The Nutrient Management Act is a state law that passed in 1993. The regulations became effective in October 1997. The purpose of the Act is to minimize surface and groundwater nutrient loads from agricultural operations and to increase farm profitability by practicing good nutrient management. The Act establishes criteria, nutrient management planning requirements and an implementation schedule for the application of nutrient management measures on certain farms that generate or use animal manure.
The purpose of part of the Nutrient Management Act regulations is to set a level of standards that would severely reduce the risk of a farmer coming into water quality problems or violations. The standards are set as the "best management practices" for manure handling across the state. This is based on balancing the concern of what is a reasonable farm practice and still would protect the environment. Conservation Districts provide educational outreach to the agricultural community on the best way to handle nutrients on farms to minimize water pollution.
The Nutrient Management Act pre-empts local nutrient ordinances. If a local ordinance is more stringent or limiting than the statewide Act, the ordinance is not valid, when it pertains to the spreading of manure or the placement of a manure storage area. However, the Act does not effect local ordinances based on fire, safety, building or zoning codes.
Under the Act, a farmer with an approved and properly implemented Nutrient Plan can receive limited protection in the event that a complaint is filed or an incident occurs. The fact that an operation has installed Best Management Practices or (BMPs) and is applying manure according to his approved plan, is considered to be in the farmer's favor.
The Act particularly targets Concentrated Animal Operations or (CAOs) which are defined as greater than 2 animal units per acre of suitable cropland or pasture for spreading manure. An animal unit is 1,000 pounds of live animal weight. Any farming operation that is a CAO must have a Nutrient Management Plan for that operation written by a certified Nutrient Management Planner. A certified planner has passed a test and other requirements by the PA Department of Agriculture. The Conservation District can assist you with finding a certified planner that is interested in serving Jefferson County.
After the Nutrient Management Plan is written, it then must be sent to the Jefferson County Conservation District for the review and approval process. A certified Nutrient Management Specialist will review the plan to see that it meets all the requirements and that the manure is being used and in an efficient and economical way. If all requirements are met in the plan, then the plan is presented to the District Board for approval.
The Nutrient Management Specialist works with landowners and private consultants to help them balance the application of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous to meet crop needs. These nutrients are commonly found in animal manure and commercial fertilizers. The goal of the Nutrient Management Program is to increase crop productivity while decreasing potential threats to water quality from over applying nutrients. If you need help to determine if you need a Nutrient Management Plan, contact Megan Whitlatch, JCCD's Nutrient Management Specialist, at 814-849-7463.