Animal Waste Management Technologies – An Explorative Study of Farmers’ Knowledge and Perceptions
North Carolina State University Nutrient Management Research from 2003. This report presents the results of a survey of 66 farmers in North Carolina to assess their perception of waste management technologies. The main objective of the project was to investigate farmers’ knowledge and their perception of these new technologies in comparison with the traditional lagoon-sprayfield system.
Swine waste in North Carolina is managed predominantly through anaerobic lagoons and sprayfields. This waste management practice poses potential risks to human health and the environment through transport of pollutants via surface water, groundwater and the air. Recognizing these risks, in April 1999, a state plan was issued to identify and evaluate the need to convert lagoons and sprayfields to alternative technologies and it is expected that the lagoon-sprayfield technology will be phased out in due term. At the same time new federal regulation has been proposed focusing on the land application of animal waste at agronomic rates, which at present is largely unregulated. These proposed federal rules further undermine the future of the lagoon-sprayfield practice in North Carolina.
Work is currently underway in designing and assessing new technologies to replace the lagoon-sprayfield system but none are yet operational. Specifically, in July 2000 an Agreement was made between Smithfield Foods, Inc. and the Attorney General of North Carolina to provide $15 million for the development of ‘environmentally superior technologies’. Since then, research, development, and demonstration efforts have been initiated for several alternative technologies.
In this report we present the results of an exploratory study of farmers’ knowledge and perceptions of a series of alternative waste management systems. Farmers’ attitudes and perception are of crucial importance to successful R&D strategies. Many promising agricultural innovations and supporting policies have failed because they were inappropriate to farmers’ needs. To prevent such failures, a good understanding of the behavioral and operational constraints at the farm level is required. The contribution of economic analysis in addressing this state of affairs is that it can identify the behavioral factors and farm level constraints determining adoption. Lack of information, organizational characteristics (labor requirements) and management skills can be decisive in the adoption decision. Insights in these constraints can support developing ways to overcome them. Interview techniques are very useful in this respect as it enables an ex-ante assessment of the impact of farmers’ subjective perceptions and (lack of) knowledge on their choices among management practices.
The survey as reported here was conducted as part of the project “Fuel-grade Ethanol from Swine Waste”, a research project at the Department of Animal Science at NCSU, led by Dr. Jeanne Koger. The main objectives of the survey were to assess: (1) farmers’ opinion of the aspects of hog farming that need to be addressed in order to increase public acceptance of hog production facilities, (2) farmers’ main sources of information of animal waste management techniques, (3) farmers’ knowledge of, and familiarity with, thirteen different waste management systems, and (4) to conduct a perception analysis to assess the importance to the farmer of a number of pre-specified features of these waste management systems.
Materials and Methods
The results presented in this report are based on a questionnaire that was handed out at the North Carolina Pork Producers Conference on January 9, 2002 in New Bern, N.C. and at the North Eastern Regional Pork Conference on February 12, 2002 in Edenton, N.C. In total, 73 completed questionnaires were returned of which 66 were suitable for further processing. The SAS package was used for the statistical analysis of the data.
Respondents were asked to answer several general questions about age, education, gender, county, the number of years in farming and acres for farming, the type and number of animals for swine production, the two most important sources of income and hours of off-farm work.
Next, farmers were asked their opinion how the public acceptance of hog production facilities could be increased and their opinion of the importance of information provided by various institutions and organizations. These perceptions were measured on a six-point Likert scale. The next questions concerned farmers’ familiarity with thirteen waste management technologies and how they know about these technologies. The familiarity was measured on a five-point Likert scale and was statistically analyzed by means of a Kruskal-Wallis test. This testing procedure examines if there is a significant difference between any two technologies. It can also examine the differences among all the technologies.
Finally, farmers were asked to compare three waste management technologies: the conventional system of a lagoon with spray field, the ‘Iowa’ slurry system with land application and the Recycle system. The latter system is one of the new technologies that is currently been developed. The Iowa slurry system with land application of the slurry to field crops is an alternative waste management technology that is common is the Mid West and that is proven to be technically feasible and regulatory acceptable. The pre-specified features in this perception analysis of the three waste management technologies related to environmental quality, investments and cost of maintenance; compatibility with the current farming system in terms of acreage and rotations, and the compatibility with current management in terms of labor requirements and skills. Respondents were asked to indicate on a five-point scale for each of the three technologies, their degree of (dis)agreement with each of the various features. No opinion/don’t know was added as an additional answer option. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to test the null hypothesis that there is no difference between the three technologies.
Results and Discussion
The average respondent was around 45 years old, had 21 years of experience farming and farmed 748 acres. Most respondents had a college degree and were male. We also found that most respondents or their spouses worked off-farm and that they did not currently have children in college or expect to have children in college in the next 5 years. Most respondents received income from pork production and from work off-farm during the last three years. Swine production was the most important source of income for the respondents.
In the respondents’ opinion, all the aspects of hog production that were mentioned were important to address in order to increase public acceptance of hog production facilities (Table 1). Regarding institutions or organizations, farmers found that all those listed were important or very important. Only the integrator was neither important nor unimportant based on frequency (Table 2).
Table 1: Respondents’ opinion what aspects of hog production need to be addressed in order to increase public acceptance of hog production facilities (1=don’t know/no opinion; 2=not at all important; 3=unimportant; 4=neither important nor unimportant; 5=important; 6=very important) (N= 66).
|Variable||Mean||Std. Dev||Min||Max||Most Freq.|
|Farm ammonia emissions||4.52||1.01||1||6||5|
|Excess land application of nitrogen||4.77||0.76||2||6||5|
|Excess land application of phosphorus||4.56||0.98||1||6||5|
|Ground water contamination||5.03||0.93||2||6||5|
|Surface water contamination||5.03||0.96||2||6||5|
|Use of lagoons||4.74||1.01||2||6||5|
|Farm odor emissions||4.65||1.10||2||6||5|
Table 2: The extent respondents rely on information from institutions or organizations (1=don’t know/no opinion; 2=not at all important; 3=unimportant; 4=neither importnant nor unimportnant; 5=important; 6=very important) (N= 66).
|Variable||Mean||Std. Dev||Min||Max||Most Freq.|
|Us government agencies||4.56||1.01||1||6||5|
|State government agencies||4.99||0.81||2||6||5|
|Producer groups or other producers||4.85||1.11||1||6||5|
From the mean and frequency in Table 3, constructed wetlands were the most familiar technology of the alternative waste management systems. The Ambient Digester and the Iowa Slurry System ranked second and third, respectively. To test whether the differences were significant we applied the Kruskal-Wallis test, which showed that there were significant differences in familiarity between the various waste management technologies. We also tested for significant differences in familiarity between any two technologies. This pair-wise test showed that the respondents are significantly more familiar with the Constructed Wetland than with any other technology, except when compared with the Iowa slurry system. They also feel more familiar with the ‘Iowa’ slurry system with land application in comparison with the Sequential Batch Reactor, Best solution, Issues system, EPOWER micro turbine, Super Soil System, and Black Soldier Biomass System. The Ambient digester is of the same familiarity as the Thermophilic Anaerobic Digester, Up-flow Biofilter, and the Recycle-system; the other technologies are less-well known except for the Constructed Wetland which is more familiar to the respondents. The Thermophilic Anaerobic Digester is more familiar than Best solutions, EPOWER micro turbine, Super Soil System, and the Black Soldier Fly Biomass System. The Sequential Batch Reactor is less familiar than the Recycle-system and the Recycle-system is more familiar than the Super Soil Systems and the Black Soldier Fly Biomass System. Finally, the Super Soil System is more familiar than the Black Soldier Fly Biomass System. For the remaining pairs of technologies, respondents experience the same level of familiarity.
Table 3: Respondents familiarity with alternative waste management systems (1=never heard of; 2=heard about it; 3=somewhat familiar; 4=familiar; 5=very familiar)
|Variable||Mean||Rank||Std. dev.||Most Freq.|
|‘Iowa’ slurry system with land application||2.32||3||1.13||2|
|Thermophilic Anaerobic Digester||2.21||5||0.97||2|
|Sequential Batch Reactor||1.99||8||1.05||1|
|EPOWER micro turbine||1.80||11||1.01||1|
|BION second generation||2.12||7||1.22||1|
|Super Soil Systems||1.78||12||1.06||1|
|Black Soldier Fly||1.71||13||0.92||1|
Table 4 shows where respondents got their information about new waste management technologies. Meetings were the most important source of information. Some respondents received the information from the local agricultural extension agent, through personal experience and from newspapers or magazines.
Table 4: Where respondents get their information about alternative waste management systems (yes=1; multiple answers possible)
|Variable||Mean||Std. dev.||Relevancy based on frequency|
|Local agricultural extension||0.38||0.49||No|
|Heard it discussed in a meeting||0.74||0.44||Yes|
|Newspaper or magazines||0.27||0.45||No|
|Radio or TV||0.06||0.24||No|
Next we compared respondents’ opinion about the Iowa slurry system, the Recycle system and the conventional Lagoon-sprayfield System. Overall the results showed that the opinions were more favorable towards the conventional system. However, the answer ‘no opinion/don’t know’ was very frequent and this affected the results. To test for significant differences we omitted the observations with answer ‘opinion/don’t know’ and applied the Kruskall-Wallis test. The chisquare statistics in Table 5 shows that respondents’ opinions were not significantly different for ’causes odor problems’, ‘compatible with farm acreage and crops grown’, and ‘will reduce the environmental issues’ at hand. For the rest of respondent’s opinions, differences between the three technologies were significent. From the combination of the test results in Table 5 with the average Likert-scale responses by technology, it followed that the Recycle system scored more favorable than the conventional system with respect to labor requirement, investment, operating and maintenance cost, ease of implementation and need for training/skills. The Iowa slurry system scored even better on these items except for ease of implementation, for which the Recycle system was significantly better.
Table 5: Overall Kruskal-Wallis test results for significant differences between respondents’ opinion of three waste management technologies (1=no opinion/don’t know; 2=completely disagree; 3=disagree; 4=neither agree or disagree; 5=agree; 6 = completely agree) ignoring choice 1 (No opinion/don’t know).
|Causes odor problems||1.67||0.4341|
|Requires a lot of labor||34.12||<0.0001|
|High level of management||6.76||0.0339|
|Requires high investments||29.50||<0.0001|
|High maintenance and operating costs||35.45||<0.0001|
|Compatible with farm acreage and crops grown||2.82||0.2429|
|Easy to implement||48.81||<0.0001|
|Will reduce the environmental issues at hand||1.23||0.5392|
|Need for specialized training/skills||28.24||<0.0001|
This report presented the result of an exploratory study of farmers’ knowledge and perceptions of waste management technologies. From the responses of 66 farmers in North Carolina for which pork production is the main source of income, the following conclusions can be reached:
- In respondents’ opinion, a wide range of aspects of hog production is important to address in order to increase public acceptance of hog production facilities. Particularly water quality scored high and was considered more important than odor emissions.
- Of the thirteen systems included, the Recycle system ranked fourth in terms of level of familiarity and was significantly better know to the respondents than Best Solutions, EPOWER microturbine, Super Soil System and Black Soldier Fly Biomass system.
- The respondents are significantly more familiar with the Constructed Wetland than with any other technology, except for the Iowa slurry system. They also feel more familiar with the Ambient Digester and the Iowa slurry system with land application in comparison with most of the other technologies.
- Meetings are the most important information source to become acquainted with new waste management technologies.
- The Recycle System scored more favorable than the conventional system with respect to labor requirements, investment, operating and maintenance cost, ease of implementation and need for training. The Iowa slurry system scores even better on these items except for ease of implementation, for which the Recycle system is significantly better according to the respondents. In farmers’ opinion, there is not a significant difference regarding odor problems or environmental issues in general between the three technologies.
The authors are associate professor and graduate student in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh. For questions about this publication please contact Ada Wossink at ph. (919)5156092 or email@example.com. Funding was provided through the Project “Fuel-grade Ethanol from Swine Waste”, a research project at the Department of Animal Science at NCSU, which is supported by the Energy Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. A far more detailed report that includes descriptions of the thirteen technologies and also the original survey form is available upon request from the authors.
 Meanwhile, as many as eighteen alternative technologies are being investigated in the context of the Smithfield Food Agreement. At the time this survey was conducted a description was available of only thirteen technologies.