New Resource for Agricultural Site Planning

By: Amy Millmier Schmidt, UNL Livestock Bioenvironmental Engineer

One of the most common types of calls I receive as an Extension Engineer is “If I want to expand my livestock operation (or start a new operation), will I need a permit?” Addressing that question usually begins with me asking several questions of my own: How many animals do you currently raise at this site? Are they confined to a building or lot or are they on pasture? How many animals do you want to add to the site? Will they be confined and, if so, for how many days per year? And so on, until I eventually have enough information to determine what state and local rules apply to their specific situation.

A question that I receive less often (but really wish I would hear MORE often) is, “How do I identify the ‘best’ site for building a new feedlot/chicken house/swine barn/etc.?” A lot of factors go in to ‘siting’ an operation to minimize the potential for water quality impairment, odor complaints, and biosecurity risks, among others. Addressing these potential risks during planning of a new farm is always preferable to trying to solve issues of this type on an existing farm.

On-demand access to resources for answering these types of questions is now available through a new UNL website, https://AgSitePlanner.unl.edu. Designed to deliver research-based information, tools, and resources to support responsible livestock production and expansion, the site hosts two new web-based decision support tools, a list of critical questions to ask when planning for expansion of livestock production, and links to resources like the Odor Footprint Tool and the Nebraska Livestock Siting Assessment Matrix.

The new RISK MANAGEMENT TOOL can be used to generate a report describing environmental, social and physical characteristics of a user-defined land parcel with links throughout the report to relevant resources providing additional information or guidance.

The new REGULATORY GUIDANCE TOOL provides a step-by-step process to determine site-specific regulatory requirements for a livestock production system based on geographic location and characteristics of the proposed operation.

Both tools are currently offered through the website with restricted access as part of a beta testing process. A request to access the tools can be submitted through the website. Feedback about the tools, the website, and the resources available are invited and can be submitted using the “Provide Feedback” links on the site.


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