agriculture

Lehigh County Conservation District is dedicated to assisting the agricultural community with conserving their natural resources. 

EROSION AND SEDIMENTATION

All farms are required by law to have a written Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plan.

MANURE MANAGEMENT

LCCD assists farmers, including hobby farms and horse owners, with completing their Manure Management Manuals as required by law.

NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT

LCCD administers the nutrient management program for Lehigh County.

REAP

REAP gives tax credits for farmers that have installed or implemented BMPs to conserve and protect our natural resources.

CONSERVATION PLANNING

LCCD can help farmers develop and implement a Conservation Plan.

REQUEST FOR TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

LCCD can provide technical assistance to farmers.

Complaints

All complaints or issues regarding wetlands, stream encroachments or illegal dumping of construction debris should contact the PA Department of Environmental Protection, Northeast Regional Office: 1-866-255-5158 (State-wide) Press # 2 to reach the Northeast office.

Erosion and Sedimentation

Erosion and Sedimentation Rules (Chapter 102)

In 2010, Pennsylvania revised the laws that regulate Erosion and Sedimentation within the Commonwealth. The new regulations now include agricultural plowing and tilling activities. They also include Animal Heavy Use Areas (AHUAs for short) which are often called Animal Concentration Areas (ACA). Any operation that plows or tills or has an AHUA over 5,000 square feet is required to have an agricultural E&S plan.

Under Pennsylvania law, an AHUA is defined as “Barnyard, feedlot, loafing area, exercise lot, or other similar area on an agricultural operation where due to the concentration of animals it is not possible to establish and maintain vegetative cover of a density capable of minimizing accelerated erosion and sedimentation by usual planting methods.” In other words, an AHUA is anywhere grass is not growing due to the presence of animals. The following video from Blair County Conservation District explains the new regulations in more detail:

Some more details about the Agricultural E&S regulations:

  • Fields within 100 feet of a stream or river must have at least 25% cover at all times. If you cannot provide 25% cover at all times, alternate BMPs that reduce erosion and sedimentation can be
  • used in its place.
    For agricultural plowing or tilling activities, the E&S Plan must, at a minimum, limit soil loss from accelerated erosion to the soil loss tolerance (T) over the planned crop rotation.
  • For animal heavy use areas, the E&S Plan must identify BMPs to minimize accelerated erosion and sedimentation. Some BMPs that can be used for AHUAs include Heavy Use Area Protection, Critical Area Planting, Fencing, Wastewater Treatment Strip, Constructed Wetland, Use Exclusion, Animal Trails and Walkways, Diversions and Roof Runoff Structure.
  • The E&S Plan must contain plan maps that show the location of features including surface waters of this Commonwealth, and drainage patterns, field and property boundaries, buildings and farm structures, animal heavy use areas, roads and crossroads, and BMPs; soils maps; and a description of BMPs including animal heavy use area practices and procedures, tillage systems, schedules, and crop rotations. The plan must be consistent with the current conditions and activities on the agricultural operation.

If you have a Conservation Plan, it may fulfill your E&S requirements under state law, though some plans may have been developed before the new regulations took place. If you need your Conservation Plan updated, or need one developed, please contact the Agricultural Resource Conservationist for assistance.

Manure Management

In 2011, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection released the new Manure Management Manual called Land Application of Manure. All farms in Pennsylvania, with the exception of farms regulated under the Act 38 Nutrient Management Program, which either produce or use manure must develop a manure management plan using the Manure Management Manual. The video below explains more:

After the plan is developed, you can leave it at your barn. It does not need to be submitted for approval, but must be made available upon request.

Contact the Agricultural Resource Conservationist to get a copy of the Manure Management Manual or for assistance in developing your manure management plan.

Frequently asked questions about the Manure Management Manual

How many animals do I need to have before I need a manure management plan?

State law says that any operation, regardless of size, that produces manure needs a manure management plan. This would mean that a small flock of chickens, one horse, or one pig would require you to develop a manure management plan.

I give all my manure away to neighbors or another farm; do I still need a manure management plan?

Yes, all farms that produce manure must have a plan; however, once that manure is given away, it is no longer your responsibility.

All of my animals are pastured and they apply my manure, do I still need a plan?

Yes, but your plan will differ greatly from those that apply manure on crop fields.

What other documents are needed for the Manure Management Plan?

A map of your operation (can be hand drawn) is required.  Depending on your operation you may need crop records, weights of animals, soil tests, and manure tests.

I have an Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan; do I still need a Manure Management Plan?

No, Act 38 plans fulfill your obligations under Pennsylvania state law.

Where can I get the Manure Management Manual?

You can get one by stopping by the Lehigh County Conservation District office at 4184 Dorney Park Road, Allentown. A downloadable version is available on DEP’s website at this link.

Nutrient Management

Lehigh County Conservation District has been delegated by Pennsylvania’s State Conservation Commission to administer the Act 38 Nutrient Management Program in Lehigh County. The Nutrient Management Program regulates the collection, storage, and application of farms with an animal density above 2 AEUs per acre. In order to be regulated at this density, the farm must have at least 8 AEUs total. AEUs are animal equivalent units, often described as 1,000 lbs of live weight.

Farms that have this density on their operation are classified as Concentrated Animal Operations, or CAOs. Under state law, CAOs must develop a nutrient management plan. That plan is then reviewed by the Nutrient Management Specialist at LCCD. After review, the plan is sent to the LCCD Board of Directors for final approval. Plans are written for three years, and yearly inspections are done on site to verify compliance with the plan.

Operations that have a nutrient management plan are not only in compliance with the law, but also enjoy limited liability protection from the state. Farms that are not classified as a CAO may develop a nutrient management plan in order to obtain limited liability protection. Those operations are called Voluntary Animal Operations, or VAOs.

If you need more information about Pennsylvania’s Nutrient Management Program, please feel free to contact the Agricultural Resource Conservationist at 610-391-9583 extension 26 or visit the website below.

REAP

In order to encourage and enable Best Management Practices, Pennsylvania has adopted a tax incentive program called the Resource Enhancement and Protection, or REAP for short. REAP gives tax credits for farmers that have installed or implemented BMPs to conserve and protect our natural resources. These tax credits can range from 50% to 75% of the cost of the BMP, for up to a total of $150,000.

Eligible BMPs include no-till equipment, stream bank fencing, riparian buffers, cover crop seed, manure storage systems, BMPs for ACAs, roof runoff systems, filter strips, and many more.

Confirmation of an Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Plan and either a Nutrient Management or Manure Management Plan is required to be performed by a qualified individual (such as LCCD personnel). If you do not have these plans, do not worry, because the cost to develop these plans may be eligible for tax credits as well.

There are three ways to take advantage of REAP tax credits after the farmer has implemented the BMPs. He can use the tax credits himself, which can be spread out over ten years, he can sell them to a broker, or he can have a sponsor pay for the BMPs and the sponsor makes use of the tax credits.

If you would like more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. There, you can also find the application and view the programs rules.

If you need assistance in filling out your REAP application, or you need a signature to confirm your E&S and Manure Management plans are implemented, please contact Lehigh County Conservation District’s Agricultural Resource Conservationist.

Conservation Planning

LCCD can help farmers develop Conservation Plans. Conservation Planning addresses resource concerns like stream bank erosion, soil erosion, and protecting water quality. Conservation Plans can be used to fulfill an operation’s obligations to have an agricultural E&S Plan under PA State law. LCCD can assist farmers with:

Development of Conservation Plans

Conservation planning is the first step in identifying and implementing needed BMPs such as swales, grassed waterways, conservation crop rotations, and animal heavy use area improvements.

Implementation of Conservation Plans

After the Conservation Plan is developed, LCCD can assist with implementing the plan. Conservation planning, design work, prescribed pasture plans, and other assistance are all free services that the LCCD provides to the Lehigh County agricultural community.

Conservation Plan Implementation Funding

After the planning is done, the Agricultural Resource Conservationist will help to implement the plan and any needed BMPs. While LCCD does not directly fund the implementation of BMPs, we can actively seek out other funding sources, such as NRCS EQIP funding, REAP tax credits, Growing Greener grants, or from other sources.

Request for Conservation District Technical Assistance

To request assistance from LCCD, a farmer or landowner must use the request for conservation district technical assistance form.

Since 2008, 48 farmers have requested technical and planning assistance covering 2,200 acres in addition to thousands of acres that already had conservation plans prior to 2008. This equates to thousands of tons of topsoil conserved and remaining on the county’s farm fields instead of washing to our streams.

If you have resource concerns on your land that need to be addressed, please contact the Agricultural Resource Conservationist, Amanda Bunn, at 610-391-9583 ext. 2993 or email abunn@lehighconservation.org.