Be Proactive in the Operation
What should you be doing to better protect your operation from a potential lawsuit or claim of not following a permit? Begin to think proactively not just in hiring but develop a proactive strategy to demonstrate you are following the laws in your operation.
A. Develop Written Policies
Developing written policies and procedures for handling regular work is always recommended for a farm operation. Along with the policies and procedures, create checklists to help employees and you identify what needs to be done to complete that regular work on the operation. If the operation has a permit, ensure these policies, procedures, and checklists align with the permit. Once these written policies are developed, make sure you use them and follow them; you developed them for a reason.
For example, let us consider yours is a poultry operation which includes a cropping operation with soybeans and corn. If poultry litter will be applied on the cropland, develop policies and procedures around how land applications of poultry litter will take place in line with state permits. These policies and practices create checklists of what should be completed before each time a land application occurs. Doing all of this will help keep long-term employees, new employees, and even yourself informed of what should be done each time and potentially prevent you from cutting corners.
B. Keep Good Written Records
You are probably already required to keep records of nutrient applications based on state law. If you are not keeping such records, you need to consider this now. In a lawsuit, written records will help a jury understand what you are doing on the operation. Written records can often help demonstrate that 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 (such as over-applying nutrients or not following your established practices) to hide.
C. 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 operation. And when considering technology, think about existing issues in your operation. Are you concerned about neighbors complaining about odors from your farm? Consider researching the issue to see what technology could be utilized and why it may or may not work for you. Keep records of your decisions regarding technology. The records will allow you to demonstrate down the road your decision-making process.
D. Talk to Your Neighbors
Reach out to your neighbors and tell them to contact you if they have concerns. If the concerns are odors, communicate with them about days you will apply nutrients to prevent the odors impacting the family gathering the neighbor might have planned. If the neighbors have concerns about what is going on with the operation, utilize information from Extension or the appropriate state agencies to show that the operation is operating within the law.