Environmental issues in agriculture are as diverse as the industry itself, and environmental regulation plays a critical role in the day-to-day work of farmers and ranchers. Farm Bureau staff from across the nation came together in Jackson, Miss., May 30-June 2 to discuss this key topic at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Environmental Issues Conference.

Marla Peek, Oklahoma Farm Bureau (OFB) Director of Regulatory Affairs, joined other attendees at the conference, which focused on issues such as water quality, wetlands, CERCLA (Superfund act), the Food Quality Protection Act deadline, energy issues including the 25×25 Coalition and conservation titles as environmental benefits and income sources.

“The conference is designed to allow states to communicate, and speakers from Farm Bureau gave updates on national environmental issues that are of interest to Farm Bureau members,” said Peek.

At the conference, Peek updated the delegation on recent legislation passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives affirming animal manure is not a hazardous waste. Peek’s presentation and similar presentations from four other states and AFBF were followed by roundtable discussions.

A highlight of the annual four-day conference was a daylong field trip to an organic fertilizer plant, a blueberry farm and a poultry farm to learn about innovative and environmentally-friendly methods utilized by these agribusinesses.

John Logan’s poultry farm, Brinson Farms, utilizes a methane digester, which converts waste from his chickens into energy to heat his 10 poultry houses. The fertilizer plant, Agreaux Organics, uses pulverized poultry litter to make pathogen-free, organic fertilizers. The plant pays poultry producers $19 per ton for the raw, delivered litter.

“We’ve talked extensively at the state level about value-added things that farmers can do with chicken manure,” said Peek. “I brought home several ideas that may help Oklahoma poultry producers.”

Peek said the examples provided through the education tours combined with national collaboration during the roundtable discussions were beneficial aspects of the conference.

“You can’t help but get ideas for things to look at for policy development and projects,” she said. “It was a good opportunity to look at how people have put projects together, like the methane digester, and to think about how I can do that in my state.”

Original Article