Livestock Facility Inspections: Do I need one? If so, what should I expect?

Livestock Facility Inspections: Do I need one? If so, what should I expect?

Steer in lot
Photo credit Troy Walz.

Inspections collect information about livestock facilities and are how the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE) determines whether the facility is in compliance with regulations. There are two different kinds of inspections for livestock operations. Initial inspections help NDEE determine whether a permit is needed. Routine inspections allow the NDEE representative to make sure permitted operations are in compliance with their permit.

What facilities need to be inspected?

Is my Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) permitted? If yes, Nebraska rules and regulations (found in Title 130) and your permit requires a routine inspection of your facility. As the farmer, you will not need to do anything to instigate this inspection. The inspector will reach out to you for your inspection.

If the operation is not permitted, you may or may not need an inspection. Nebraska Rules and Regulations indicate that initial inspections are required for non-permitted medium and large AFOs. Initial inspections are needed to start a new AFO, if the facility has never been inspected before or is considering expanding.

Small AFOs are exempt from inspections unless there has been a discharge from the operation or NDEE has determined that a discharge will likely occur and therefore requires the facility to be permitted.

I need an initial inspection, now what?

If your operation is in need of an initial inspection, you can request on by filing out Form A – Request for Inspection and submit the appropriate fee. Once that form is received, NDEE will schedule a time to meet with the producer and talk about how the operation is or will be utilized and look at the operation (proposed or existing) to determine whether a permit will be required. Failure to request inspection can result in late fees.

The NDEE is going to conduct a routine inspection at my facility, now what?

NDEE recently released guidance for facilities that are regulated and therefore must be inspected. The guidance walks the producer through:

  • The process of being inspected,
  • Preparing for an inspection,
  • What records will be reviewed,
  • What the inspector is looking for during a tour of the facility, and
  • What happens after the inspection.

The Routine Inspection Process

The inspection usually begins with a meeting between the inspector and a farm representative that is familiar with records and the farm. The inspector will then look through the records and tour the farm where the he or she may take photos, collect samples or run tests. A routine inspection looks for agronomic application of manure, regular waterline inspections as well as facility maintenance. After the tour, the inspector and a farm representative talk over changes that need to be made if there are any and anything else that the inspector finds during the tour and review of records.

NDEE Inspection Process
Figure 1. NDEE Inspection Process. Note that this graphic represents an example. Not all inspections will follow this process exactly as some steps will not be used every time.

Preparing for a Routine Inspection

While an inspection is likely to be unannounced or occur with a short notice, there are things you can do so that your operation is ready for an inspection.

  1. Read and understand your permit and the regulations that apply to your operation. If you’re following your permit, chances are very good that your inspector will not find many problems.
  2. Keep all documents organized and easy to find. Keeping records all in one place or having a reference sheet as to where particular records can be found makes it easier for the inspector to review the records and gets the inspection done quickly.
  3. Maintain your facility so that everything is in proper working condition.
  4. Have more than one person that can serve as the farm representative during an inspection. If farm staff does not know where records are, the inspection may take much longer than necessary.

The Records Review

During the records review, the inspector will be looking through all records required for that facility. If you don’t know what records you need to keep, look in your permit as it will give you a list of records specific to your facility. For animal feeding operations, records must be maintained for 5 years, so be prepared to show the last 5 years of your records. Some examples of records might include:

  • Storage, holding pond or lagoon levels and weekly inspections
  • Land application records
  • Soil, manure, and irrigation water test results
  • Equipment and facility maintenance records
  • Personnel that have taken Land Application Training

The Farm Tour

During the farm tour, the inspector will be looking for possible problems with the facility. They’ll watch to make sure everything is in proper working order. The inspector may take photos or collect samples as evidence of the current facility status. Following the tour, the inspector will meet with the farm representative discuss any findings, so the mailed rep9ort you receive will not be a surprise.

After the Inspection

Shortly after your inspection, you’ll receive a report in the mail from the inspector. If there were problems at your facility, you will receive suggestions how to remedy the problem and the time frame in which it should be accomplished. If needed, the inspector will come back to your facility to help you get back to compliance.

Inspections don’t need to be stressful but should be an opportunity to review your stewardship of your animal manure resources. With knowledge of your permit as well as regular maintenance and organized record keeping on your operation, a visit from an NDEE inspector should be no problem. And remember, an NDEE inspector will help you identify solutions for any problems they might find during the inspection.

If you have any questions about inspections or any Nebraska manure regulations, don't hesitate to call NDEE at 402-471-2186


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