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New legislation would ban farmers from putting fertilizer or manure on frozen ground

Jim Goudie

New legislation in the state house and senate would prohibit farmers from applying manure or fertilizer to frozen or snow-covered soil.

Supporters of the legislation say there is no reason to apply fertilizer to the frozen ground during the winter months.

Democratic State Representative Kevin Hertel authored the legislation. He said farm runoff can be one of the causes of toxic algae blooms.

“When you put the fertilizer down on the frozen ground obviously it’s not absorbed, the nutrients are not absorbed into the ground itself, and runoff at a much more rapid rate.”

Matt Smego is with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He said there are already guidelines for farmers about when they can apply fertilizer to frozen fields.

“Michigan farmers have demonstrated their interest in protecting our environment and really managing and protecting the natural resources which they’ve been entrusted.”

Smego said similar legislation has been introduced in previous sessions and has failed.

Representative Hertel said he understands there are some farms that don’t have the ability to manage their manure over the winter.

“They might spread it on the frozen ground just to get rid of it. Can we help them through state grants or programs build a facility to help them store that manure?”

Hertel said he wants the legislation to start a conversation about the practice but ultimately, he said, it needs to end.