In order to protect Idaho’s natural resources, including surface waters and ground waters, the Idaho legislature passed a law to ensure that manure and wastewater associated with beef cattle operations are handled safely. That Act is known as the Beef Cattle Environmental Control Act.
The Act requires slaughter and feeder cattle or dairy heifer feeding operations to have engineered wastewater storage and containment facilities.
In addition, all such operations are required to have a “nutrient management plan.” A nutrient management plan is nothing more than a plan that ensures proper storage, treatment and application of manure. Such a plan further requires that confined animals do not have direct contact with rivers and streams, and that chemicals are disposed of properly. A plan must further identify appropriate conservation practices, including buffers to control the runoff of storm waters.
The Idaho Department of Agriculture administers the Act. The Department has authority to enter and inspect any beef animal feeding operation and copy facility records. Any beef cattle animal feeding operation that is not in compliance with the law can be assessed civil penalties.
Importantly, the Beef Cattle Environmental Control Act contains a “safe harbor” provision. Any beef cattle feed operation that is in compliance with the act and approved best management practices cannot be prosecuted for violation of state water quality standards. In other words, if you follow the law and have a nutrient management plan you won’t be prosecuted for violating water quality standards.
Idaho ranchers that have a beef cattle feed operation should review with an attorney the requirements of the law and should develop a nutrient management plan that complies with the “safe harbor” provisions of the law.