Heed Proactive Steps for Small AFOs

Small-sized animal feeding operations in West Virginia generally will not be required to obtain a CAFO.

However, the Department of Environmental Protection inspectors will have the ability under CAFO regulations to designate an animal feeding operation as a CAFO if they determine the operation is a significant contributor of pollution.

What measures will lead to a small AFO designated a CAFO? Either one of the following:

  • Manure or wastewater is discharged into the waters of West Virginia through a manmade ditch, flushing system, or other similar manmade device.
  • Manure or wastewater is discharged directly into the waters of West Virginia that originate outside of the facility and pass over, across, or through the facility or otherwise come into direct contact with the animals confined in the operation.

Producers of small-sized animal feeding operations can begin to be proactive by taking these steps.

Arrange to Have a Conservation Plan

Begin by making arrangements to have a certified conservation planner prepare your conservation plan. Make an appointment to see the conservationist in your local office of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The conservation planning process does not require you to participate in any government programs and the plan preparation is free to any landowner.

A conservation plan will:

  • document your decisions with regard to conservation practices
  • address potential soil and nutrient losses
  • record conservation practice decisions you have made to reduce or minimize losses to the environment.

Assistance is available to landowners that want to take the next step and address the recommended conservation practices outlined in their plan.

Examples of conservation practice standards include livestock watering facilities, exclusion fencing, roofed winter feeding areas, and nutrient management planning.

Develop, Follow a Nutrient Management Plan

Nutrient management planning is a must for any animal feeding operation in West Virginia that applies manure or poultry litter during the year. A best-practice standard, nutrient management planning is another component in a proactive program for remaining outside of the permit process.

Nutrient management plans must be reviewed and signed by a West Virginia certified nutrient management planner.

  • The process starts with the collection of soil samples from each field that the farmer manages.
  • Both owned and rented land should be sampled to determine each individual field’s fertility status.
  • If the farm stores manure or poultry litter, samples of those nutrient sources also must be submitted for analysis.
  • With the help of the farm operator, the certified nutrient management specialist uses the analyses to develop a nutrient application plan that uses manure nutrients in the most environmentally safe manner.

The WVU soil testing laboratory and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture water quality lab provide free soil testing and manure analysis to producers in the state.

Soil test kits and manure sample containers are available by request at many local WVU County Extension offices.

Keep Good Records According to Your Plans

Efficient recordkeeping is another activity that small animal feeding operations must conduct to avoid the permitting process.

Basic recordkeeping includes:

  • analysis of manure
  • amount of manure applied to individual fields
  • timing of applications
  • transfer of manure to off-farm locations
  • data on cropping yields

Animal feeding operations that feed livestock in pastures without any confinement period have the least to worry about as they try to adjust to this new permit program.

However, such small operations would benefit from both a conservation planning process and a site-specific nutrient management plan. Following these plans would improve the environment and increase the enterprise’s profitability.

Agricultural producers may participate in USDA incentive programs to address water quality concerns on their farm operations to reduce the cost of implementing these new regulatory requirements.

The West Virginia Department of Agriculture, WVU Extension Service county offices, West Virginia Conservation Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and private consultants (such as certified crop advisors) can advise producers about conservation methods that comply with these new regulations.

Prepared by Tom Basden, WVU Extension Service nutrient management specialist, and Christina Richmond, Tyler County WVU Extension Service agent.