Nutrient Management Act Programs

The Nutrient Management Act Program (Act 38)

The goal of Pennsylvania ’s Nutrient Management Act (NMA) regulations is to minimize surface and groundwater nutrient loads from high density animal operations by ensuring proper and efficient distribution of nutrients. The York County Conservation District has been delegated by the State Conservation Commission (SCC) to oversee implementation of the NMA regulations in the county by monitoring compliance and providing education and technical assistance in nutrient management planning and manure handling. Operations designated as Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs) are required by law to develop and implement a nutrient management plan for their operation. These are animal operations which have more then 2 animal equivalent units (2000 lbs. live animal weight) per acre of land on which manure may be applied. This land must be under the management control of the animal operation to be included in the plan.

All plans which are to be approved under Act 38 regulations must be written by a state certified Nutrient Management Specialist who has attended training and passed a test given by the State Conservation Commission. Individual farmers may become certified to write the Nutrient Management Plan for their own farm. Completed plans must then be sent to the York County Conservation District for a review and approval process. A state certified staff member will review the plan to see that it meets all state requirements. When the plan is determined to be complete, it is presented to the District Board of Directors for approval at their monthly meeting. Plans not meeting all requirements must be revised by the plan writer until they are complete. Plans must be reviewed by a certified specialist every three years (sooner if major changes occur in the operation) to determine if any revisions are needed.

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Volunteer Plans

Animal operations which are not CAOs are encouraged to develop voluntary nutrient management plans. These plans will provide a written record of management decisions to ensure proper use of nutrients. Plans that are properly approved and implemented can provide limited liability protection in the case of manure mishandling complaints against the operation. Under state law all animal operations must have a written manure management plan, but this does not have to be an approved plan.

Certified Plan Writers

As mentioned above, all nutrient plans submitted for approval must be written by a certified specialist. A list of these specialists may be obtained from the District or from the PA Nutrient Management website listed at the end of this article.


New, updated nutrient management regulations went into effect on October 1, 2006 . Major changes from the previous law require that:

  • All plans must consider both Nitrogen and Phosphorus nutrients applied to crops.
  • CAOs and importers of manure from CAOs must meet manure spreading setback requirements.
  • Manure importers need to follow increased record keeping requirements.
  • New in-field stacking requirements must be followed.
  • All operations having an approved nutrient plan will have and implement an approved erosion and sediment (conservation) plan.
  • CAOs must perform annual manure analyses for all manure groups on the operation.
  • New fall and winter manure application guidelines must be followed.


The nutrient management regulations, formerly Act 6, have now become part of Act 38 which is more commonly known as the ACRE (Agriculture, Communities and the Rural Environment) legislation. Act 38 includes a provision requiring odor control planning requirements for all new CAOs beginning in 2007. ACRE legislation also provides for the PA Attorney General’s office to review local ordinances for legality if a farmer considers the ordinance to be more stringent than Act 38. This does not affect local ordinances based on zoning, building, fire or safety codes, however.

New CAFO Regulations

Updated regulations concerning Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) went into effect in 2005. CAFOs are regulated in Pennsylvania by PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Complete information on CAFO regulations and which operations are affected by them may be found at the DEP website.

Useful Links for Nutrient Management

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