Nutrient Management

The Nutrient Management Act Program

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1The 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 (BMP’s) 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 (CAO’s) which are defined as greater than 2 animal units per acre of suitable cropland or pasture for spreading manure. An animal unit is 1000 pounds of live animal weight. Any farming operation that is a CAO must have a Nutrient Management Plan for that operation by a certified Nutrient Management Specialist. A certified planner has passed a test and other requirements by the PA Department of Agriculture. The Conservation District has a list of certified planners that are interested in serving Crawford County. A farmer may also become individually certified to write their own Nutrient Management Plan for their farm.

After the Nutrient Management Plan is written it then must be sent to the Crawford County Conservation District for the review and approval process. A certified Nutrient Management Specialist will review the plan to see that it meets all of 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. Nutrient Management Plans that do not meet the requirements can be revised until they are approved.

Throughout various stages of implementation of the Nutrient Management Plan, the Conservation District is required to conduct “On site status reviews” where the required record keeping and the implementation of required BMPs are examined to insure proper implementation of the approved Nutrient Management Plan. The reviews help the Conservation District to assist the producer to stay in compliance with the Nutrient Management laws.

The records that are to be kept are:

  • Accurate records of land application of nutrients, crop yields, soil tests, manure tests and tests of other nutrient sources.
  • Accurate records of manure transfers (exporting Manure).

Record Keeping Checklist and more information on record keeping guidelines of Nutrient Management Programs are available on the Pennsylvania Nutrient Management Programs web site.

There are three programs that provide financial assistance to farmers who are working within the provisions of the law under the Act 6 program. There are two cost-share programs for plan development and plan implementation, and a loan program with low interest rates.

The two cost-share programs are…

  • The Plan Development Incentives Program (PDIP), which provides financial assistance to existing agricultural operations for the development of a Certified Nutrient Management Plan. (To be eligible, the farming operation must have existed prior to Oct. 1997).
  • The Nutrient Management Grant Program, which provides financial assistance in the form of a grant to qualified applicants with approved Act 6 Nutrient Management Plans in order to complete on-the-ground practices required in their Nutrient Management Plans. (To be eligible, certain criteria must be met).

The loan program is…

  • AgriLink, which is a low interest loan program provided by the state of Pennsylvania to provide farmers with assistance to implement BMPs that are listed in their Act 6 Nutrient Management Plans.

Under the Plan Development Incentive Program, Nutrient Management Plans developed after May 25, 2004 have new cost-share rates for nitrogen/phosphorus management planning. The new cost-share rates are shown in the table below.


Operation Size Maximum Cost Share Rate Maximum Cost Share Payments
0 – 85 acres 75% of actual costs $640.00 per operation
85 – 200 acres 75% of actual costs Maximum = $7.50 per acre
200+ acres 75% of actual costs $1,500.00 per operation


Although the Nutrient Management Act targets CAOs, volunteer farming operations (production and recreational) are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the Nutrient Management Program. Nutrient Management Plans can help all farmers to manage nutrients, reduce fertilizer costs, improve herd health, improve farm profits, protect the environment, and improve the image of farmers as good stewards of natural resources. Having a Nutrient Management Plan also provides opportunities for other types of programs.

Currently there are several proposed changes being made to the Nutrient Management Act regulations that will affect agriculture. If the proposed changes are passed, horses will be included in the CAO calculations. CAOs will require an E+S Plan for plowing and tilling. There will be more documentation of nutrients in soil and manure, in the distribution of manure, as well as other documentation. The handling and usage of manure will be stricter. CAOs will be required to have a contingency plan. And as of May 25, 2004, phosphorus has already been made a planned nutrient.

The proposed revisions to the regulations are available through the Pennsylvania Nutrient Management Program web site by clicking on “Proposed NM Reg Changes” under “What’s New” in an unofficial version of the proposed regulations provided by the SCC in an easy-to-read format.

The proposed certification regulation changes published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin can also be viewed by clicking on “NM Certification Regulations Released for Public Comment” under “What’s New”.

Agricultural Consulting Services

Richard F. Wildman, President

1634 Monroe Avenue

Rochester, NY 14618

Phone: (877) 310-1100

Richard Dale

115 Main St

Gorton, NY 13073

(585) 314-5315

Team Ag Inc

901 Dawn Avenue

Ephrata, PA 17522

Phone: (717) 721-6795

William C. Fink

155 S Woodcock Valley Rd

Hopewell, PA 16650

(814) 928-4249

Liz Dropp

Kinzua Country Enterprises

1885 Samuelson Road

Youngsville, PA 16371

Phone: (814) 489-3322

Maille Consulting Service

Dave Maille

7653 Dutton Rd

Harborcreek, PA 16421

(814) 898-0755

Mctish & Kunkel and Assoc.

Tracy Lewis

55 Pierce Lane Ste 203

Montoursville, PA 17754

(570) 368-3040

Fax (570) 368-3166

For a more complete listing of private planners go to and click on Nutrient Management Specialists.

For more information locally contact