Recent legislation and subsequent regulations concerning poultry litter use in Virginia have raised several questions from farmers who may be affected by the new rules, according to Robert Clark of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service.

The following paragraphs, he says, are taken directly from the Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) Permit Regulation for Poultry Waste Management, and provide a good starting point for a discussion of the new requirements:

“When a poultry grower transfers to another person more than 10 tons of poultry waste in any 365-day period, the poultry grower shall provide that person a copy of the most recent nutrient analysis for the poultry waste and a fact sheet approved by the Department of Environmental Quality… The person receiving the waste shall provide the poultry grower his name and address and acknowledge in writing receipt of the waste, the nutrient analysis, and the fact sheet. If the person receiving the waste is a poultry waste broker, then he shall also certify in writing that he will provide a copy of the nutrient analysis and fact sheet to each end user to whom he transfers poultry waste.

“When a poultry waste broker transfers to another person more than 10 tons of poultry waste in any 365-day period, the poultry waste broker shall provide to the recipient of the waste copies of the most recent nutrient analysis for the poultry waste and a fact sheet approved by the Department of Environmental Quality… The person receiving the waste shall provide the poultry producer his name and address, and acknowledge in writing receipt of the waste, the nutrient analysis, and the fact sheet.”

Litter brokers, says Clark, were required to begin distributing litter fact sheet, litter analyses and receiving signatures effective Dec. 1, 2000. Poultry farmers are required to begin when they receive their general permit, and they have until Oct. 1, 2001, to complete this requirement.

Both poultry farmers and litter brokers are required to provide non-poultry farmers with a copy of a document entitled, “Poultry Litter Storage and Utilization Fact Sheet,” he says. Although non-poultry farmers aren't required to follow this fact sheet, it contains suggested guidelines for poultry litter use, and basic information designed to help non-poultry farmers understand how to manage poultry litter in an environmentally sound manner.

Copies of the fact sheet also are available from local Extension offices, most litter brokers, regional Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) offices or the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Some poultry farmers may not have copies available for distribution until after they receive their general permit.

Although the Poultry Waste Management Regulations do not contain specific requirements regarding the use of litter on non-poultry farms, other regulations do apply, says Clark.

“First, the use of litter still is subject to Virginia's State Water Control Law in the same manner as any other fertilizer product. If, for example, a farmer is using littler — or any other fertilizer product — in a manner that is causing groundwater nitrate-N levels to rise above five parts per million, then this farmer would be in violation of the state's groundwater standard for nitrate-N.

“There also are additional groundwater and surface water standards for other potential pollutants found in poultry litter. The use of litter by non-poultry farmers also is subject to the Agricultural Stewardship Act.”

Under the nutrient analysis regulation, poultry farmers and litter brokers are required to provide non-poultry farmers with copies of the most recent nutrient analysis of the litter, explains Clark. These regulations require the analysis to include Total Nitrogen, Ammonia Nitrogen (technically, ammonium nitrogen), Phosphorus, Potassium and Moisture.

These parameters, he says, must be converted to Plant Available Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potash to determine appropriate application rates. Waste samples submitted to the University of Maryland (the laboratory used by DCR and Extension for free samples) undergo these calculations, and the results are reported as available nitrogen incorporated, available nitrogen not incorporated, total phosphate and total potash.

“Other laboratories may not make these calculations. If another laboratory is used, you may want to contact your local Extension agent, DCR nutrient management specialist or another certified nutrient management planner to make sure you are using the right numbers.”

The new regulations require that poultry farmers analyze waste a minimum of once every three years, notes Clark. In some cases, litter might be delivered directly from the poultry house, so the most recent analysis may be from a previous flock.

Recent legislation raising questions

“Farmers receiving poultry litter always can submit their own samples, even if it is being spread as it arrives on the farm. If the poultry litter will be stored for 30 days or longer, sample the stored waste about three to four weeks prior to the spreading date.”

Non-poultry farmers receiving more than 10 tons of poultry litter within a 365-day period must identify the nearest stream or body of water to the location where the litter will be spread, says Clark. The name of the stream or body of water as known to the recipient or to the local community is adequate, he adds. If more information is required, it can be obtained from USGS topographical maps. Other sources of stream names include the USDA Regional Service Center, Extension offices or nutrient management specialists.

Poultry farmers or brokers are required to obtain a signature from whomever receives the poultry waste to acknowledge receipt of the most recent nutrient analysis of the litter and a copy of the DEQ-approved fact sheet.

“In many instances, litter brokers won't see the farmer on days when litter is delivered and/or spread. The regulations don't specify when the poultry farmer or broker will obtain the signature. The problem arises when litter is delivered to a farm without a fact sheet, nutrient analysis or the required signature, and when the litter either is improperly stored or spread.

“In these cases, the poultry farmer has not complied with their part of the regulation. To avoid this concern, it is recommended that litter brokers or poultry farmers deliver fact sheets, copies of the most recent nutrient analysis and receive signatures prior to or at the time of transferring litter to non-poultry farmers.”

Virginia's poultry litter regulations don't require non-poultry farmers to have nutrient management plans (NMP), says Clark. However, there are a few situations in which non-poultry farmers still may need a NMP.

“Some non-poultry farmers have a NMP as part of a VPA permit or as a requirement for cost-share assistance. In these cases, non-poultry farmers are required to follow the plan because of the VPA permit or cost-share agreement, but not because of the Poultry Waste Management Regulations. Non-poultry farmers who have a NMP must use poultry litter in a manner consistent with the plan.”

Some non-poultry farmers have elected to be integrated into a poultry farmer's NMP either as a method of locking in a stable supply of litter, to help the poultry farmer meet local requirements, or both, notes Clark.

Poultry waste regulations require these non-poultry farmers to adhere to this plan. Failure to abide by the plan could cause the poultry farmer to be out of compliance with his plan and, thereby, also with his permit.

Options accommodating these situations include the following:

  • The non-poultry farmer can include his land in the poultry farmer's NMP. The non-poultry farmer would be required to follow the NMP.

  • The poultry farmer can include a statement in his plan indicating that litter which will not be used on his land will be transferred to other farms.

  • The non-poultry farmer can have a NMP developed specifically for his farm and/or to meet the requirements of local ordinances.

Non-poultry farmers who receive poultry litter have no reporting requirements, says Clark. Litter brokers are required to submit records to DEQ for the preceding calendar year no later than Feb. 15.

These records, he says, must contain the dates of transaction, the amount of litter transferred for each transaction, the litter analysis, the locality where the litter will be applied, the name of the nearest stream or water body to the site of litter application and if the fact sheet and litter analysis were received. Litter brokers will want to call their regional DEQ office to make sure they are meeting all requirements.

e-mail: phollis58@mindspring.com