Pa. manure regs fire up industry

SALEM, Ohio – Recently proposed regulations would require Pennsylvania’s manure haulers and their employees to be certified and, in some cases, for the owner to be on-site during all applications.
Many say this goes beyond the original intentions of the
Commercial Manure Hauler and Broker Certification Act, which was passed in 2004.
“[The regulations] are so burdensome that it’s really not achieving the intended purpose of the act,” said Richard Ebert, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau vice president.
It’s not practical, he said, for the owner of a commercial manure operation with five trucks going in opposite directions to be present at each location.
Rather than helping the haulers work with nutrient management plans, the regulations hinder both the hauler and farmer, said Ebert, who is also a Westmoreland County dairyman.
The public had until today, Feb. 16, to get their comments to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
The final rule should be published by August, according to department spokesman Chris Ryder.
Change in support. Gov. Ed Rendell signed the act in June 2004. It specified commercial manure haulers and brokers must be certified and gave the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture 18 months to decide what those regulations should be.
In December, the department announced the proposed rules and asked for the public’s input; that comment period was later extended until this month.
Originally, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau supported the act, liking the idea that it would bring haulers and brokers up to speed with nutrient management.
But the misconception, Ebert said, was in how the act would be regulated.
Farm Bureau thought it would be administered similar to the state’s pesticide certification program, which costs about $50 initially and $10 to renew.
Instead, this manure certification would cost up to $500 upfront, depending on the certifying level.
Also unlike the pesticide certification program, it isn’t just the manure hauling and brokering business that needs certified. All employees would also need certification.
It’s not practical, he said, for a commercial manure hauler to pay several hundred dollars to certify an employ who may only work a week or two before quitting.
Reasoning. The department of agriculture worked with representatives of the manure hauler industry to develop these regulations, spokesperson Ryder said. The industry recommended this multilayered certification for employees, he said.
All levels of manure hauling are important and should by certified, he said.
Change expected. Farm Bureau isn’t the only one unhappy with the proposed regulations.
Commercial manure hauler Steve Lehman, as part of PennAg Industries’ manure haulers council, has also petitioned to the department of agriculture.
He calls the regulations overboard but said he doesn’t think they will go into effect as they are written now.
“I’m fairly confident some things will be changed,” Lehman said. “To what extent, I don’t know.”
Despite the “significantly high” costs and added paperwork, he said his family’s operation, Lehman Ag Service Inc. in southeastern Pennsylvania, would make the changes if necessary.
“It [would be] a nuisance, though,” he said.
Lehman hopes the final regulations are changed to make it a business certification rather than an individual certification. Otherwise, he said, all four people at his operation would need certified. It would also mean each of them would submit their own paperwork to the state individually, rather than as a single business, he said.
More changes. Lehman is also confident the regulations about direct supervision will be changed.
As it’s written, manure haulers who are classified as “level two” would need direct supervision from another, higher certified hauler when manure is being applied.
“No one is going to hire an employee and then go hold his hand,” he said. “You might as well go and do it yourself then.”
Far reaching? Beef farmer Dick McElhaney worries what these regulations, if passed, may hold for farmers in the future.
Although it applies only to commercial haulers and brokers now, it will affect farmers, he said.
Those expensive certifying costs will be passed along to farmers, said the Beaver County farmer, who shared his opinion with the department of agriculture in written comments.
And if the regulations make it too inconvenient for commercial operators, farmers may be left without someone to haul their manure.
Plus, McElhaney said, although the regulations don’t affect farmers hauling manure from their farms to rented ground now, who knows what could happen in the future.
“Sometimes regulatory agencies get carried away,” he said.
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