Farm shop environmental red flags

Things to think about while you are under the tractor.

Man fixing tractor.
Photo by Jason Poplin.

Most farmers spend a good deal of winter in their farm shop doing preventative maintenance to farm vehicles and preparing the machinery for the spring work load. While you are under the tractor changing oil here are a few things to think about according to Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Technicians, Allison Dauer and Cody Birdsell, housed in Hillsdale County.

Floor Drains

When you go into a farm shop the environmental red flag seen most often is floor drains. “Floor drains, can pose a risk depending on when and how the drains were put in.  If the drains that were put in tied into field tile or to the ditch and you were to have a break or leak, then that is a hazard to the water,” explains Allison.  To reduce risk in this situation Cody suggests plugging the drain or temporarily disabling it when you are using hazardous chemicals. The technicians said there are cost share dollars to help with plugs and protective features for drains available from Conservation Districts.

Oil Storage

Often shops are used to store the oils and greases used in the equipment.  These products should be stored in acceptable containers with a reasonable distance form a well, “You can store oil in the shop on an impermeable surface.  It would be good to also have secondary containment,” suggests Allison. Other chemicals seen in farm shops that are good candidates for secondary containment are pesticides and antifreeze according to Birdsell. Cost share dollars are also available for secondary containment of oil drums in the shop.

Welding Supplies

Many farmers are amazing jack- of-all-trades that have welding set-ups in the shop. Allison reminds that these chemicals can be very hazardous in the event of a fire. MAEAP technicians can help identify these types of risks creating an emergency plan. “The emergency plan is a good for firefighters and first responders, so they know that welding supplies are held in the building when they get to a fire", explained Dauer.

A little bit about MAEAP

“The Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program is a voluntary and confidential program that farmers can go through in the state of Michigan to help reduce environmental risks on their farms and be in compliance with state and federal regulations. It is beneficial because it brings certain risks on their farm to the farmer’s attention” said Allison. When asked about their role in the program Cody said, “technicians are the boots on the ground, the first contact with the farmer. I like being that person for farmers.”

You can reach your local MAEAP Technician here. Michigan State University Extension is a partner organization with MAEAP.

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