You've reached the Virginia Cooperative Extension Newsletter Archive. These files cover more than ten years of newsletters posted on our old website (through April/May 2009), and are provided for historical purposes only. As such, they may contain out-of-date references and broken links.

To see our latest newsletters and current information, visit our website at

Newsletter Archive index:

Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

An Update on Virginia Poultry Waste Management

Farm Business Management Update, June 2000

By Jim Pease

House Bill 1207, regulating poultry producers, was passed by the 1999 General Assembly. The associated Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) General Permit Regulation for Poultry Waste Management (9 VAC 25-630) is currently in the public comment phase. Public hearings on this regulation were scheduled for Melfa (5/30), Bridgewater (6/1), Richmond (6/5), and Hampton (6/8). If the regulation adoption process continues as projected, the regulation will take effect before October 2000.

This amendment to the Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) general permit regulates operations having 20,000 chickens or 11,000 turkeys. It establishes requirements for proper nutrient management, waste storage, and waste tracking. Key points of the draft regulation are

  1. Poultry growers who wish to be covered under the general permit must file a registration statement with DEQ which indicates the grower's name and contact information, the location of the growing facility, the type and maximum number of birds grown at the facility at any one time, the method of dead bird disposal, and certification of compliance with management and monitoring requirements of this permit and all VPA permits. They must also attach a DCR-approved nutrient management plan.
  2. Poultry growers using disposal pits for routine disposal of daily mortalities are not eligible under the general permit and must obtain individual permits.
  3. To obtain a new general permit or modify an existing permit, a grower who intends to construct a new facility must notify all adjoining property owners.
  4. Each grower must complete a DCR-approved training program within one year after submitting the request for a general permit and at least every three years thereafter.
  5. Soil tests must be taken at least once every three years on fields where farm-produced litter is applied. Litter must be tested at least once per year. The results of such tests must be sent to DEQ.
  6. Poultry waste storage facilities must not be constructed in the 100-year flood plain, and waste stored outside the growing house longer than 14 days must be covered and protected from storm and ground water.
  7. If a grower sells or gives away more than 10 tons of poultry waste (litter and/or composted dead birds), he must give the receiver a copy of the most recent nutrient analysis and a fact sheet indicating appropriate practices for proper waste storage and management. The receiver must certify that the waste will be managed in accordance with the fact sheet. If the receiver is a broker or other non-user, he must certify in writing that the required information will be given to the end user. The grower is required to maintain a record of the name and address of the receiver, the date and amount of waste transferred, and the associated certification. Records of these transactions must be maintained for three years and be available to DEQ personnel.
  8. Poultry waste must be managed in accordance with the DCR-approved nutrient management plan (NMP). The NMP must contain, at a minimum, a site map of production and litter application locations, an application site evaluation of soil types and productivities, a plan for soil and waste monitoring, calculation of litter application rates, and a schedule of litter applications. Records must be kept indicating the application schedule, the location and rate of realized applications, and the crops planted on applied fields. Such records must be maintained and available to DEQ personnel for three years. Nitrogen application rates in NMPs may not exceed crop nutrient needs as determined by DCR. After October 1, 2001, application rates in NMPs may not exceed the greater of crop nutrient needs or removal. Poultry litter shall not be applied on frozen, snow-covered, or saturated soils or when an actively growing crop is not growing or will be planted within 30 days. Buffer zones for applications are established prohibiting applications within specified distances of homes, wells, streams, and outcroppings.

The draft Poultry Litter Storage and Utilization Fact Sheet that is to be given to all receivers of more than 10 tons of poultry waste generated on a producing farm provides additional details about waste storage and application.

  1. Litter is to be applied at rates such that nitrogen needs of the current crop and phosphorus needs of the two-year crop rotation are not exceeded.
  2. Spreader calibration should be performed at least twice per year.
  3. Applications to fields with slopes greater than 15 percent should be avoided.
  4. Periods during the year when litter should not be applied to particular crops are indicated.
  5. Cover crops should be planted if litter is applied during fall.

A recent study conducted for DCR indicates the production and potential use of poultry waste for land application to crops, hay, and pasture by county (the study should be available at by the time you read this).

Virginia Regional Poultry Litter Production and Potential Use*
 Litter Production
(000 tons)
Crop/hay/pasture Use
(000 tons)
Eastern Shore2825
Shenandoah Valley453132
South Central4460

* Table taken from "Economic Analysis of Virginia Poultry Litter Transportation," by B. A. Pelletier, J. W. Pease, and D. Kenyon. Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin (forthcoming). Litter production estimated from 1997 Census of Agriculture, litter use estimated from crop/hay/pasture phosphate requirements.

If all poultry litter produced in each of the Virginia poultry regions were land applied on a phosphate-need basis, only the Shenandoah Valley would show a significant nutrient excess. The Valley would need to export or otherwise utilize approximately 321,000 tons of litter if phosphate requirements for plants determined litter application rates, as indicated by the draft Fact Sheet described above. One alternative is to utilize litter for production of fuel or value-added fertilizer products. If significantly more raw litter is to be transported out of the Valley for land application, significant new incentive mechanisms must be in place to entice farmers to buy litter for land application.

Recently, a joint venture between Harmony Products, Rocco, and DukeSolutions announced they would build a plant to process up to 50,000 tons of litter into a variety of nutrient-enriched granular fertilizer targeted to commercial lawn, landscaping, and golf course markets. DCR has matched Rocco's $0.5 million investment from the Water Quality Improvement Fund. The plant is expected to be operating by the beginning of 2001 and will employ 15 to 25 people. Most of the litter supplied to the plant will come from Rocco growers.

A proposed litter transport subsidy program was examined in Pelletier, Pease, and Kenyon and was proposed by DCR in its December 1999 report to the General Assembly on poultry waste management. Under such a program, farms receiving litter for land application to crops, hay, or pasture would receive cost-share assistance to partially defray litter transportation charges. Crop, hay, and pasture needs within breakeven transportation distances of Harrisonburg are 1.2 million tons, far greater than total state production, but only a small portion of potential acres are fertilized with poultry litter. Adoption of litter as a nutrient source should be stimulated by such a cost-share program. It is not yet clear if or when such a program will be initiated.

Contact the author at .

Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension