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Understanding Pennsylvania Farm Regulations

March 27, 2015

As a Pennsylvania Farmer, keeping up with all the current regulations can be very confusing. Do I need a nutrient management plan (NMP) or a manure management plan (MMP)? What’s the difference between the two? Does my conservation plan meet the Chapter 102 requirements? What is Chapter 102? These are just a few of the many questions running through the minds of those in agriculture. There are three chapters used in the regulation of nutrient management and erosion control and between these chapters it is established that a majority of agriculture operations in Pennsylvania need to have a plan for managing nutrients and a plan for reducing erosion and sedimentation. There are different types of plans in each category and certain operations are required to have specific plans. A plan for managing nutrients can be an Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan, a Manure Management Plan, a CAFO Plan, or a PA NRCS 590 Plan. A plan for reducing erosion and sedimentation can be an Ag E&S Plan or a NRCS Conservation Plan.

The most basic requirements are a Manure Management Plan (MMP) and an Ag E&S Plan. Any operation, no matter the size, that produces manure must have a MMP. There is a standard workbook format to make completion by the operator easy. A total of 7 sections are in the workbook. Sections 1-4 must be completed for all operations, while sections 5-7 are only completed if needed. An operation map must be included. This map can be computer generated or hand drawn. Any agricultural operation plowing or tilling or with an animal heavy use area that is 5,000 square feet or more of land must have an Ag E&S Plan. 5,000 square feet is equal to a little over 1/10th of an acre or an area 50ft by 100ft. The Ag E&S Plan must contain cost effective and reasonable BMPs to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation, plus a schedule for implementation of these BMPs. This plan must also include a map identifying the farm and tracts, plus the location of water sources, homestead, setbacks, etc. In addition a soils map and contour map is needed. All cropland, hayland, and pasture rotations must meet the soil loss tolerance (T) to limit soil loss.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service provides Conservation Plans and Nutrient Management 590 Plans. The Conservation Plan includes operation maps with land use designation, plus soils and contour maps. A Conservation Plan assesses the resources of the land and helps the operator to use these resources to best suit the operator and the environment. BMPs are always included in a Conservation Plan, along with an implementation schedule. Crop rotations must meet the soil loss tolerance just like in an Ag E&S Plan. Many times a 590 Plan is included in the Conservation Plan. This plan uses a standard format and helps the operator balance nutrient application. Soil tests and manure analysis are required, along with adequate record keeping of crop yields and manure application.
The final types of plans for managing nutrients are required when a certain amount of live animal weight is on the operation. An Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan is required when an operation is a Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO). A CAO has 8 or more Animal Equivalent Units (AEUs) and more than 2 AEUs per acre available for manure application. This plan follows a standard format, must be written by a certified plan writer, and is reviewed and approved by the local Conservation District. Even if the operation is not considered a CAO, the operator can volunteer to have an Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan. Any operation with more than 1000 AEUs or a CAO with more than 300 AEUs is considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). CAFOs are required to have a NPDES Permit from DEP along with a nutrient management plan, Ag E&S Plan, and a Preparedness, Prevention, and Contingency Plan.

If you have questions about this information, feel free to leave me comments. I also recommend contacting your local Conservation District or NRCS Office.

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