What is a Nutrient Management Plan?
Implementation of practices that permit efficient crop production while protecting water quality from nutrient pollution. A nutrient management plan is a plan whose recommendations permit efficient nutrient use by crops and minimize nutrient losses to the environment.
Chances are you've heard about Act 38 (Nutrient Management Act). All state governments have been passing revised legislation requiring that qualifying landowners put such plans in place.
Farms with two or more animal units per acre AND eight total animal units are designated a Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO) and must have a NMP. One animal unit is 1000 pound of live animal weight regardless of animal type, i.e. one dairy cow at 1300 lb live weight = 1.3 AU.Recent revisions to the PA law now include EPA thresholds for animal numbers regardless of the number of acres a landowner may have under his operational control. Those operations are referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFO’s and are required to purchase a permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The details regarding EPA animal numbers, high quality stream regulations, and the permit are too lengthy to include in this brief summary. For example, a swine finishing facility with 2,500 (or more) pigs at 55 (or more) pounds live weight would be a CAFO operation regardless if there was 1,000 acres of cropland (owned by the facility and under their crop management control) available for application of the manure generated at this facility.
PA law, because of EPA rulings, also requires horse operations with eight or more animal units and with two or more animal units per acre to have a nutrient management plan. One pleasure horse at 1,000 pounds of live weight equals one animal unit. A draft horse, on the other hand, could be as heavy as 2,000 pounds or two animal units.
Getting a plan is fairly straightforward: Soil tests determine the levels of various nutrients, and a nutrient management plan writer can analyze how these levels meet the needs of a target crop. If nutrient levels are higher than what's needed, the landowner is advised against adding fertilizer until nutrient levels have dropped and/or export manure.
Operations that do not meet the Act 38 thresholds listed above may voluntarily have a nutrient management plan written for their operation, in order to qualify for funding opportunities provided by the Conservation District and/or NRCS. An operation that pursues this option would be considered a Volunteer Animal Operation (VAO) under the Act 38 program. VAO’s may withdraw from the Act 38 Program at any time, BUT would still be required by law to operate under a Manure Management Plan (MMP) if livestock are still being raised, and/or manure is still being applied to the operations acres.
For assistance, please contact the District's Agricultural Resource Specialist at 717-594-3007
Request for Conservation District Assistance Form
A very good web site for information regarding Pennsylvania Nutrient Management and links to educational, technical, and related data is http://panutrientmgmt.cas.psu.edu.