Waste not, want not: Subsidy proposed to help Pa. farmers pay for manure transportation, trade


SALEM, Ohio – A Pennsylvania legislator has proposed a plan that might help farmers increase their environmental awareness by subsidizing off-farm manure transportation costs.

Rep. Tom Creighton, R-37, hopes to create a subsidy program to help farmers move manure off farms with high concentrations of phosphorus and nitrates. He plans to introduce legislation this fall in support of such a program.

By transporting the manure, farmers could prevent environmental damage to water and soil from groundwater runoff.

Dumping ground. “Although some fertilizer is good for crops, too much will cause damage to the soil,” Creighton said.

“Maryland faced the problem of having too much manure in concentrated areas [near the Chesapeake Bay] and needed to get rid of it.

“Unfortunately, some of them chose to get rid of it in Pennsylvania.”

Interstate commerce laws cannot prevent Maryland farms from hauling their waste into the state. However, the creation of a subsidy program in Pennsylvania could help balance manure application.

Haul it away. The program would allow farmers to remain competitive in paying for their manure to be hauled.

The Maryland subsidy undercuts Keystone farmers by as much as $5-$6 per ton, according to Creighton.

The state’s program funds transportation and handling costs only.

Creighton’s home area, Lancaster County, produces approximately 300,000 tons of poultry litter each year.

Maryland model. The program is modeled after Maryland Department of Agriculture’s manure transport project, launched in 2000 in the wake of the Water Quality Improvement Act, according to Norman Astle, coordinator of the manure transport project.

That project was originally aimed at poultry growers but expanded to allow manure brokers and other types of animal operations to participate.

“It’s being very well received, especially in the southern part of the state,” Astle said.

In 2001, Maryland farmers received $392,000 in grant payments to move manure. Through the joint effort, commercial poultry producers fund half the cost of transporting the manure.

Other livestock producers receive up to $18 a ton.

Nutrient management. Before participation in the program, sending and receiving farms are required to submit a nutrient management plan to the state outlining soil phosphorus levels.

The management plans help state officials balance the soil needs and what’s available, according to Astle.

Both sending and receiving areas are monitored under delivery site and stockpiling guidelines.

The Maryland program also encourages alternative uses of manure, including composting and making fertilizer pellets for use throughout the Midwest.

“It’s been interesting to see how this has all started. We didn’t have to have a heavy hammer to get producers to realize the economic benefits,” of the program,” Astle said. “Like any business, we have to keep it competitive.”

Across the border. “Legislation would encourage farmers to buy Pennsylvania manure and create a subsidy program to rival Maryland’s,” Creighton said.

“We already accept out-of-state trash. Let’s not also accept out-of-state manure,” he said.

“We have to start working together if we are to prevent the Commonwealth from becoming one big dumping ground.”

(You can contact Andrea Myers at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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