Act 38 Nutrient Management

The Nutrient Management Program was initiated in Berks County in May of 1997.  Agreements were signed with the State Conservation Commission for the purpose of reviewing and approving Nutrient Management Plans written for farms in Berks County as prescribed by Act 6, Pennsylvania’s Nutrient Management Law.

As of October 1, 2006, a NEW Nutrient Management Law, Act 38, became effective and requires all Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs = farms with more than two animal equivalent units of livestock per acre available for manure application) to develop and implement a plan for the safe utilization of the manure.

Farms with less than the mandated animal populations are encouraged to voluntarily develop a plan.  Berks County Conservation District has a list of available Nutrient Management Specialists that serve the county. Contact us to get the most up-to-date list.

DEP regulations require that all manure storage structures (liquid or semi-liquid) built in PA must be designed and the construction certified to meet NRCS standards by a Professional Engineer.  The District can assist in obtaining Engineering assistance for such construction. The District maintains a supply of resource materials in the office and provides assistance to farmers regarding compliance, plan development, and funding sources for Best Management Practices (BMP) installation as needed.

Attention: New Manure Application Setbacks are in effect for CAFOs, CAOs, and ALL importers of manure from CAOs and CAFOs.  Listed below are the setbacks.

  • Year-round 100 foot setback from streams, lakes, ponds and open sinkholes unless there is at least a 35 foot permanent vegetated buffer 
  • Year-round 100 foot setback from active drinking water sources (wells, springs)

For more information and questions regarding the Berks County Conservation District's Nutrient Management Program please contact the Berks County Conservation District at 610-372-4657 or check the PA Nutrient Management website.

Important dates and timelines for the Act 38 Nutrient Management Program

  1. For nutrient management planning and implementation purposes, the crop year runs from October 1 to September 30.
  2. The review and approval process for a NMP can be up to 90 days and in certain situations be extended up to 180 days.

The current NMP Submission guidance reads:

“The plan must be submitted and approved prior to the crop year it is to cover. If the plan is not approved before the crop year begins, no manure applications are allowed to occur before plan approval. Any manure applications made during a crop year, when there is not an approved plan, are not in compliance with the law.”

For example, your NMP is being written for crop years 2016, 2017 and 2018. The actual calendar plan dates are October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2018. In order for any manure to be planned for application after October 1, 2015, the NMP must be submitted to the conservation district in sufficient time (at least 90 days prior to October 1, e.g. May 30 or earlier).

This should allow enough time for the plan to be approved by October 1, 2015 so that you can spread manure according to your plan after that October 1 date.

This policy change regarding NMP submissions became effective for the 2016 crop year (starting October 1, 2015). Therefore, NMPs for crop year 2016 and beyond must be submitted for review and approval earlier than in the past.  

The question that is being asked by many is “how does this affect me?”  As the responsible party under Act 38 (Pennsylvania’s Nutrient and Odor Management program) and the one that is required to hold a NMP, you need to make sure that your NMPs are submitted and approved prior to the beginning of the crop year.  This will require that NMPs be submitted for review earlier than in the past, probably in April or May (if not earlier) to guarantee that the plan is approved prior to the first planned manure application in the new crop year.

In addition, please note that the PA DEP emergency response number has changed and the new number should be updated on your current emergency response plan (ERP):  1-866-825-0208.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact one of our Agricultural Resource Conservationists.


Berks County Conservation District 1238 County Welfare Road, Suite 200, Leesport, PA 19533  •  610-372-4657

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