Under a new program designed to help distribute poultry litter in the state, Alabama landowners now may apply for incentive payments to offset the cost of transporting litter that will be applied on pasture, hay and row-crop land.

The Alabama Litter Distribution Project, which is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), is designed to encourage the use of poultry littler as fertilizer in areas of the state that historically have not used litter. This may reduce litter application in areas where it traditionally has been over-lapped, says Jimmy Carlisle, poultry director for the Alabama Farmers Federation.

“Alabama poultry operations produce more than a million tons of litter each year, and most of that is concentrated in north Alabama and the Wiregrass region,” says Carlisle. “In some counties, there isn't enough hay and pasture land to adequately utilize the nutrients from this litter.

“With new restrictions limiting litter application to ‘actively growing’ crops, it's becoming even more difficult for growers to dispose of litter,” Carlisle adds. “This program will help farmers take advantage of this nutrient-rich by-product instead of viewing it as a liability.”

Landowners who wish to participate may apply at the Natural Resources Conservation office that serves the county where the litter will be applied. The project is intended to fund incentive payments for three years for the hauling of poultry litter under a long-term contract. The three years do not have to be consecutive.

A continuous sign-up for the project began March 1. Applicants should bring a recent soil test report for the fields where they wish to apply litter. The payment rate will be 10 cents per mile, per ton. Litter must be spread according to a nutrient management plan and must be applied to land that has not received litter in at least three years.

The total amount of funds available statewide is $700,000. Farmers who have excess litter and would like to participate in the project may call the Poultry Hotline at 1-866-548-8123.

There were about 175 applications for the Alabama Litter Distribution Project during the first week of the sign-up. Of those, 40 applicants indicated they planned to transport litter within a 10- to 25-mile range; 45 were moving litter 26 to 50 miles; 46 applied to transport the fertilizer 51 to 75 miles; 24 were moving it 76 to 100 miles; 15 were in the 101- to 125-mile range; and four planned to haul litter 126 to 150 miles.

Natural Resources Conservation Service officials called the preliminary sign-up results “very encouraging.”

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com