MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — Most consumers never consider what happens to animal by-products that accumulate as farmers work to deliver safe, affordable food to their tables. But a recent meeting offered a platform for agricultural stakeholders to review efforts and consider future needs.

Larry Oldham, soil nutrient management specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, helped organize the symposium for researchers, regulatory agencies and farmers. University scientists reviewed past research and Extension efforts, shared current results and made plans for future projects. Goals for the research are twofold: discover feasible methods to dispose of animal wastes and protect the environment.

“Researchers and Extension planners need listening sessions such as this one to help us best serve agricultural producers, non-governmental stakeholders and governmental agencies,” Oldham said. “By bringing agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality together with stakeholders such as Farm Bureau and producers themselves, we hope to promote a team approach to waste management.”

Deana Watkins, a poultry producer from Winston County, Miss., said the meeting helped her view agencies such as DEQ as her friend.

“They are going to help producers do what is best for the environment, which is in everyone’s best interests,” Watkins said. “Face-to-face discussions are helpful later when you have questions and everyone can put a face with the name, and it gives a more personal feel to future interactions.”

Watkins currently sells litter produced by her birds to a neighbor who applies it to his cattle pastures. She said the information on past, current and future research is helpful.

“We (poultry producers) need to know what to do with the litter,” Watkins said. “It helps to hear what university experts recommend and the other options that are being considered.”

Tim Chamblee, associate professor of poultry science at MSU, said animal producers need to hear about the nutrient management research that is under way, and researchers need to hear the concerns from those farmers.

“A session like this is the key to focusing our research on the most important issues producers are facing,” Chamblee said. “Their feedback will help guide current and future research to assist in the regulatory process and provide farmers the best options for nutrient management.”

The symposium was funded by a grant Chamblee and Oldham received through the William M. White Special Project Awards. The awards program provides financial support for worthy projects that further the development of agriculture and agribusiness in Mississippi. The late William White was a dairy producer in Oktibbeha County.

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.