Poultry producers are getting help to face the expected challenge of inspections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The LSU AgCenter, along with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, provided information to producers at meetings in Many and Ruston recently.

The meetings were called to brief producers on conservation practices that could reduce and minimize the runoff of poultry wastes, or poultry litter, into water, said LSU AgCenter poultry specialist Theresia Lavergne. Specifically, the EPA is concerned about the nitrogen and phosphorous contained in the waste material.

Carrie Castille, LDAF associate commissioner, said EPA officials met with LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain and her recently and identified a number of concerns about Louisiana poultry operations.

They mentioned that addressing runoff from confined animal feeding operations is a national priority for the EPA, and they want to ensure that poultry producers are implementing best management practices to address nutrient concerns, she said. EPA is regularly testing streams near poultry operations.

“Over the last several months, EPA has and will continue to conduct a number of inspections," Castille said. "Our goal is to work with our partners, ahead of the EPA, to help our producers address these challenges."

One poultry producer at the meeting said EPA showed up at his operation recently without any notice.

Castille encouraged producers to get help from NRCS to develop a nutrient management plan that details how much waste is generated by chicken houses and what is done with that material. If the wastes are spread on a producer’s land, the management plan will require soil samples to determine the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus being deposited on pastures or cropland.

Chris Coreil, of the NRCS, said excess amounts of waste applied to agricultural land could be washed into nearby waterways. Sloped property would result in increased runoff.

The NRCS has cost-sharing programs that can assist producers with conservation measures to reduce runoff, Coreil said.

Litter barns -- shelters where wastes can be stored out of the weather -- help prevent runoff.

The nutrient management plan “shows you are being a good steward,” Coreil said. It requires record keeping to show what is done with waste material.

LSU AgCenter regional livestock specialist Jason Holmes said a planned program would have LSU AgCenter experts conduct a third-party review of an operation to determine what is needed to comply with EPA regulations.

“The AgCenter is not a regulatory agency,” Holmes said. “We are here to help you.”

Holmes also said that good record keeping is a necessity of a good nutritional management program.  If the farm has little complexity, then simply keeping records in a notebook is adequate.

On larger farms with poultry, cattle and timber, the dynamics of the plan substantially increase, making it advantageous for these farm owners to work cooperatively with NRCS to develop a nutritional management program that balances the whole farm.

Certification by the Louisiana Master Farmer Program is one way a producer can comply with regulations, according to LSU AgCenter area agent Donna Morgan.

Getting Master Farmer certification requires enacting a conservation plan tailored for each farm, and completing the program carries the presumption that a farm is complying with environmental requirements, Morgan said. “It means you are doing everything you can do to address those environmental concerns.”

The Louisiana Master Farmer Program will conduct more sessions this year in north Louisiana to get producers certified. “We would like to renew our focus in this part of the state,” Morgan said.