When is Movement of Manure Considered a “Manure Transfer”?

When is Movement of Manure Considered a “Manure Transfer”?

If you are an owner or employee on a permitted animal feeding operation, you know very well that maintaining complete and accurate manure management records is necessary to comply with your nutrient management plan (NMP). While you may have enough land within your operation to utilize all manure nutrients produced, it is quite common for manure to be transported from a livestock operation where it was produced to a neighboring crop farm for land application. The way you record this manure utilization in your manure management records depends on whether or not it is considered a transfer of manure ‘ownership’ from a regulatory standpoint. This is typically just referred to as a “manure transfer”, so that it the term I have used throughout this article. When manure moves between locations, responsibility for managing it may move, too, or it may remain with the owner of the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) from where it originated. It’s important to understand what constitutes a legitimate transfer of manure so that you can maintain the required records to stay in compliance.

What defines a manure transfer?

Important Terms:
CAFO Operator Owner named on the permit of a CAFO
Hauler Entity handling manure delivery and/or application
Farmer Recipient of manure from the CAFO

The key to deciding if movement or transport of manure is a “manure transfer” or not is recognizing who maintains control of the manure. Let’s first define the potential entities who might be involved in transporting and/or applying manure and then we can think through some scenarios to demonstrate the decision-making process.

There are then three key questions to ask yourself in order to define a “manure transfer”. These are illustrated in the following “decision tree” and discussed in detail below.manure transfer decision tree

1.  First, is the land that is receiving manure owned by the CAFO Operator?

If you answer “YES”, then any transport of manure to that field, whether performed by an employee of the CAFO or a custom manure hauler, is NOT a transfer because the CAFO Operator controls how the manure is utilized. That land should be part of the nutrient management plan (NMP) for the CAFO. If it is not, a modification to the NMP is needed to comply with regulatory requirements.

If you answer “NO”, the next question is:

2. Is the land receiving manure included in the CAFO’s NMP under an agreement between the CAFO Operator and the Farmer who owns the land?

Many NMPs can include nearby land that is not owned by the CAFO Operator, but on which the CAFO Operator is allowed to spread manure. Typically, a “spreading agreement” or other contract between the CAFO Operator and the Farmer who owns the land defines the terms under which the CAFO Operator can access the land for manure application, including the number of years over which the contract remains in effect.

If you answer “YES” to this question, then any transport and application of manure to the Farmer’s field(s), whether performed by an employee of the CAFO, a custom manure Hauler or the Farmer, is NOT a transfer because the CAFO Operator controls how the manure is utilized as defined in their NMP.

If you answer “NO”, the final question is:

3. Who is applying or directing application of the manure?

This may be where things get tricky! If the Farmer decides where, when and how the manure is utilized, and the CAFO Owner does not have any part in that decision process or the actual application of the manure, then this IS A TRANSFER, because the CAFO Operator no longer controls the utilization of the manure.

If the CAFO Operator, or a Hauler who is hired by the CAFO Operator, applies manure to the Farmer’s land, then this is likely NOT A TRANSFER, because the CAFO Operator still has the ability to control the manure. For instance, if the Farmer requests an application rate that is not based on agronomic needs or would otherwise not be acceptable within the guidelines of the CAFO Operator’s NMP, the CAFO Operator should recognize their responsibility to follow best practice guidelines when applying the manure. If situations like this are used as a “loophole” for a CAFO Operator to apply manure to neighboring land outside the constraints of their NMP, the result may be increased regulation by the EPA.

Ideally, the CAFO Operator should modify their NMP to include this land, even if it is used for only a single season.

What is required when transferring manure?

Any time a transfer occurs, the CAFO Operator needs to maintain a record of how much manure was transferred, when the transfer took place, and the name and address of the recipient. The CAFO Operator also needs to supply the recipient with a manure analysis for the material being transferred. In all other cases, where manure is not transferred as described above, the manure should be applied within the constraints of the NMP and the CAFO Operator must maintain all of the records dictated by their permit.

What if I am still unsure how to define a manure transaction as a “transfer” or not?

If in doubt, contact your NDEQ Field Office for advice before completing a manure transaction.

This article was reviewed by Leslie Johnson and Larry Howard

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