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Commissioners Report: OFFSET to help establish setback distances for odor control

Fri, Aug 15th, 2003
Posted in Features

"This tool is site specific. It will measure setbacks from feedlots to city limits, stated Feedlot Officer Michael Frauenkron as he briefed county commissioners on Tuesday on new technology used to measure odor and determine setback limits. OFFSET: Odor from Feedlots Setback Estimation Tool was developed by the Department of Bio-systems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

The tool works on the principle of establishing how far odor will travel based on the species of animal, type of manure containment management used, typical atmospheric conditions, and the size of the feedlot. Actual highly sensitive human "sniffers" were used to help establish part of the formula used in the programs design.

The program includes configurations for loose housing as in the dairy industry, stall barns, freestalls, and parlor setups. Pork producers can use formulas for farrowing, nurseries, and finishing barns, and the type of manure containment used whether its shallow, deep, or lagoon-type systems. If an industry is utilizing a lagoon, the program asks for the type of coverage over the lagoon such as straw and its thickness. Turkey farms can also be evaluated on this program. If any odor filtering systems are being used the tool will factor this into the equation as well to establish a setback.

New language in the countys feedlot ordinance draft states "new feedlots or new construction on existing feedlots shall meet a 99% odor annoyance free rating at the closest city limits line and a 94% odor annoyance free rating for residential zoning districts, public parks, churches, public schools or dwellings that are not designated as accessory to the feedlot . . ."

Frauenkron said the states rules have changed and its important to be very consistent with setback formulas. The countys current language in many cases calls for a 1,000 foot setback. Frauenkron explained that with the OFFSET, this distance could be cut back to 660 feet in many cases because the range would meet the 94% or 99% odor free requirement.

For example, Frauenkron said that many retired farmers look at the selling of their land as a way to generate retirement funds. This tool would provide more defined required setback distances and open up the possibility of additional land being sold for building purposes. According to Frauenkron, there are only two other counties that are using the OFFSET and both have showed good results. He said it would be a feather in the countys cap to make use of such technology.

The feedlot officer made special note that there are no biofilter systems currently being used in the county. An on-the-farm demonstration is currently being worked on. The system can be hired done or a farmer can construct the filter themselves. The key to how well the system works is based on adequately maintained moisture levels in the materials used to "catch" the odors.

The commissioners choose to hold off making any final decisions until more details can be given. The draft ordinance also requires some language clarification.

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