Trees and the Master Matrix

04-12-2012 in Green Farmstead Partner

The livestock industry in Iowa is booming right now and it has been labeled by some as “one of the most exciting times to be involved in agriculture.”

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) has seen a significant increase in the number of calls from hog, cattle, dairy and turkey farmers from every part of the state who are looking to grow their farm or get started farming. This growth provides a boost for not only the local, rural economies, but the entire state’s economy. As the livestock and poultry industries grow, farmers need to be aware of the rules and regulations that apply. One example is the permitting process for farms with over 1,000 animal units in confinement.

A majority of counties in Iowa have adopted the Master Matrix, which requires farmers who are proposing construction, expansion or modification of a confinement feeding operation with more than 2,500 hogs, 1,000 cattle, 715 dairy cattle, or 100,000 turkeys to complete the process. The master matrix allows the county board of supervisors to evaluate construction permit applications and proposed locations for confinements. Farmers in these counties must “earn points” on the master matrix by choosing a site and using practices that reduce impacts on air, water and the community.

One of the many possible places to earn points is through the utilization of landscaping around the confinement. The matrix requires the design to contain at least three rows of trees and shrubs, of both fast and slow-growing species. It also specifies that a design, operation and maintenance plan for the landscaping be submitted. Beyond that, it does not give any other guidance, which has historically made many farmers leery of taking these points.

If the points are taken, farmers are advised to place landscaping “on all sides of the buildings and structures where it is feasible. At a minimum, the landscaping should be placed on the side of the building and structures in the prevailing wind direction. Placement between the farm and the nearest neighbor is also recommended to provide visual screening” (Eldon McAfee, Beving, Swanson & Forrest, P.C.).

Whether you decide to take the points for landscaping or not, planting trees around your livestock or poultry facility is still a good idea! A simple effort like installing trees and shrubs can improve relationships with neighbors, but can also save you time and money in the winter moving snow, reduce energy costs, improve tunnel fan performance and cool air in the hot summer months.
If you have questions about the master matrix, how it may impact your farm and plans for the future, and/or planting trees on your livestock or poultry farm, please give CSIF a call at 1-800-932-2436.

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