Professional Development for Agricultural Service Providers in Pollution Discharge Elimination System

Final Report for ENE12-126

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $26,699.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights, Ph.D.
West Virginia University
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Project Information

Summary:

Recent regulations give West Virginia (WV) Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the framework to issue a WV/NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permit to animal feeding operations (AFOs) with the potential to discharge contaminants into water-ways. These regulations regarding designated concentrated AFOs (CAFOs) are poorly understood by WV producers and Agriculture Service Providers (ASPs). Producer concerns over cost and paper-work involved if their operation is designated a CAFO, and potential liability associated with non-compliance have been identified as risk factors that can influence producers’ decision to exit the industry. ASPs are frequently asked about the legislation and management strategies that can be used to ensure compliance/avoid being designated a CAFO. Yet, over 75 % of 41 WV ASPs surveyed indicated they lacked sufficient knowledge and were unsure how to sift through the regulatory jargon to effectively assist producers. This project engaged WV ASPs in an educational program about the regulations regarding NPDES and best management practices (BMPs) of conservation standards, to assist livestock operators to comply with or preempt WVPDES permit requirements and enforcement.

Our project-team conducted 5 day-long ‘Train-the-Trainer’ workshops/field tours for 140 WV ASPs (double the 70 planned training slots). The project drew multi-agency participation; WVUES, NRCS, WVCA, FSA and WVDA. The workshops focused on regulations regarding NPDES and BMPs that owners of small and pastoral livestock operation can voluntarily undertake to reduce nonpoint source pollution and simultaneously improve the efficiency and productivity of their operation; and the use of a record-keeping workbook for regulatory documentation and improved decision-making. Each ASP received educational resources (session agenda, promotional materials, power-point presentations, factsheets, comprehensive BMPs and record-keeping handbook, other supplementary resources, and verification surveys) to use in their producer outreach activities. Pre- and post- workshop evaluation comparisons (140 responses) showed all ASP became more qualified and confident in the new CAFO rules and the management strategies to meet baseline conservation and regulatory standards.

All 69 participants returning the post-project verification survey had incorporated the project materials into outreach programs that reached 1,018 small livestock producers who manage more than 43,000 acres. Thirty-six ASPs formed multi-agency partnerships to conduct 9 multi-county ‘Train-the-Producer’ workshops/field tours for 389 producers using the recommended project curriculum. The 69 ASPs advised an additional 629 producers, providing the following advice: 63 (92% of the 69 ASPs) helped producers understand the CAFO final rule; 67 (97%) discussed best-fit BMPS; 45 (65%) discussed the importance of conservation planning; 50 (73%) discussed nutrient management planning; (52) 76% discussed the cost of implementing BMP and cost-share programs; and 70 (93%) discussed a suitable record-keeping system to enhance farm performance.

Post-training producer surveys administered by the 9 multi-agency teams showed 97% of 389 workshop participants intended to implement at least one recommended BMPs to build more sustainable livestock operations. ASPs tracked the progress of 72 producers over 12 months; 100% of these producers initiated or improved farm one or more of the following practices recommended through the project’s outreach: nutrient management (58 farmers); conservation plan (65); buffers/set-backs (38); stream-crossing (53); winter-feeding areas (62); composting (14); prescribed grazing areas (43); fencing (62); rotational grazing (71); cover crops (29); and record-keeping and analysis (50).

Performance Target:

The primary beneficiaries were identified as 75 ASPs who work with small and pastoral livestock operations in WV. Our goal was to build a multi-disciplinary partnership of WV ASPs who can share insights and knowledge as we move to help our producers reduce NPS pollution concerns and sustain water quality.

Project Performance Target:
14 of the 70 ASPs who receive training will conduct an educational program for 20 producers each (280 total) about BMPs and related record-keeping that livestock operations can voluntarily undertake to reduce NPSP. Seventy of these 280 producers implement at least one of the recommended BMPs and complete the relevant records provided to them by the project team.

Introduction:

In an attempt to minimize pollution of the environment livestock producers are being subjected to an increasing amount of regulations regarding the handling of animal waste and other potential contaminants. The regulations and the requirement to obtain permits for various classes of operations, though well intended, can be costly and exhaustive and are generally misunderstood by both producers and ASPs. Moreover, concerns about potential liability associated with non-compliance have been identified as a major risk factor and might influence the WV livestock producers’ decision to exit the industry.

Agricultural service providers receive numerous requests about strategies to avoid potential nonpoint source pollution (NPSP) but generally feel ill-equipped to handle such requests. Pre-project needs assessments indicated that generally, ASPs lacked sufficient knowledge on the new CAFO rule and associated regulations to effectively assist producers in determining if their operation falls outside of the standard for CAFO designation; were unsure if the small and pasture-based livestock operations they serve can be exempted from the permitting process; and were unsure how to sift through the regulatory jargon to make this determination. ASPs indicated they require training about NPS pollution management to better assist livestock operators to maintain environmental stewardship before they are faced with possible WVPDES permit requirements and enforcement.

This project was developed to alleviate this knowledge gap by engaging WV ASPs and farmer leaders in a program of education focusing on the rules and regulation regarding National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and best management practices (BMPs) of conservation standards that owners of small and pastoral livestock operation can voluntarily undertake to reduce nonpoint source pollution (NPSP) while maintaining viable farming operations. Through a combination of workshops, on-farm tours and provision of a training resource kit, ASPs developed knowledge and skills in the CAFO rules, BMPs, development of nutrient management plans, alternative management systems to reduce NPS , and relevant record keeping, to become confident and capable of training, monitoring and advising producers on the regulations and recommendations related to CAFOs and NPDES.

The project added to ongoing efforts of building a unique partnership of WV agricultural agencies that educate ASP and farmer leaders on approaches to reduce NPS pollution while maintaining profitable operations.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Tom Basden
  • Dr. Joshua Faulkner
  • Dr. Marlon Knights
  • Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The ‘train-the-trainer’ education program was a standardized workshop and field tour, replicated in five locations in WV (field tours varied by location). Individual farm visits, visits to ASPs training events, tracking farmers’ progress, and a focus group session were also part of the education program. Field tours were also used to initiate an educational or non-regulatory mock-inspection, as part of the overall education program, designed to provide practical insights into areas that need improvement prior to a visit from regulators.

The five workshops and field tours and the follow-up farmer consultation were offered in collaboration with NRCS, FSA, WVDA and WVCA. Our goal was to increase participants’ understanding of recommendations for small and pastoral livestock operations to meet baseline conservation and regulatory standards while maintaining viable operations. We operated at the regional (multi-county) levels to develop and present these educational events and materials for a targeted audience of ASP and farmer-leaders. Each ‘train-the-trainer’ workshop covered the following modules:

  1. Understanding the CAFO Final Rule and how it applies to your clientele – ASP and farmers leaders learned about the new CAFO regulations and how the rule applies to their clientele;
  2. Top 10 Best Management Practices (BMPs) – Participants learned about the variety of BMPs recommended to meet baseline conservation and regulatory standards in reducing NPSP, and recommendations on how to choose the best-fit BMPs given a specific farm condition;
  3. Conservation Planning Process – Participants learned about the importance of conservation planning and the how-to’s of developing a basic conservation plan to reduce NPSP.
  4. Nutrient Management 101 – Participants learned the importance of having a nutrient management plan and the how-to’s of implementing a basic nutrient plan. Since winter feeding areas is a major issue for WV livestock producers, the following were covered in more detail:

    1. Winter feeding areas assessment (and identification of alternatives)
    2. Innovative ways to winter-feed (wood chip areas, etc.)

  5. Alternative Production and Management Systems for Improving Environmental Stewardship – Participants learned of alternative production and management strategies including nutritional management that may reduce NPSP and overall environmental impacts.
  6. Keeping and Using Appropriate Records– Participants learned how to keep appropriate and timely records to document their progress towards implementing BMPs, and how to use these records to manage NPS pollution while maintaining profitable and viable operations.
  7. Cost of Implementing BMP and Cost-Share Programs – Participants will also learn about the cost associated with implementing a specific BMP, and about the financial and technical assistance available to help them implement BMPs on their farms.
  8. Field Tours – Participants will get a first-hand view of BMPs in practice and participate in a ‘mock’ inspection.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

 Performance target outcome data and discussion

Our multi-agency and multi-disciplinary project team conducted 5 day-long ‘Train-the-Trainer’ workshops (4-hour workshop session and 2-hour field-tour) for 140 WV Agricultural Service Providers – ASPs (a record over our original 70 planned training slots). The project drew multi-agency participation; WVUES (31%), NRCS (57%), WVCA (7%), FSA (2%) and WVDA (3%). The educational program focused on the regulations regarding NPDES and the BMPs that owners of small and pastoral livestock operation can voluntarily undertake to reduce nonpoint source pollution and simultaneously improve the efficiency and productivity of their operation. Each ASP received educational resources (session agenda, promotional materials, power-point presentations, factsheets, comprehensive BMPs and record-keeping handbook, other supplementary resources, and verification surveys) to use in their producer outreach activities.

Pre- and post- workshop evaluation comparisons (140 responses) showed all ASP became qualified and confident in the new CAFO rules and the management strategies to meet baseline conservation and regulatory standards, BMPs, development of nutrient management plans, alternative management systems to reduce NPS pollution and record keeping. All (100%) of ASP reported feeling more capable of training, monitoring and advising producers on the issues discussed related to CAFOs and NPDES, and agreed to host or participate in a subsequent ‘train-the-producer’ workshop.

ASPs were surveyed at the end of the project to measure the success of the project, training workshops and curriculum materials. All 69 participants who returned the post-project verification survey had incorporated the knowledge acquired during the workshop/field tours into outreach programs that reached 1,018 small and pastoral livestock producers who manage more than 43,000 acres. Thirty-six (of 14 planned) ASPs, formed multi-agency partnerships to conduct 9 multi-county ‘Train-the-Producer’ workshops/field tours for 389 producers using the recommended project curriculum. ASPs advised an additional 629 producers, either through direct consultation or by incorporating ideas/information into existing programming; 92% of 69 ASPs helped producers understand the CAFO final rule and how it applied to them; 97% discussed best-fit BMPS to meet baseline conservation and regulatory standards in reducing NPSP; 65% discussed the importance of conservation planning and the how-to’s of developing a basic conservation plan to reduce NPSP; 73% discussed nutrient management planning, winter feeding assessment and improvements, and alternative production and management systems for improving environmental stewardship; 76% discussed the cost of implementing BMP and cost-share programs; and 93% discussed a suitable record keeping system to enhance farm performance and compliance.

Post-training producer surveys indicated that 97% of workshop/field tour participants intended to implement at least one of the recommended BMPs to reduce NPSP and enhance water quality, and build more sustainable and environmentally sound livestock operations. ASP tracked the progress of 72 producers over 12 month; all of these producers had either initiated or improved farm practices based on recommendations from the project’s outreach – nutrient management (80% of producers); conservation plan (87%); buffers/set-backs (53%); stream-crossing (73%); winter-feeding areas (86%); composting (20%); prescribed grazing areas (60%); fencing (86%); rotational grazing (73%); cover crops (40%); and record-keeping and analysis (67%).

Overall, as a result of this project, partnerships between the participating agencies have been significantly strengthened, and the teams formed during this project continue to deliver multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, programming in related areas to producers. The project team has leveraged the efforts and outcomes from this project to secure a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant to further education about sustainable production and environmental stewardship. Additionally, NRCS has reported an increase in cost-share enquiries and applications from project participants for their programs, including Agricultural Management Assistance – AMA, Conservation Stewardship Program – CSP, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program – EQIP.  

 
Beneficiary outcome story

This project has given me the knowledge, resources and confidence to be able to encourage producers to implement BMP and record keeping recommendations, and to work with my colleagues from other agencies to help producers design and plan conservation practices. I have been able to incorporate this training materials into a lot of my other programming, to help bring home the concept of holistic farm planning. I have always felt that producers were reluctant to engage in these type of activities, but in working with them, I think once they understand the overall benefits, and that it benefits their farm as much as the environment, they are willing.” Post-Project ASP Survey Respondent.

I was glad to see that other people have done this and have benefitted from these practices, and are willing to help other farmers improve their farms.” Post-Training Producer Survey Respondent.

I was never one to bother with this CAFO/AFO stuff, until the NRCS officer helped me understand how my actions affected everyone else. It might take some work on my part, but it help my farm in the long run and it helps my community. And they help you get it done. I am sold.” Farm Tour Host, Jackson County, WV.

 
Additional outcomes discussion

Overall, as a result of this project, partnerships between the participating agencies have been significantly strengthened, and the teams formed during this project continue to deliver multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, programming in related areas to producers. The project team has leveraged the partnership efforts and outcomes from this project to secure a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant to further education about sustainable production and environmental stewardship (“Improving Soil Health and Nutrient Cycling with Cover Crops for Beginning Seasonal High Tunnel Specialty Crop Producers” – 2013-2015 Conservation Innovation Grant Funding Received = $82,911). Additionally, NRCS has reported an increase in cost-share enquiries and applications from project participants for their programs, including Agricultural Management Assistance – AMA, Conservation Stewardship Program – CSP, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program – EQIP.  In addition, one agent has developed an additional ‘Aboveground Storage Tank BMPs’ to address issues of registration and management of above ground storage tanks recently released by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Individual Milestone Accomplishments

Milestone 1: Seventy ASPs who work with livestock producers in WV receive notifications to participate in the program on best management strategies related to the new CAFO rule and complete an online survey about their current level of knowledge and learning needs.

  1. Project team develop pre-project ASP Online Survey on best management strategies related to the new CAFO rule to assess their current level of knowledge, skills and general attitude toward the new CAFO rule; related BMPs and associated record-keeping; and identify other learning needs consistent with participants’ local needs.
  2. ASP Online Survey and ‘Save-the-Date’ letter disseminated through leadership of our key partnership agencies (WVUES, NRCS, WVDA, FSA, WVCA, and WVU Teaching and Research Faculty and Graduate Students).
  3. ASP Online Survey had 74 responses. Project team met and refine the proposed curriculum design, session topics and associated methodologies/teaching strategies to reflect the preferences of the intended audience as identified from survey responses. Project team will meet and decide on the following items: Finalize project curriculum and module design to ensure a consistent model for each training session; Assemble and/or access all training tools (literature, templates, videos, case studies); Develop all evaluation tools (pre-evaluation surveys, end-of-session evaluations, post-evaluation surveys); Select and recruit subject-matter specialist and local instructor support; Finalize locations and dates for training and farm tour, and select site-coordinators; and Discuss promotional efforts for ASP and producer training sessions.
  4. Project Team commence development of comprehensive handbook titled “Record Keeping Systems for Small and Medium Livestock Farms with Associated ‘Top Ten’ Best Management Practices” to be used as the primary resource materials for best management practices and record-keeping information.
  5. Project team design project web-page, with assistance from the WVU Extension Service Technology Specialist, and selects a web-coordinator who will provide information to the Technology Specialist to populate the web-site as the project progresses.
  6. Project initiate registration for ASP training workshops.

 Milestone 2: Seventy ASPs attend 1 workshop and field tour and learn about recommended BMPs and related recordkeeping associated with the new CAFO rule. Five identical workshops conducted throughout the state. The ASPs would be divided into 14 groups representing each of the WVCA’s 14 conservation districts. Each of these 14 districts will have a designated ‘AFO-trained’ ASP, who will conduct a multi-county farmers’ training program.

  1. One hundred and forty (140) ASPs attend one 5 day-long ‘Train-the-Trainer’ workshops (4-hour workshop session and 2-hour field-tour) workshop and farm tour and covered topics including Project Overview and Attendees’ Role in Project, Conservation Planning Process, Nutrient Management 101, Cost of Implementing BMPs and Cost-Share Programs, Understanding the CAFO Final Rule and How it Applies to your Clientele, Feed and Animal Management to Minimize Nutrient Waste, and Simple Record-Keeping System for Small and Medium-Sized AFOs. The project drew multi-agency participation; WVUES (31%), NRCS (57%), WVCA (7%), FSA (2%) and WVDA (3%).
  2. The Farm Tours were held at demonstration farms, including farms having previously participated in NRCS’s EQIP program and two farms that were designated ‘WV Conservation farm of the Year’. That way, participants could see the use of BMPs in practice.
  3. A Post-Training ASP Evaluation was distributed post-training to evaluate overall effectiveness of ASP training, get feedback for improving curriculum for producer training workshop curriculum, and recruit ASPs to conduct producer trainings. Pre- and post- workshop evaluation comparisons (140 responses) showed all ASP became more qualified and confident in the new CAFO rules and the management strategies to meet baseline conservation and regulatory standards. Seventy-three percent of respondents were willing to assist with producer training workshops and 61% were willing to track producers’ progress in implementing BMPs over 12 month post-training.
  4. ASP generally agreed with the overall content of the curriculum so no major changes were made.

 Milestone 3: Seventy ASPs receive a comprehensive training resources kit including curriculum materials, presentations, record-keeping materials, and verification surveys to use in their own education programs.

  1. Each ASP received a flash-drive of educational resources (session agenda, promotional materials, power-point presentations, factsheets, comprehensive BMPs and record-keeping handbook, other supplementary resources, and verification surveys) to use in their producer outreach activities. The project team was available to attend and assist with development of producer training workshops.
  2. The overall project was presented at the WV County Agents State Conference, May 2013, and WVU Extension Professional Development Days, October 2013, and flash drives were disseminated to those unable to attend the ASP trainings.

 Milestone 4: Fourteen ASPs develop and conduct an education program so producers can learn about the basic BMPs producers can voluntarily undertake to reduce NPSP, and the related record-keeping forms necessary to provide evidence of actions to regulatory agencies.

  1. Thirty-six ASPs, formed multi-agency partnerships to conduct 9 multi-county ‘Train-the-Producer’ workshop/field tour for 389 producers using the recommended project curriculum. At least one member of the project team attended each of these trainings to help support ASPs.
  2. Brief (1-hour) Farm Tours were included in the activity, and held at producer farms. These were not ‘model’ farms, but most producers have had some BMPs initiated or had previously participated in some farm improvement cost-share program. We were pleasantly surprised to see the willingness of producers to open up their farms to participants and be willing to accept comments and recommendations for farm improvements.  
  3. Post-training producer survey showed 97% of 389 workshop/field-tour participants intended to implement at least one of the recommended BMPs to reduce NPSP and enhance water quality, and build more sustainable livestock operations.

 Milestone 5: ASPs identify 5 producers from each district (70 producers) to implement at least one of the recommended BMPs and complete the relevant project-specific records provided by the project team. ASPs work individually with and track the progress of the producers over a 14-month period – educational team receives requests for and assists with one-on-one farmer visits.

  1. ASP tracked the progress of 72 of these producers over 12 month; all of these producers had either initiated or improved farm practices based on recommendations from the project’s outreach. ASP report the following BMPs being adopted and the percent of their producers they believe currently implement these practices: nutrient management (80%); conservation plan (87%); buffers/set-backs (53%); stream-crossing (73%); winter-feeding areas (86%); composting (20%); prescribed grazing areas (60%); fencing (86%); rotational grazing (73%); cover crops (40%); and record-keeping and analysis (67%).
  2. ASP reported that they regularly discuss BMPs and environmental stewardship with producers, and feel more confident doing it as a result of the participating in the project.

Milestone 6 and Milestone 7: Fourteen ASPs respond to verification survey and report on educational programs and BMPs and records kept by producers. Seventy producers and 70 trained ASPs participate in a focus group session at the end of the project to help in the verification of project goals and accomplishments, provide insights to improve the BMP and record-keeping booklet, and help build a strategy to get this information to other producers in the state. Project team prepares final booklet on recommended BMPs and related record-keeping, and final project report.

  1. All 69 participants who returned the post-project verification survey had incorporated the knowledge acquired during the workshop/field tours into outreach programs that reached 1,018 small and pastoral livestock producers who manage more than 43,000 acres. ASPs reached 389 producers through the 9 multi-county ‘Train-the-Producer’ workshop/field tours. ASPs advised an additional 629 producers; 92% of 69 ASPs helped producers understand the CAFO final rule; 97% discussed best-fit BMPS; 65% discussed the importance of conservation planning; 73% discussed nutrient management planning; 76% discussed the cost of implementing BMP and cost-share programs; and 93% discussed a suitable record keeping system to enhance farm performance and compliance.
  2. Overall, as a result of this project, partnerships between the participating agencies have been significantly strengthened, and the teams formed during this project continue to deliver multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, programming in related areas to producers. Several ASPs consistently reported that they now incorporate this material into a ‘holistic farm management’ framework to help producers see the ‘big picture’ in managing their operations.
  3. The project team has leveraged the partnership efforts and outcomes from this project to secure a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant to further education about sustainable production and environmental stewardship (“Improving Soil Health and Nutrient Cycling with Cover Crops for Beginning Seasonal High Tunnel Specialty Crop Producers” – 2013-2015 Conservation Innovation Grant Funding Received = $82,911). Additionally, NRCS has reported an increase in cost-share enquiries and applications from project participants for their programs, including Agricultural Management Assistance – AMA, Conservation Stewardship Program – CSP, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program – EQIP. In addition, one agent have developed an additional ‘Aboveground Storage Tank BMPs’ to address issues of registration and management of above ground storage tanks recently released by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

 

 Assessment of Project Approach and Implementation:

The project exceeded expectations in many ways:

  1. Although we expected most Extension Professionals to participate, we were pleasantly surprised by the extent of participation from NRCS and the WVCA. NRCS required their staff to attend these ASPs training as ‘continuing education’. Because of this great partnership, we now have a critical mass of teams of educators that have been created to assist producers in best practices of conservation standards on their small and pastoral livestock operations.
  2. The project curriculum and resource materials have been widely circulated and have been incorporated in many ASPs outreach programs.
  3. The use of BMPs and related record-keeping have improved, which will likely lead to improvements in farm viability and sustainability over the long-term.
  4. Long term partnerships have been created, and our local teams of trained ASPs continue to work together to deliver this and other related trainings.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.