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Poultry Litter Waste Management Legislation

Farm Business Management Update, February 1999

By Jim Pease of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Legislation mandating the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop a poultry litter waste management program has passed unanimously in both houses of the General Assembly. The proposed regulatory program will apply to "confined poultry feeding operations" with 200 or more animal units of poultry, which is the equivalent of 20,000 or more broilers or layers and 11,000 turkeys or more. The regulatory program will govern the storage, treatment, and management of poultry manure and litter. It has three general requirements: 1) development and implementation of nutrient management plans, 2) waste tracking and accounting, and 3) storage of waste consistent with the nutrient management plan.

Specifically, the program will include at a minimum that

  1. poultry operations obtain a general permit;

  2. nutrient management plans for such operations provide for nitrogen application rates that do not exceed Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) approved rates (VALUES rates);

  3. nutrient management plans for such operations developed after Oct. 1, 2001 provide for phosphorus application rates that do not exceed the greater of crop nutrient needs or crop nutrient removal;

  4. by December 1, 2005, DCR with DEQ shall complete a state-of-the-art review of what is known about poultry-waste land applications, soil nutrient retention capacity, and water quality degradation.

DCR may adopt any further regulatory changes identified by the review which require phosphorus application rates in nutrient management plans to "protect water quality or to reduce soil concentrations of phosphorus or phosphorus loadings."

Violations of the provisions of this program will be subject to civil penalties not exceeding $2,500. Each day of violation constitutes a separate offense.

Requirements are also stipulated for poultry processors. On or before January 1, 2000, poultry processors must submit a plan to the state indicating how they will

  1. provide technical assistance to their contracting growers on poultry waste management and storage;

  2. provide educational programs on poultry waste nutrient management for growers, litter brokers, and others who utilize poultry waste;

  3. provide a toll-free phone hotline and advertising program to assist growers in identifying farmers in other areas who can use the waste as fertilizer in a manner consistent with the regulatory program's application rate requirements;

  4. participate in the development of an equal matching grant program with state government that will facilitate poultry waste transport to other areas and will encourage alternatives to land application;

  5. conduct research on poultry waste, phosphorus and water quality issues; and

  6. conduct research on nutrient reduction strategies for poultry feed.

Regulations of this program must be adopted by the State Water Control Board no later than October 1, 2000. An advisory group will be organized to assist in the development of the program and will consist of a minimum of 3 representatives each from poultry growers, poultry processors, and environmental organizations.

DCR is required to submit recommendations by December 20, 1999 on ways that the Commonwealth can assist poultry growers and processors to transport and market poultry waste as well as alternative uses of poultry waste.

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