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Update on Implementing Nutrient Management Plans

Livestock Update, January 2002

Janet Thomas and C. M. Wood, Virginia Tech

Environmental impact has moved to the forefront of challenges faced by agriculture because of ground and surface water contamination, air quality, soil erosion and wildlife losses (Shuyler, 1994). Various publications and regulations have been written to regulate farmingıs impact on the environment, but what about practical implications? The goal of the Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations, jointly developed by the EPA and USDA to implement the 1998 Clean Water Action Plan, is for all Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) to develop and implement Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) by 2009. Virginia is home to thousands of small, non-regulated AFOs similar to the other 200,000 plus across the country. These are the operations that will need the most monetary and logistical assistance in completing and implementing these CNMPs (Combs, 2001).

To achieve this 2009 goal various strategies are in the works to assist this target group of producers. First, to carry out the new and changing regulations technicians will need to be hired and trained to assist and follow up with a producerıs success in implementing a CNMP. The most important duty of a technician will be to bring current research results and new technologies to the producer. The technician will also ensure compatibility with state and federal regulations. The farmer is protected by using the permitting system to prove his commitment to properly handle nutrients in his operation (Combs, 2001).

A problem lies with how producers will react to this assistance, which they are not necessarily convinced is needed. Naturally the most sensitive question about this process is cost. Research is being conducted to ensure the land and nutrients for application are properly analyzed. Also, regulators are aware that the financial status of producers is variable and new technologies are not feasible economically in some cases. More cost share programs must be developed that will alleviate part or even all of the new cost as well (Combs, 2001).

Why target these small, unregulated AFO's? These regulations are changing and the number of facilities needing a CNMP can only increase. The issue is sensitive from all angles. A neighbor can report a producer for offensive odors and a mandatory plan is then required. The future of nutrient management regulations to some extent lies in the hands of the producers. The public perception of agriculture and management of nutrients will drive the governmentıs response and enforcement of regulations (Meyer and Mullinax, 1999).

Works Cited

Combs, M. 2001. Development of comprehensive nutrient management plans: practical aspects of getting nutrient management plans implemented. J. Anim. Sci. 79(suppl.1):142 (abstr.).

Meyer, D. and D. D. Mullinax. 1999. Livestock nutrient management concerns: regulatory and legislative overview. J. Anim. Sci. 77:51-62.

Shuyler, L. R. 1994. Why nutrient management? (agriculture nutrient management). J. Soil and Water Conservation 49:3-7.

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