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Rising cost of fertilizer boosts manure sales

by 5m Editor
19 March 2007, at 4:00am

US - There are dollars in dung.

The business of selling manure is being fueled by the high cost of commercial fertilizer, the growth of large livestock farms and farmers' need for extra income.

For a price, farmers and brokers are taking animal waste from cattle farms, hog barns and chicken coops, trucking it miles away, and spreading it on fields that will later bloom with corn, soybeans and wheat.

"Back in the late '80s, I was told you'd never sell manure," said Kevin Elder, executive director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture's livestock environmental permitting program. "Today, there are a large number of farms that broker it, that sell it to grain farmers."

More people are getting into the business, drawn by annual sales ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million.

In 2003, only one person in Ohio was licensed to buy and apply large amounts of manure. Today, there are 30 — with 48 more in the process of getting their permits.

In Iowa, the number of certified commercial haulers increased from 1,385 in 2005 to 1,447 last year. In Illinois, 12 companies have sought certification to haul manure since certifying began in 2002.

Ben Puck, of Manning, Iowa, has been hauling manure for 28 years. He said sales for his services have increased 10% to 15% in the past year, primarily because of business from large livestock operations.

The skyrocketing price of commercial fertilizer is making manure more attractive. The price of nitrogen fertilizer, for example, has more than doubled in the past four years, in part because of the rising cost of natural gas needed to make it.

Livestock farmers are also under more pressure to dispose of manure because of tighter environmental regulations. In areas of heavy livestock production, years of having too much manure on the same land have resulted in an overabundance of nutrients such as phosphorus, which can harm water quality and aquatic life.

Source: USA Today