On-Farm Fertilizer Storage Considerations

02:42PM Jul 18, 2013
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Consider the following: A fertilizer storage facility in Texas makes national news as several first responders lost their lives. The dangers surrounding fertilizer distribution have loomed large and other accidents including mishaps at Donaldsonville and Giesmar only fueled the flames. Add to that, an Environmental Protection Agency hot on the trail of nutrient reduction requirements for N&P runoff from farms and you have a recipe for stringent fertilizer regulations to come.

Fortunately, the government is short on funds for this kind of thing as it is, and regulators are not likely to come knocking on farmhouse doors and checking under tarps in the near future...but the day may come. At that time, on-farm storage of fertilizer will be a target. If the idea of storing nutrient on your farm appeals to you, you might consider making progress on that project so you can be 'grandfathered in' before regulation runs away with the idea.

I spoke to a grower in Des Moines last week who was considering adding fertilizer storage to his farm as a way to hedge inputs costs. I like the idea a lot, but to truly maximize the benefit, it is wise to first take a look at rules and regs that are in place for your state. I have spoken with an inspector at the Iowa Feed and Fertilizer Bureau, and he made it clear that there are some rules to follow to keep your farm safe, and to protect the environment.

Each state regulates on-farm fertilizer storage differently and I have provided links below the story to information for each of the twelve states yourMonitor covers. There are no rules or regulations dealing with storing bulk fertilizer in Missouri or North Dakota. However, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture is developing rules relating to liquid fertilizer storage both on and off the farm.

Dry Fertilizer -- The first thing you are going to need is an enclosed shelter for dry material. In addition, the state of Iowa requires that loading and unloading of dry fertilizer take place entirely on an impermeable surface, inside the building. The exception here is fertilizer being directly loaded onto applicators in the field on which the substance is to be applied. In cases where fertilizer cannot be loaded and unloaded inside the storage shed, an approved load pad which meets the specifications of Iowa law is required.

Do not skimp on storage here. If the roof or walls leak, you will do yourself more harm than good and the ensuing runoff can find its way into watersheds. Iowa State University Extension offers some dandy plans for a 40'x48" stud frame dry fertilizer storage building for just $3.00 (click here).

Liquid Fertilizer -- Iowa law gets a little stickier here, but does still allow for on-farm storage of liquid product. Volumes greater than 5,000 gallons require secondary containment, and loading/unloading pads for facilities using secondary containment systems. Kansas has the same requirement but for only 2,000 gallons. Secondary containment pads must have plans drawn up by a registered engineer and must be in compliance with state codes and on file with the state.

Do not park an anhydrous tank in your grove and call it storage. Stunts like that can land you with huge fines and possibly jail time, not to mention the riff-raff anhydrous tanks can attract these days. The better you educate yourself on the front end of this project, the better insulated you will be against trouble down the road.

On-farm fertilizer storage can help you take advantage of price declines, and loosen gridlock at your supplier during application seasons. There are ways to go about it, and a host of potential hazards, but on-farm fertilizer storage can increase your independence and allow you greater flexibility for applications. Click on the name of your state below to find out what rules and regs apply to your operation.

Iowa Illinois Indiana Wisconsin Minnesota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Ohio Michigan