Nutrient Management Regulations

Several states in New England have nutrient management regulations that impact vegetable production practices. The EPA began regulating municipal waste water treatment facilities to manage water pollution, and more recently, regulations have gone in place to regulate non-point source pollution such as that coming from fertilizer or manure applications on agricultural fields. Below is a list of states with regulations and recommendations on how to comply.

Maine: Regulations for crop farms require the development of a nutrient management plan (NMP) if a farm is importing more than 100 tons of manure or regulated residuals annually. The nutrient management plan must address storage and utilization of manure and off-farm nutrients on land to which the regulated residuals or manure are applied. The NMP must include or provide for minimum distances between manure storage, stacking and spreading areas and property lines and surface water based on site-specific factors determined to be effective for controlling runoff and for preventing contamination of surface water. The NMP must include soil test reports for each field where manure or other crop nutrients will be applied, and soils must be tested for each field at least every 5 years. For each field, the NMP must show the calculation of nutrients required to grow the specific crop. The producer may write his/her own plan, but it must be approved by a Maine certified nutrient management planner licensed through the Nutrient Management Office. To find a licensed nutrient management planner, contact:

Mark F. Hedrich, Nutrient Management Program Manager. Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Division of Animal & Plant Health, 28 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333; 207-287-7608; mark.hedrich@maine.gov

New Hampshire: Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Agriculture are prepared by the Agricultural Best Management Practices Task Force and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Durham, NH and provides a guide for growers for handling manure, agricultural compost and chemical fertilizer. There is not a law that explicitly requires growers to follow them; however, it is in the producers’ best interest to follow these BMPs as they provide protection from nuisance allegations. State law under RSA 431:35 requires the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food to respond to complaints involving the mismanagement of manure, agricultural compost and chemical fertilizer. Copies of the BMP manual are available to producers as a tool, but the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food does not have the authority to enforce the implementation. A copy of the manual can be found here: http://agriculture.nh.gov/divisions/regulatory-services/nutrient-management.htm

Vermont: All farms must comply with the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) effective since July, 2017. The RAPs are practices and management strategies to which all types of farms must be managed to reduce the impact of agricultural activities to water quality. These standards are intended to improve the quality of Vermont’s waters by reducing and eliminating cropland erosion, sediment losses, and nutrient losses through improved farm management techniques, technical and compliance assistance, and where appropriate, enforcement. The RAPs establish nutrient, manure, and waste storage standards, make recommendations for soil health and establish requirements for vegetated buffer zones and livestock exclusion from surface water. The RAPs also establish standards for nutrient management planning and soil conservation. Full text of the RAPs regulations may be found on the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets here: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/rap. Questions regarding these regulations should be directed to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, Water Quality Division, AGR.WaterQuality@Vermont.gov, (802) 828-2431.

Massachusetts: In 2012, the Massachusetts Legislature passed Chapter 262, An Act Relative to the Regulation of Plant Nutrients. The text of the enabling legislation can be found at: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2012/Chapter262. The Act requires the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) to promulgate state-wide regulations to ensure that plant nutrients are applied in an effective manner to provide sufficient nutrients for plant growth while minimizing the impacts of the nutrients on water resources in order to protect human health and the environment. The Act also requires that these regulations are consistent with UMass Extension’s educational and outreach materials relative to nutrient management and fertilizer, which may be found here: https://ag.umass.edu/resources/agriculture-resources/umass-extension-nutrient-management. In response to the Act, MDAR developed regulations entitled “330 CMR 31.00: Plant Nutrient Application Requirements for Agricultural Land and Land Not Used for Agricultural Purposes”, found here: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/agr/pesticides/plant-nutrient-management.html. The regulation gives MDAR state-wide authority to regulate and enforce the registration and application of plant nutrients including, but not limited to, fertilizer, manure and micronutrients.  The Cape Cod Commission, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and Nantucket Commission have the option to adopt their own ordinances in regard to nutrients and fertilizers, but they cannot be less restrictive than the state regulation.

Connecticut:  Currently there are no nutrient management regulations affecting vegetable farmers in CT. There is a Phosphorous Law (CT PA-1255) but it primarily affects wastewater treatment facilities and homeowners who may only apply P if a soil test shows a need and not during winter months.

Rhode Island: No regulations of nutrient applications are in place in RI, however, on a case by case basis (and rarely at that) regulation may occur as part of a response to an environmental violation, for example, a consent agreement resulting from water quality impairment.