As Earth Day approaches, many organizations and individuals are renewing their focus on reducing their impact on the environment. The agriculture industry is no stranger to pollution, especially in the form of accidents. Incidents involving chemical spills, livestock waste and water runoffs aren’t just bad for the environment, they’re also bad for your bottom line.
Spills and drifts can be devastating to your operation by reducing crop yield and quality. If these events happen outside of your property lines, you can be held liable for damage done to others. That’s why it’s important to know the risks posed by pollution from your operation. The more you’re aware of potential accidents, the more you can prepare for and prevent them.
Livestock are notorious polluters. According to USDA figures, U.S. livestock produced 13 times the waste of the country’s entire human population in 2012. This waste is often repurposed as fertilizer and spread on land. However, when excess fertilizer is applied beyond the ground’s natural absorption rate, overfertilization will occur and waste may run off into nearby water sources. If these contaminated water sources are used by nearby municipalities, homes or operations, you could be responsible for paying for the cleanup.
Avoid overfertilization and nutrient runoff by planting cover and streamside buffer crops and by spreading the appropriate amount of fertilizer on your fields. Washington State University suggests applying no more than 60 tons of manure per acre to any field larger than a garden.
If your operation uses an anaerobic lagoon to store and treat liquid waste, make sure you are properly managing it. Lagoon overflows, leaks and spills can be ruinous, causing contents to leach into the soil and groundwater. Check lagoons regularly for minor damage that may lead to major structural problems, and keep records of all design information and regular data collection. During emergencies, these records are crucial when troubleshooting problems.
Agri-chemicals, fertilizers and petroleum products are essential to maintaining your fields and increasing yield. But while they are good for your crops, they can cause immense damage in the event of a spill.
If a pesticide spill occurs, remember the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship’s three C’s: control, contain and clean up. Control the spill by stopping it immediately, putting on the correct protective equipment and isolating the spill to prevent others from entering the area. Contain the spill by preventing it from spreading further. Finally, use smart and safe cleanup techniques. Always prevent pesticides from entering any body of water, and wash all parts of your body that were exposed. Additionally, keep the product emergency phone numbers for all chemicals that you use and local emergency numbers programmed into your phone or displayed clearly where you store products.
Accidents happen, even to the most prepared. For extra protection against pollution, consider a James Allen Insurance farm pollution liability policy.