Regulations Affecting Agriculture
As with any business, there are regulations that guide the operation. The Conservation District has been delegated authority under three regulations that impact Blair County landowners and farm operators. Two regulations deal with the generation and use of manure.
PA Chapter 91 Manure Management regulations address pollution control and prevention at agricultural operations and requires a Manure Management Plan.
Act 38 of 2005, requires high-density animal operations to develop and implement approved Nutrient Management Plans.
Chapter 102 Erosion and Sediment Control regulations requires landowners to prepare and implement Erosion and Sediment Control plans for their cropland and animal heavy use areas. Chapter 102 also requires the acquisition of an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan or NPDES permit for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Construction Activities if a farmer proposes an earth disturbance activity (other than agricultural plowing and tilling, animal heavy use areas, or timber harvesting).
What is a Manure/Nutrient Management Plan?
Getting the most out of land applied nutrients without over application is the goal of a Manure/Nutrient Management Plan; and should be a goal of every farm operator. A Manure/Nutrient Management Plan is used to determine how much manure can be placed on fields and accounts for any purchased nutrients (commercial fertilizer or imported manure). Plans are site specific and use soil tests, crops grown, anticipated crop yield and manure type to prepare the plan.
Regulations require that all farm operators manage manure generated on their farm and/or land apply manure on their farm. A properly written plan may save a farmer money, if on-farm manure is properly utilized. As a bonus to all, maximizing yield without overapplying nutrients reduces the risk of potential pollution.
Who Needs a Manure/Nutrient Management Plan?
Every farm in Pennsylvania that has animals and/or land applies manure or agricultural process wastewater (generated on the farm or received from an importer), regardless of size, is required to have and implement a written Manure Management Plan. This includes manure and agricultural process wastewater application by various types of equipment and/or direct application of manure by animals on pastures and in Animal Concentration Areas (ACAs). In other words, farms that do not mechanically apply manure but which do have pastures or ACAs still need a manure management plan. This applies for any size of farm from 1 animal to thousands of animals. A person who has 1 horse or 1 goat in the back yard is under these regulations, although their plan will look different than one for a farm with 2,000 cows.
What Type of Plan do I need?
There are several levels of plans that an operator can have. The level of plan depends on the size and type of operation. To determine what level of plan you need, refer to the
Understanding the terminology –
Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO): is defined as an Operation with more than 8,000 pounds of animals and 2,000 pounds or more of animals per acre available for Manure application (2 AEU/ac). These Operations need an Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO): is defined as an Operation with 1 million pounds of animals or more, a CAO w/ over 300,000 pounds of animals, or an operation with a certain number of animals. The Is My Operation a CAFO worksheet has these threshold numbers. These Operations need an Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan.
Animal Operations and/or Manure Utilizers: All other farms are required to have a Manure Management Plan, but can volunteer to have Nutrient Balance Sheets, an NRCS 590 Plan or an ACT 38 Nutrient Management Plan.
Who can Write a Manure Management Plan or Nutrient Management Plan?
The Manure Management Plan can be written by the farmer or anyone using the State “Land Application of Manure A Supplement to Manure Management for Environmental Protection”. Farm maps are one of the requirements for the Plan. Maps can be hand-drawn or computer-generated. The PA ONESTOP website is a site that anyone can use to make a farm map with all of the required information. Contact the Conservation District if you would like more information regarding the preparation of a Manure Management Plan.
An Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan (as required by CAO and CAFO operations) must be written by a PA Certified Nutrient Management Specialist. A producer that is following an Act 38 Plan that is reviewed and approved the County Conservation Board has some limited liability protection.
Maintaining viable and fertile soil on fields should be a priority of every landowner. The ability to grow crops is dependent on every farms soil. Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control (Ag E&S) plans are written to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation and limit the loss of topsoil on the farm. Regulations under Title 25. Chapter 102.4A Erosion and Sediment Control Requirements outlines the requirement for an Ag E&S plan for agricultural plowing and tilling or animal heavy use areas.
Who Needs an Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plan?
All operations that have agricultural plowing and tilling activities (including no-till) of more than 5,000 square feet or have an Animal Heavy Use Area (AHUA) are required to have a written Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (AG E&S). A Heavy Use Area is defined as “a barnyard, feedlot, loafing area, exercise lot or other similar area on an agricultural operation where due to the concentrations of animals it is not possible to establish and maintain vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods”.
What is included in an Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plan?
This Plan is to address the implementation and maintenance of erosion and sediment control BMP’s that are required to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation from Agricultural areas. Plan requirements include:
- The plan must meet the Tolerable Soil Loss “T” over the rotation for that particular soil type.
- Near Stream Areas: Areas within 100’ of a river, or perennial or intermittent stream, need to maintain 25% cover at all times (or implement a BMP such as a permanent 35 Foot Vegetative Buffer).
- Animal Heavy Use Areas (AHUA): The plan must identify BMP’s to minimize accelerated erosion and sedimentation. AHUA includes barnyards, exercise lots, manure handling areas, sacrifice areas, feed areas, shade areas, etc.
- Plan Maps that show the location of water, drainage patterns, field and property boundaries, buildings, AHUA, roads, and BMP’s. (Maps can be made using the PA One Stop website)
- A soils map of the operation.
- A description of BMP’s including AHUA practices and procedures, tillage systems, schedules, and crop rotations.
- An implementation schedule.
Is a Conservation Plan written for USDA-NRCS the same as an AG E&S Plan?
A Conservation Plan that has been written by USDA-NRCS may meet most of the requirements of the AG E&S Plan. NRCS plans may or may not address the Near Stream Areas or AHUA criteria. A Landowner should request NRCS to write a Conservation Plan that meets the AG E&S (or Chapter 102) requirements. Contact the NRCS office to make this request.
Who can write an Ag. E&S Plan?
An Ag E&S plan can be written by a certified planner, the Conservation District, a landowner or anybody with knowledge of the farming operation.
The PAOneStop website includes an Ag E&S Plan module. This module can be used to calculate the soil loss for the Ag E&S Plan. It can also be used to create the required maps.
PA DEP has also developed a “Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Manual for Agricultural Operations” manual to be used in writing Ag E&S Plans. This Manual can be found at Ag Manual Link
When conducting construction activities that involves earth disturbance on farms, Erosion and Sediment Control Plans are required as with any other construction activity. Normal plowing and tilling and the installation of BMP’s such as waterways, barnyard improvements, animal walkways, etc. may be included and addressed in the farm’s Ag E&S Plan. Site-specific Erosion and Sediment Control Plans (if disturbing more than 5,000 square feet) and potentially NPDES Permits for Stormwater Discharges Associated with Construction Activities (for a disturbance equal to or greater than 1 acre) are required on farms when building structures such as barns, manure storages, houses, silos, bunk silos, etc. It is also important to note that work in or around a stream and/or wetland requires additional permits from the Department of Environmental Protection and others. Contact the Conservation District to find out if your proposed activities would trigger any Permit and/or Construction E&S Plan requirements.
The Blair County Conservation District has a planner on staff that can write Manure Management Plans and Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plans for producers. There is a fee for these services. Please contact the District for availability and pricing.
The Blair County Conservation District is delegated to conduct “Initial Farm Inspection” to verify that farms do have the required Manure Management/Nutrient Management Plans and Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control/Conservation Plans. The District has taken on these inspections as an alternative to the PA Department of Environmental Protection conducting the required inspections.
If you have current plans, we encourage you to contact the District to schedule to have your Initial inspection completed.