Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Helps Score Major Legal Victory for Livestock and Horse Farm Owners

In a legal victory for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau members, the state’s highest court has ruled that local governments can’t require smaller livestock and equine farms to adhere to stricter nutrient management rules than are required by state law. Under Act 38, animal operations are required to complete a Nutrient Management Plan if the farm is defined as a Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO) or a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).  In fall of 2011, revisions to the Clean Stream Act mandated that all horse and livestock operations, that do not fall under Act 38 regulations, must have a written Manure Management Plan.

Nutrient Management Plan vs. Manure Management Plan

Everyone keeping livestock on their property in Pennsylvania is required to have a plan to manage farm nutrients.  The animal density of the farm will decide which plan is required.  Farms that have over 8 Animal Equivalent Units (AEUs) and exceed an animal density of 2 Animal Equivalent Units per acre are required to have a certified nutrient management plan.    (1 AEU = 1000 lbs.)   Farms under this threshold are only  required to have a written manure management plan. 

Nutrient Management Plans need to be written by a certified nutrient management specialist and must be submitted to the local county conservation district for review and approval.  Writing a nutrient management plan has an associated fee and the price will vary depending on the intensity of the plan.  Manure Management Plans, on the other hand, do not need to be written by a specialist, and can be written by the farmer.  The cost of having a manure management plan may be little to none.  Manure Management Plans do not need to be reviewed but must be kept on the farmstead and be available upon request. 

Many horse farms are small, fall under the animal operations category and only require a manure management plan to be written. The decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that, if left unchallenged, would have opened the door for local governments to impose more stringent requirements on smaller livestock and horse farms.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court agreed with PFB that the lower court’s interpretation was contrary to what the Pennsylvania legislature intended, and local ordinances could not go beyond what state law requires.

If you are not a Farm Bureau member, please consider joining.  You will be supporting an organization that fights for policies that help all agricultural operations – horse farms included.  Farm Bureau also offers many benefits for members including discounts on products and services, health care plans, and farm business management planning. For more information, contact your local Farm Bureau or check out the state website:               

Donna Foulk