Nutrient Management Program
The Nutrient Management Act is the first law in Pennsylvania to regulate oversight of nutrient plans on certain farms. Prior to the Act being signed into law, problems with nutrient pollution were administered under the Clean Streams Law which dealt only with surface waters.
The original version of the law, Act 6, was signed into law in the spring of 1993. In 2002 the Act 6 regulations were reviewed according to law by the State Conservation Commission, who regulates the Nutrient Management Act. This review resulted in a new law (Act 38), which replaced Act 6. The revised regulations went into effect in October 2006. The Clean Streams Law still applies to ALL farms using manure. Act 38 imposes additional requirements on high-density animal operations or Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs).
A farm is determined to be a CAO when the animal density exceeds 2 animal units per acre on an annualized basis (AEU). An animal unit is defined as 1000 pounds of animal live weight. Farms with a total of less than 8 AEU's are not required to implement an approved nutrient management plan regardless of the animal density on the farm.
Why Manage Nutrients?
There are many reasons a farmer benefits from implementing a sound nutrient management plan which can include:
- Compliance with laws and regulations concerning environmental policy
- Limited Liability Protection
- Better neighbor relations
Environmental Benefits -
Properly handled, livestock manure is beneficial for plant growth, improving soil structure, and increasing soil fertility. However, over application and mis-handling of manure can result in elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in surface streams and groundwater. The runoff can cause pathogen contamination, fish kills, and odor and taste problems to surface and groundwater.
Economic Benefits -
When applied in the proper amounts at the appropriate times, manure has the potential for improving crop production and soil productivity. Depending on the livestock generating the manure, manure contains varying amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. The nutrients can be effectively used as a fertilizer for growing plants while the organic matter and other trace elements may also improve soil productivity substantially. Successful management of manure to gain maximum crop production can save the farmer a considerable amount of money on purchased fertilizer. Mismanagement of manure nutrients can result in reduced crop production levels, increased fertilizer bills, and pollution.
Limited Liability Protection -
Operators who are fully and properly implementing a nutrient management plan under the Act will have limited liability protection in a civil action for penalties or damages.
Nutrient management is an effective tool that benefits not only the farmer, but the environment as well.
To discuss how a nutrient management plan can benefit your operation or for questions concerning nutrient management, please contact Jared McIntire, Nutrient Management Specialist, at 717-240-5360.
For additional information on nutrient management, visit the websites below:
Cumberland County Conservation District also performs Pre-Sidedress Soil Nitrate test and Chlorophyll meter testing for corn at no cost and will assist you in calibrating your manure spreader to ensure the appropriate amount of nutrients is being applied to your field. Please contact the Conservation District at 717-240-7812 for more information concerning these services.
Financial and Technical Assistance-
The Cumberland County Conservation District and NRCS administers a variety of cost-share programs to assist in the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP's) to control nutrients and soil erosion on farms. To determine the best program for your project, please contact the Conservation District at 717-240-7812 or NRCS at 717-249-1037.
The Conservation District and NRCS continue to offer technical assistance to Cumberland County farmers free of charge, even if they do not participate in our cost share programs.