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Winter manure restrictions in effect

Some states ban winter manure spreading; others allow it but have specific regulations.

7 Min Read
Rear view of a farmer with a large tractor spreading liquid manure on a winter day
WINTER SPREADING: Regulations surrounding winter manure spreading vary greatly by state, so make sure you’re up to date on what you’re allowed to do.SimplyCreativePhotography/Getty Images

Winter manure spreading can be a tricky issue depending on where you farm.

In the Northeast, some states ban winter manure spreading, while others allow it but have specific rules to follow.

Bottom line, it’s not recommended to spread manure — liquid or solid — on frozen or snow-covered ground, but having the flexibility to land-apply manure in winter is critical for some operators.

We contacted each state in the American Agriculturist region for updated winter manure regulations. Here’s what we found:

Connecticut

There is no winter ban, although it is not recommended on frozen or snow-covered ground.

Delaware

The winter manure spreading ban went into effect Dec. 7 and lasts until Feb. 15, or if the surface area is covered by snow or is frozen. Any outdoor storage of manure within the production areas, or staging within the application area, must be the result of exhausting manure storage structure space.

Any outdoor stockpiling of poultry manure within the production area, or any area other than the application area, will be limited to 14 days without a cover, and any outdoor temporary field staging of poultry manure within the application area will be limited to 120 days.

More information can be found at regulations.delaware.gov.

Maine

The winter manure ban is in effect from Dec. 1 to March 15. Upon application to the commissioner, the commissioner may grant a variance to allow a person to spread manure during the winter because of financial hardship or other circumstances that necessitate the application.

In granting a variance, the commissioner shall impose restrictions to minimize potential environmental degradation and prescribe actions to ensure future compliance. 

Read more at legislature.maine.gov.

Maryland

The winter ban on spreading manure and other nutrients, including food processing residuals, goes into effect from Dec. 16 to March 1. Farmers may resume spreading March 1 based on their nutrient management plan recommendations, and if fields are not saturated, snow-covered or hard-frozen. 

Liquid manure must be stored in structures. The Maryland Department of Agriculture is authorized to work with farmers to prevent overflows from storage structures and minimize impacts on water quality. In these instances, farmers must contact the Nutrient Management Program for emergency authorization before any spreading occurs. 

Temporary field stockpiling of “stackable” poultry litter and other qualifying organic nutrient sources is allowed if the moisture content is 60% or less. Stackable organic nutrient sources may not be applied to fields in winter under any conditions. 

Massachusetts

There is no winter manure ban, although there are limitations:

  • No spreading of solids on fields where slopes are greater than 7%.

  • No liquid spreading on fields where slopes are greater than 2%.

  • No spreading within 200 feet of surface waters.

  • At least 30% crop residue or vegetative must be present at the time of application. 

For more information, visit bit.ly/2KGEX6L.

Michigan

There is no winter manure ban, but the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Solid manures should only be applied to areas where slopes are 6% or less.

  • Liquid manures should only be applied to soils where slopes are 3% or less.

In either situation, provisions must be made to control runoff and erosion with soil and water conservation practices, such as vegetative buffer strips between surface waters and soils where manure is applied.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are banned from winter-applying manure for the first three months of the year, unless the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is notified and along with these stipulations:

  • Frost is less than 2 inches.

  • Snow is less than 4 inches.

  • Soil tests are low for phosphorus and nitrogen.

  • The application site is more than 100 feet from water.

  • Manure is immediately injected or incorporated into the field.

New Hampshire

There is no winter ban, although it is not recommended on frozen or snow-covered ground.

New Jersey

No winter ban.

New York

There is no winter ban, but the following rules apply:

  • Winter manure spreading must be in accordance with the Cornell University Nutrient Guidelines, NY P Index, NY NLI and RUSLE2.

  • It must be based on a check of the 48-hour weather forecast to assess if rainfall or temperatures are predicted to cause snowmelt or runoff conditions.

  • Manure must not be applied to soils designated by the soil survey as “frequently flooded.”

  • Winter manure spreading must be in accordance with Section 1 in “Manure and Groundwater: The Case for Protective Measures and Supporting Guidelines” for fields with soils less than 40 inches deep over carbonate bedrock.  

  • Manure can’t be spread within a 100-foot flow path distance from surface waters, surface inlets, springs or sinkholes. 

  • Manure can’t be spread within 100 feet of wells.

  • Manure can’t be applied in concentrated flow areas, such as well-defined channels within fields.

For more information, visit bit.ly/3nVUttL.

Ohio

There is no statewide winter ban, but there are exceptions depending on where you farm.

In the Western Lake Erie Basin, you can’t surface-apply manure under the following conditions:

  • on snow-covered or frozen soil

  • when the top 2 inches of the soil are saturated from precipitation 

  • when the weather forecast in the application area calls for a better-than-50% chance of rain exceeding one-half inch in a 24-hour period

These restrictions don’t apply if manure is injected into the ground, if manure is incorporated within 24 hours of surface application, or if manure is applied onto a growing crop.

Also, the director of agriculture can provide written consent in the case of an emergency.

If you farm in a designated “watershed in distress,” such as the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, anyone producing, applying or receiving in excess of 100,000 gallons of manure a year shall develop and operate in conformance with a nutrient management plan.

In addition, you can’t apply manure between Dec. 15 and March 1, and you can’t apply manure on frozen ground or ground covered with more than 1 inch of snow.

Pennsylvania

Winter manure spreading is allowed, but a field must have greater than 25% crop residue or a cover crop growing.

According to Penn State Extension, winter is defined as any of the following three conditions:

  • between Dec. 15 and Feb. 28

  • any time the ground is snow-covered

  • any time the soil is frozen 4 inches or deeper

Here are some guidelines on winter manure spreading from Penn State:

  • Maintain a setback of 100 feet from streams, lakes, ponds, sinkholes, drinking water wells and aboveground inlets to agricultural drainage systems. The reductions in manure spreading setbacks around streams, lakes and ponds that are allowed in other seasons by implementing best management practices do not apply during winter.

  • Do not spread on slopes greater than 15%. These would be soils listed with “D" or “E" codes on a soil survey map.

  • Limit winter application rates to less than or equal to the following: 5,000 gallons an acre of liquid manure; 20 tons an acre of solid non-poultry manure; 3 tons an acre of solid poultry manure. Alternatively, you can use a nutrient balance sheet to determine the phosphorus balanced rate of manure for the next crop and apply equal to or less than that rate.

  • Do not spread on fields with less than 25% crop residue cover unless a cover crop has been planted there. Corn silage and low-yielding soybean fields typically have less than 25% residue cover during winter. Prioritize winter spreading on fields with living plant cover, such as cover crops, hayfields or pastures.

  • List the fields that will receive winter manure in the “Winter Application Worksheet" of your manure management plan. Also, make a note of the fields that will receive winter spreading on your farm map and indicate the slopes in those fields.

Vermont

A winter manure ban in effect from Dec. 15 to April 1. The secretary of agriculture may prohibit the application of land-applied manure following adequate notice to the ag community from Dec. 1-15 and April 1-30 if the department determines that, because of weather conditions, soil conditions or other limitations, manure applications would pose a significant potential of runoff to waters of the state.

Manure stacking of solid manure is an option. The Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) outline specific standards and setbacks for manure stacking, such as 200 feet from the top of a bank of surface water or a public or private water supply, and 100 feet from any ditch or property boundary.

If you need assistance in finding an appropriate site for manure stacking, call the agency of agriculture at 802-828-1702.

Exemptions may be considered for emergency situations only, such as structural failure of a waste storage facility. If a farmer anticipates having an issue before or during the ban, call Nate Sands at 802-224-6850.

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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