With the continuing concern over meeting Pennsylvania’s nutrient and sediment reduction targets set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and many County Conservation Districts are implementing the Chesapeake Bay Agricultural Inspections Program (CBAIP) to assist farmers in complying with regulations surrounding manure management and soil erosion.
The inspections program plans to reach at least 10% of Pennsylvania farms inside the Chesapeake Bay Watershed each year, with 12.7% of farms already receiving an inspection in 2017.
Does this apply to my farm?
The inspections program is visiting farms that are not already regulated under Pennsylvania’s Act 38 Nutrient Management Program, or are federally-permitted CAFOs. The Act 38 regulated operations have been visited annually to ensure they have been meeting the regulatory requirements for many years.
The farms of interest to CBAIP are typically smaller, less intensive operations, but which still are required to comply with Pennsylvania state requirements, specifically Chapter 102 regulations for Agriculture Erosion and Sediment Control (Ag E and S), and Chapter 91 regulations for Manure Management Plans (MMP).
Any farm operation where manure is produced or land-applied is required to have and implement a manure management plan. Any farm operation with plowable/tillable acres, even if those acres are managed in continuous no-till, are required to have and implement an Ag E and S plan.
Farms with animal heavy use areas greater than 5000 sq. feet are also required to have and implement an Ag E and S plan. Land owners and those individuals managing rented land are jointly responsible for complying with the regulations, but the first point of contact for setting up an inspection is usually the land owner.
What do I need?
To prepare for an inspection, determine which plans your operation is required to maintain and follow (MMP, Ag E and S, or both). Then make sure you have those plans prepared in a way that reflects the current management practices on the farm.
If you have the appropriate plans for your operation and they are complete and accurate, you will pass the inspection. If you do not have the required plans available, or the plans do not reflect current management practices or are prepared incompletely, you will be given a grace period, typically 90 days, to develop new plans or correct errors in existing plans before being referred to DEP for enforcement actions.
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In 2017, several hundred of the 2,080 farms that were inspected did not pass the initial inspection for one reason or another, but only 73 were ultimately referred to DEP for not attaining compliance within the 90 day window.
Where can I go for help?
There are many resources available to help you prepare MMP and Ag E and S plans. Penn State Extension recently released an online course, “Writing a Manure Management Plan,” that will guide you through the process of writing your own plan. The Pennsylvania Nutrient Management Program also has a series of written materials to assist you in writing a MMP.
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You can also read the Manure Management Manual and utilize a Manure Management Plan Workbook on the DEP website to help you write a plan. The service, hosted by Penn State Extension, has an online module for developing Ag E and S plans.
As always, Penn State’s own county-based Extension Educators on Crops and Animal Systems teams can help answer any questions or concerns you may have and our services remain confidential.
Many Conservation Districts offer in-person trainings on plan writing or they can connect you with individuals who can assist you with your plan writing needs if needed.
Finally, please remember that the purpose of these plans is not to have paper on the shelf, but practices on the ground. The planning process helps you to evaluate your operation and identify the management practices that will maintain or improve environmental quality given your specific scenario. Once a plan is developed, make sure you follow through and implement it.