Be Proactive in the Operation

            What should you be doing to better protect your farm business from a potential lawsuit or claim of not following a required permit?  Begin to think proactively, not just in hiring, but create a proactive strategy to demonstrate you are following all applicable laws in your operation.

Develop Detailed Policies, Procedures, and Checklists

            Written policies and procedures for handling regular work are always recommended for a farm operation.  Create checklists to help you and your employees identify what needs to be done to complete work on the farm.  If you have permits for some aspects of your operation, ensure these policies, procedures, and checklists align with the permit.  Once these written policies are developed, make sure you use and follow them. 

            For example, let’s consider you own a poultry business which includes a cropping operation with soybeans and corn.  If poultry litter will be applied on the cropland, develop policies and procedures for land applications which are in line with state permits.  Create checklists to keep long-term and new employees, and even yourself, informed of what steps to take each time litter is applied to land. 

Woman polishes a saddle.  Image by the Chesapeake Bay Program

Keep Good Written Records

            State law likely requires you to keep records of nutrient applications. In a lawsuit, written records help a jury understand what you did on the operation.  Written records can often prove you are following the law, nutrient management plan, or permit, and help you build a stronger case that your operation is not a nuisance.  Lack of records, especially in those states which do not require them, could cause a jury or others to believe you have something to hide, such as over-applying nutrients or not following your established practices.

Planting bayberry.  Image by the Chesapeake Bay Program

Consider New Technology

            Keeping up with the latest technology is one of the most significant ways you can help your operation.  Technology costs money, however, so think about what will work best for your business.  What are the existing issues or problems in your operation?  For example, if you are concerned about neighbors complaining about odors from your farm, consider researching what technology could be utilized and why it may or may not work for you.  Keep records of your decisions regarding technology; such records will allow you to demonstrate your decision-making process.

Spreading manure on a field.  Image by the Chesapeake Bay Program

Talk to Your Neighbors

            Reach out to your neighbors and ask them to contact you if they have concerns.  If farm odors are an issue, for example, let your neighbors know which days you will apply nutrients in case they have a family gathering planned.   If your neighbors have other issues with your farm, utilize information from Extension or the appropriate state agencies to show that the operation is operating within the law.