dead hogs (and photos of these dead hogs) are not pleasant for anyone involved. No one likes having a dead hog on their hands. However, if the carcass is properly handled, such as through rendering or composting, the resulting odor is minimal and the process can take an economic loss and turn it into a usable product, he adds.
7. Work with your neighbors.
Overall operational environmental management, including neighbor awareness, communication and relations makes a big difference. Pursue good communication with your neighbors. Don’t ignore neighbors who aren’t happy with your operation. Keep those lines of communication open, McAfee says. For example, when you apply manure, try to let everyone know.