The Venango Conservation District (VCD) employs Jane Price as the district’s Agricultural Resource Technician. The purpose of the position is to assist agricultural operators by providing technical assistance on such things as soil sampling, plan writing, providing Best Management Practice (BMP) information etc. One of Jane’s main jobs is to help operators with Nutrient Management and Manure Management planning.
MANURE MANAGEMENT PLAN (MMP) - In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, anyone who produces, spreads, hauls, or utilizes manure is required to obtain a Manure Management Plan. This plan is very simple and the VCD can help with writing plans. The plan compiles information about the operation, which includes maps, crop information, where/how manure is kept, and how manure is utilized on the property. Most importantly, the plan identifies any environmentally sensitive areas on the property.
NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT PLAN (NMP) - If an operation has an overabundance of animals or does not have enough land to spread all the manure being produced so that manure has to be hauled off the property, then the operation is required by the Commonwealth to have a Nutrient Management Plan. This plan is more complex and can be written by the VCD or a consultant that is NMP Certified.
WHAT – A Nutrient Management plan helps operators to better understand how they can best utilize nutrients on their property. These nutrients may consist of lime, fertilizer, and manure. Soil samples and manure samples help technicians determine when to apply and the quantity that should be applied. It is important that the operator knows this information so that they don’t over apply or apply at the wrong time. A technician can gather all the operator’s management practices information and nutrient values information. The data is used to compute what fields are utilizing the nutrients and to ensure that no excess nutrients become pollutants through runoff to local water bodies.
WHO – Some operations can have a NMP written for their operation voluntarily. Some operations are required by law to have a NMP. If a farm exceeds 2 animal equivalent units (AEU) per acre on a yearly basis, it is defined as a concentrated animal operation (CAO). CAO operations are required to have a NMP. Almost all NMPs in Venango County are Volunteer Animal Operations (VAO).
WHY – If a farmer is producing more manure than can be spread and is a CAO, the PA Law states that the farmer would need a NMP. A farmer would also need a NMP to receive certain funding. If the operator was interested in the NRCS EQUIP Program funding, then they would be required to have a current NMP in place. Some grants and agencies that are available to farmers require or will work with an operator to get a NMP before any more extensive technical processes happen or funding awarded. An operator may want to upgrade from a MMP to a NMP because they want to better understand how the nutrients on their farm can more effectively be applied and if time and money could be saved.
THE VCDS ROLE IN MMP AND NMP - To become a certified NMP Specialist for a conservation district and through the State Conservation Commission (SCC) a technician needs to complete a number of trainings and pass a state exam to become certified. The final step is to write and review a set number of NMPs that will be reviewed by other technicians that are certified. The number of plans a technician striving for certification must write and review is determined by the level of certification to be achieved.
Jane is currently working toward her final certification. She has written one plan for James McCall, whose operation is in Venango County. Mr. McCall owns 60 acres and has a 100-head beef farm. The operation is considered a VAO. He implements a rotational grazing system. He was able to install some BMPs with help from the NRCS EQUIP Program. He has some agreements with other local farmers for rented pasture that he moves his animals to for the grazing season. Mr. McCall sells his grass-fed beef to casinos in Erie and New York and to some local restaurants as well.
If you are a landowner interested in more information on how you can get technical assistance, or to inquire about potential grant opportunities, contact Jane Price at the VCD by phone at 814-676-2832 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.