SPOKANE — The Spokane Conservation District is offering a cost-share program to help farmers address mud and manure problems on their property.
Spokane rancher Craig Volosing recently built a composting facility to help manage manure on his operation, which includes 20 horses and 15 to 20 head of cattle. He owns 50 acres and operates on about 300 acres with other pastures.
Volosing worked with the district under the Livestock and Land grant and loan program to construct the covered facility.
He said the district’s program was key in deciding to build the facility instead of building more storage.
“It will help it pencil out in my lifetime of ranching here,” he said. “If I can turn this into a cash crop beyond the fertilizing needs of our pastures, then all the better.”
Volosing said the cost of constructing the facility would balance out in 10 years by spreading the manure on his pastures for increased productivity and for use in his garden and greenhouse. If he sells the compost, it would pay for itself in seven years. He also compared the costs of using manure to the cost of chemical fertilizers.
The program also helps build composting facilities or waste storage facilities like Volosing’s. The idea is to produce a composted manure product to be spread on pastures, given away or sold, said Walt Edelen, water resources program manager for the district.
Volosing’s four-bay facility is aerated, making the composting process faster than a regular system, Edelen said.
Depending on the circumstances, the grant is a cost-share program, with the district paying 75 percent and farmers paying 25 percent. They may use a low-interest loan to finance the rest of the project, Edelen said.
Funding for the grant and loan program comes through the Washington State Department of Ecology.
To participate in the cost-share program, farmers must adhere to Ecology requirements, Edelen said. If they have riparian areas or wetlands on their property, they must be protected, including 35-foot buffer zones. Certain areas, such as the main stems of the Hangman Creek on the Spokane River and the Little Spokane River, need at least 50-foot buffers.
Volosing’s property didn’t have riparian areas to deal with, but Volosing is mindful of his proximity to the Spokane River.
“(They’re) helping me be part of the solution rather than the problem, which is my great desire in all things,” he said of the district.
Edelen said the district’s voluntary program helps farmers address heavy-use areas.
“Some people pick it up every day, every three days, but we have people out there that never pick it up,” he said.
During confinement periods in the winter, many farmers don’t have extra acres to distribute manure, he said.
“You get these concentrated areas, you’ve got to pick it up, you’ve got to have a place to put it,” he said.
The district is completing five livestock improvement projects this summer, and is open to more opportunities, Edelen said.
The conservation district will offer a series of workshops in the fall and offer best management practice tours and a peer program to allow farmers to see different options in practice and speak with landowners such as Volosing.
The district will work with other conservation districts to replicate the program across Washington, Edelen said.