by Ryan Patch
Spring Snowstorm Could Delay Early Season Farming Activities
April 1st is the traditional date that the state’s winter manure spreading ban is lifted and farmers can get out on their fields and begin to apply those valuable nutrients to their cropland. However, with fresh snow expected for many parts of Vermont by April 1st, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) is issuing a special ‘spring stewardship’ reminder for all Vermont farms: Even though the manure spreading ban will be lifted April 1st, new statewide water quality rules – the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) – prohibit the application of manure on frozen or snow covered ground, in addition to any application that would result in runoff to surface waters.
Farmers concerned about storage capacity in their manure pits are encouraged to call the Agency of Agriculture to discuss options available for managing, transferring, or developing emergency manure spreading exemption plans. The Agency is committed to working with farmers to find solutions. When evaluating their fields over the coming weeks to assess appropriate manure spreading conditions, the most important question that farmers and manure applicators need to ask is: ‘When applied to this field, will manure runoff to surface water or a ditch?’ Individual conditions will vary significantly across the state, and farmers need to assess their fields carefully and take action to ensure that they are in compliance with the rules and are protecting our waterways.
To ensure compliance with the RAPs [ http://agriculture.vermont.gov/rap ] and protect water quality, VAAFM has the following reminders for farmers this spring:
- If you still have capacity in your manure pit, wait until snow is off the fields before you spread manure.
- If you do not have capacity in your pit, reach out to VAAFM to seek alternative solutions or an exemption.
- Do not spread manure on saturated ground that will runoff to surface water, or before major rain events.
If an emergency manure spreading exemption is issued for manure application on frozen or snow-covered ground, farmers need to observe the following protocols:
- Avoid spreading when rain is expected
- Spread at least 150 feet from top of stream banks, ditches or roadside ditches
- Select the most level fields available and avoid significant (>5%) slopes
- Utilize reduced (<3,000 gallons/acre) spreading rates
- Select fields with cover crops or good residue cover
- After spreading any nutrient (liquid or solid manure, compost, or fertilizer) be sure to keep accurate records of the manure or nutrients applied.
“Over the past two months, more than 120 farmers and manure applicators have attended our new Manure Applicator Training workshops to understand the rules about spreading under the new RAPs. The participation and feedback has been fantastic – it is clear the ag community is engaged and eager to do their part!” said Laura DiPietro, Deputy Director of the Ag Resource Management Division at VAAFM.
Vermont’s winter manure spreading ban, which prohibits spreading between December 15 and April 1, began in 1995.
For more information about the RAPs, the winter manure spreading ban, or for recommendations regarding early season spreading practices, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/RAP
To request an exemption to the prohibition from spreading on frozen or snow-covered ground, please call VAAFM Ag Resource Management Staff, either: Laura DiPietro, 802-595-1990 or Dave Huber, 802-461-7160.