Agricultural Wastes (Agriculture Issues and Policies Series)

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Agriculture Waste Management for Sustainable Agriculture

Farmer must follow label requirements and county bulletin requirements if available to ensure protection of endangered species. Even wastes that exhibit one or more of the characteristics of a hazardous waste are exempt from regulation when the farmer triple rinses each emptied pesticide container and disposes of the rinsate on his own farm in compliance with the disposal instructions on the label. Irrigation return flows are not solid wastes. Farmers can dispose of non-hazardous waste e.

Federal permit generally not required, but farms must directly meet regulatory requirements for pollutant limits, management practices, operational standards, reporting and other requirements. Farms providing for human consumption e. The engine must comply with this regulation if it is located at a facility whose emissions are at least 10tpy of one HAP or 25tpy of total HAP and if the engine itself is at least HP.

Farm that stores, transfers, uses, or consumes oil or oil products, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, adjuvant oil, crop oil, vegetable oil, or animal fat; and stores more than 2, U. Prepare and implement an SPCC Plan plan may need to be certified by a professional engineer or farmer may be able to self-certify, see link for more information.

Farm and residential USTs and their associated underground piping holding less than 1, gallons of motor fuel for non-commercial purposes, tanks holding less than gallons, tanks holding heating oil used on the premises, septic tanks, and other listed tanks are excluded from regulations.

Agricultural Wastes (Agriculture Issues and Policies Series)

Underground storage tanks that are not excluded must meet regulations related to design, construction, installation, notification, monitoring, operating, release detection, reporting to State or Federal regulatory agencies, owner record keeping, corrective action, closure and financial responsibility. Farmers who generate an average of 25 gallons or less per month of used oil from vehicles or machinery used on the farm in a calendar year are exempt from used oil regulations.

Farmers exceeding 25 gallons are required to store the used oil in tanks meeting underground or above ground technical requirements and use transporters with EPA authorization numbers for removal from the farm. Renovations of buildings which contain a certain threshold amount of friable asbestos, and during demolitions of all structures, installations, and facilities except apartment buildings that have no more than four dwelling units.

Accordingly, it specifies work practices to be followed during renovations of buildings. Home renovation, repairs, or painting that disturb lead-based paint. EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule RRP Rule requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before have their firm certified by EPA or an EPA authorized state , use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.

Discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U. Submit injection well inventory information; must not endanger underground sources of drinking water. Tile drainage can remove the water and salts, but the disposal of the salts and other contaminants may negatively affect the environment depending upon where they are deposited. In the long-term, some farmland may need to be removed from production or converted to other uses.

Other uses include conversion of row crop land to production of drought-tolerant forages, the restoration of wildlife habitat or the use of agroforestry to minimize the impacts of salinity and high water tables. Another way in which agriculture affects water resources is through the destruction of riparian habitats within watersheds. The conversion of wild habitat to agricultural land reduces fish and wildlife through erosion and sedimentation, the effects of pesticides, removal of riparian plants, and the diversion of water.

The plant diversity in and around both riparian and agricultural areas should be maintained in order to support a diversity of wildlife. This diversity will enhance natural ecosystems and could aid in agricultural pest management. Modern agriculture is heavily dependent on non-renewable energy sources, especially petroleum. The continued use of these energy sources cannot be sustained indefinitely, yet to abruptly abandon our reliance on them would be economically catastrophic.

However, a sudden cutoff in energy supply would be equally disruptive. In sustainable agricultural systems, there is reduced reliance on non-renewable energy sources and a substitution of renewable sources or labor to the extent that is economically feasible. Many agricultural activities affect air quality. These include smoke from agricultural burning; dust from tillage, traffic and harvest; pesticide drift from spraying; and nitrous oxide emissions from the use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Options to improve air quality include:. Soil erosion continues to be a serious threat to our continued ability to produce adequate food. Numerous practices have been developed to keep soil in place, which include:. Sustainable production practices involve a variety of approaches.

Specific strategies must take into account topography, soil characteristics, climate, pests, local availability of inputs and the individual grower's goals. Despite the site-specific and individual nature of sustainable agriculture, several general principles can be applied to help growers select appropriate management practices:. Selection of species and varieties that are well suited to the site and to conditions on the farm; Diversification of crops including livestock and cultural practices to enhance the biological and economic stability of the farm; Management of the soil to enhance and protect soil quality; Efficient and humane use of inputs; and Consideration of farmers' goals and lifestyle choices.

Preventive strategies, adopted early, can reduce inputs and help establish a sustainable production system. When possible, pest-resistant crops should be selected which are tolerant of existing soil or site conditions. When site selection is an option, factors such as soil type and depth, previous crop history, and location e.

Diversified farms are usually more economically and ecologically resilient. By growing a variety of crops, farmers spread economic risk and are less susceptible to the radical price fluctuations associated with changes in supply and demand. Properly managed, diversity can also buffer a farm in a biological sense.

Also, cover crops can have stabilizing effects on the agroecosystem by holding soil and nutrients in place, conserving soil moisture with mowed or standing dead mulches, and by increasing the water infiltration rate and soil water holding capacity. Using a variety of cover crops is also important in order to protect against the failure of a particular species to grow and to attract and sustain a wide range of beneficial arthropods.

Optimum diversity may be obtained by integrating both crops and livestock in the same farming operation. This was the common practice for centuries until the mids when technology, government policy and economics compelled farms to become more specialized. Mixed crop and livestock operations have several advantages.

First, growing row crops only on more level land and pasture or forages on steeper slopes will reduce soil erosion. Second, pasture and forage crops in rotation enhance soil quality and reduce erosion; livestock manure, in turn, contributes to soil fertility. Third, livestock can buffer the negative impacts of low rainfall periods by consuming crop residue that in "plant only" systems would have been considered crop failures. Finally, feeding and marketing are flexible in animal production systems. This can help cushion farmers against trade and price fluctuations and, in conjunction with cropping operations, make more efficient use of farm labor.

A common philosophy among sustainable agriculture practitioners is that a "healthy" soil is a key component of sustainability; that is, a healthy soil will produce healthy crop plants that have optimum vigor and are less susceptible to pests. While many crops have key pests that attack even the healthiest of plants, proper soil, water and nutrient management can help prevent some pest problems brought on by crop stress or nutrient imbalance.

In sustainable systems, the soil is viewed as a fragile and living medium that must be protected and nurtured to ensure its long-term productivity and stability. Methods to protect and enhance the productivity of the soil include:.

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Laws and Regulations that Apply to Your Agricultural Operation by Farm Activity

Conditions in most California soils warm, irrigated, and tilled do not favor the buildup of organic matter. Regular additions of organic matter or the use of cover crops can increase soil aggregate stability, soil tilth, and diversity of soil microbial life. Many inputs and practices used by conventional farmers are also used in sustainable agriculture. Sustainable farmers, however, maximize reliance on natural, renewable, and on-farm inputs.

Equally important are the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a particular strategy. Converting to sustainable practices does not mean simple input substitution. Frequently, it substitutes enhanced management and scientific knowledge for conventional inputs, especially chemical inputs that harm the environment on farms and in rural communities. The goal is to develop efficient, biological systems which do not need high levels of material inputs.

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Growers frequently ask if synthetic chemicals are appropriate in a sustainable farming system. Sustainable approaches are those that are the least toxic and least energy intensive, and yet maintain productivity and profitability. Preventive strategies and other alternatives should be employed before using chemical inputs from any source. However, there may be situations where the use of synthetic chemicals would be more "sustainable" than a strictly nonchemical approach or an approach using toxic "organic" chemicals. For example, one grape grower switched from tillage to a few applications of a broad spectrum contact herbicide in the vine row.

This approach may use less energy and may compact the soil less than numerous passes with a cultivator or mower. Management decisions should reflect not only environmental and broad social considerations, but also individual goals and lifestyle choices. For example, adoption of some technologies or practices that promise profitability may also require such intensive management that one's lifestyle actually deteriorates.

Management decisions that promote sustainability, nourish the environment, the community and the individual. In the early part of this century, most farms integrated both crop and livestock operations. Indeed, the two were highly complementary both biologically and economically.


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The current picture has changed quite drastically since then. This is the result of a trend toward separation and specialization of crop and animal production systems. Despite this trend, there are still many farmers, particularly in the Midwest and Northeastern U. Even with the growing specialization of livestock and crop producers, many of the principles outlined in the crop production section apply to both groups. The actual management practices will, of course, be quite different. Some of the specific points that livestock producers need to address are listed below.

Including livestock in the farming system increases the complexity of biological and economic relationships. The mobility of the stock, daily feeding, health concerns, breeding operations, seasonal feed and forage sources, and complex marketing are sources of this complexity.

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Therefore, a successful ranch plan should include enterprise calendars of operations, stock flows, forage flows, labor needs, herd production records and land use plans to give the manager control and a means of monitoring progress toward goals. The animal enterprise must be appropriate for the farm or ranch resources.


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  6. Farm capabilities and constraints such as feed and forage sources, landscape, climate and skill of the manager must be considered in selecting which animals to produce. For example, ruminant animals can be raised on a variety of feed sources including range and pasture, cultivated forage, cover crops, shrubs, weeds, and crop residues. There is a wide range of breeds available in each of the major ruminant species, i. Hardier breeds that, in general, have lower growth and milk production potential, are better adapted to less favorable environments with sparse or highly seasonal forage growth.

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