Old McDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-o.
And on that farm he had a horse, e-i-e-i-o.
And on that farm he had a Manure Management Plan, written in the new standard format required by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Although life is no longer as simple as it was in the days when Mr. Ed shared office space with Wilbur, owning farm animals and complying with regulations regarding their care isn't complicated. But there are things that must be done to get your ducks in a row.
"The manure management regulations have been in place for many years, however, Pennsylvania has just recently updated the regulations and developed the new standard plan format," explained Elizabeth Hinkel, District Manager, Schuylkill Conservation District. "While these regulations aren't new, there has been a push on getting the smaller operations into compliance."
Who Needs a Plan?
A key component of the calculation is the Animal Equivalent Unit. One animal unit is equal to 1,000 pounds of animal, which could be one horse, 4 pigs, or 250 chickens.
An operation which has at least 8 AEUs and 2 or more AEUs per acre is called a Concentrated Animal Operation. The CAOs Manureare regulated under the 2005 Act 38, the Nutrient Management Act. They must have a Nutrient Management Plan written by a certified Act 38 plan writer.
The Nutrient Management Plan must be reviewed and approved by the local conservation district or by the State Conservation Commission. The plans must be updated every year (for annual plans) or every three years.
Farms that are not CAOs but have livestock must have a manure management plan.
"There's no minimum as to how many animals requires you to have one of these," Hinkel said. "Technically, if you have one horse, just a few backyard chickens, or a 4-H animal, you are required to have a Manure Management Plan."
A Barnesville family who share their acreage with a number of animals, including horses, sheep and chickens, wrote a plan last year after attending a workshop offered through a county conservation district.
"The workshop was so tremendously helpful," said Anne Riotto, wife of Mark Riotto. "I belong to quite a few online farming groups and a lot of people are, I think, frightened by the requirement."
"The thing is though that the majority of them are small farms and the plan requirements for them are pretty easy," she added. "Once I got over my initial anxiousness about it, I actually enjoyed making ours and have been encouraging everyone to contact their local conservation district to find out about workshops."
The State Conservation Commission enforces the Act 38 Nutrient Management Act, and DEP enforces the Manure Management Act.
"These organizations typically have a delegation agreement with the county conservation district to administer these programs," Hinkel said. "This includes education, outreach, technical assistance, and the review and approval of nutrient management plans."
"The conservation districts can also assist farmers with developing manure management plans and reviewing those plans; however, conservation districts are not regulatory," she continued. "The Schuylkill Conservation District works towards voluntary compliance with all of our operations, and an operation would not be turned over for enforcement action unless we were unable to obtain that voluntary compliance."
Unlike the Nutrient Management Plan for the CAOs, the Manure Management Plan does not have to be written by a specialist. The farm owner can write the plan but it has to be written in a specific format using the DEP Manure Management Manual Plan, which can be found at www.panutrientmgmt.cas.psu.edu.
Ann Swinker, PhD, Extension Specialist Equine, Penn State, described the elements which are included in a Manure Management Plan.
"First, develop a farm or property map, and then get a copy of Land Application of Manure, which is a document that will help you work through your manure management plan," Swinker said. "On your map you'll identify nearby wells, streams, lakes, ponds and sinkholes, which would require manure setbacks."
If manure must be stored, steps should be taken to prevent runoff to nearby streams or other water bodies. Manure should not be spread on pastures unless the pastures meet the dense vegetation standard (average of 3 inches of growth across the pasture throughout the growing season.
Need help? There are plenty of options.
"Contact your local conservation district, the PSUExtension, Ag consultants, nutrient planners, and manure brokers," Swinker said. "Look for locally or regionally-held manure management planning workshops where trained individuals will help you work through developing your own plan."
The PSUExtension, Northampton County, has already assisted more than 120 people in writing a plan. The extension plans several workshops in March. The long range goals are better farm management and protection of resources, such as watersheds.
"Environmental regulations for farms are not new," said Equine Natural Resource Educator Donna Foulk, PSU Extension, Northampton County. "But with increasing pressure to prevent agricultural pollutants from entering local watersheds, agencies are not focusing educational and regulatory efforts on not only large operations, but also small farms with just a few horses."