4/8/2014 6:00 AM
By Janice F. Booth Maryland Correspondent
There is lots of manure on Maryland farms. Farmers know it and regulators have to deal with it. Now, Maryland’s Department of Agriculture is revitalizing a proactive approach to dealing with excess manure.
Following the institution of the Water Quality Act of 1998, Maryland devised a three-pronged approach to helping livestock farmers — poultry and cattle farms in particular — to deal with the enormous volume of phosphorous-rich manure produced annually.
The Manure Matching Service, the Manure Transport Program and the Manure Injection and Incorporation Program are designed to work together to help farmers protect the bay and serve each other’s needs.
According to Norm Astle, program administrator for the Manure Matching Service, two programs, the Manure Transport Program and the Manure Injection and Incorporation Program, have taken off; they include financial reimbursement. But the Manure Matching Service has yet to be fully utilized by Maryland farmers.
Could it be that the program’s title lacks a certain appeal? Who really wants to share manure?
While the Department of Agriculture doesn’t send out checks to farmers participating in the Manure Matching Service, there could be money saved by using this clearing-house service. Poultry producers, cattle farms, horse, sheep and pig farms constantly struggle to safely store and disperse manure produced by their livestock. Money is spent to contain the manure and to truck it away.
In other parts of the state, wheat, oat, corn and soybean farms need fertilizer, and spend large portions of their budgets buying fertilizer for their fields.
The Manure Matching Service hooks up farms with manure to give away or sell at a nominal fee with farms in need of fertilizer. Through the Department of Agriculture’s sharing list, cropland farmers can arrange to receive and apply animal waste as fertilizer. Sharing farms must test the manure’s nitrogen level and provide that information.
The only stipulation for receiving farms is that their acreage’s fertility index value, or FIV, be below 150, whether the receiving farm is local or out of state. Farmers are already required to provide a nutrient management plan if their soil registers between 101-150 on the FIV. When fall nutrient management plans are being prepared, farmers can build in the manure fertilization, knowing that they’ve arranged a manure sharing delivery before spring planting.
The Department of Agriculture says it’s trying to open lines of communication and exchanges for farmers to help one another, while also helping themselves.
According to a department press release, producers register with the service by completing a sending farm application that includes information about the type of manure available, nutrient value, condition and price. The department provides this information to potential recipients who supply information about their location, nutrient and timing needs. This helps ensure a match that meets the needs of both sending and receiving farms.
A nutrient management plan is used to determine the amount of manure that can benefit a receiving farm’s crop management system. A manure analysis is also performed to determine the nutrient content of the manure and help participants negotiate a fair price. The department serves as an information exchange and does not participate in financial negotiations.
A recent check of the lists on the Manure Matching Services portion of the department’s website show fewer than a dozen registered senders and about the same number of receiving farms registered. Every listed “sender” farm on the manure matching list was offering manure free or “negotiable.”
Farmers can check out their options by calling toll free 1-855-6MANURE, or the program administrator, Norm Astle, at 410-841-5834. The Department of Agriculture website is available at http://mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/Pages/manure_management.aspx, and includes one-page applications for both senders and receivers.