Farmers who run confined animal feeding operations (hog,
cattle, dairy, and poultry farms) usually dispose of manure by
spreading it on cropland as a soil amendment and source of nutri-
ents. Because manure is expensive to transport, producers may
apply more than crops can use, especially on fields nearest the
production facility. Excessive manure applications increase the
potential for contamination of surface and ground water. To
address water quality concerns, USDA and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) together developed a strategy for improv-
ing manure management. A primary emphasis of the joint strate-
gy is to limit application of manure nutrients to rates that the soil
can store and crops can use. USDA will provide technical and
financial assistance to help operators develop and implement
comprehensive nutrient management plans (CNMPs). EPA pub-
lished regulations in February 2003 that will require over 15,000
concentrated animal feeding operations to implement CNMPs.
This emphasis on manure management presents a new challenge
to large livestock and poultry operations, particularly in areas with
relatively high animal concentrations such as the Chesapeake Bay
watershed, which covers parts of Maryland, Virginia, West
Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Recent ERS analysis indicates that better manure manage-
ment will likely require manure to be applied to more land than
currently, raising hauling costs for many animal producers. An
operator’s need to access additional land for manure application
will depend on the volume of manure for disposal relative to crop-
land area currently receiving manure and the nutrient uptake of
the crops. The willingness of crop farmers to accept manure on
their land—considering manure’s variable nutrient content,
potential odor, and handling cost—affects the amount of land
available for manure application and the distance manure must be
hauled. A low willingness by crop producers to accept manure
may cause some manure to be hauled long distances to access
sufficient land to avoid overapplication of manure nutrients.
As part of the ERS study, analysts examined the feasibility
and cost of applying manure in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at
rates not exceeding crop uptake. For all the nitrogen in manure to
be used by crops within 100 miles of the manure’s origin, crop
farmers in the region would have to accept manure as the only
nitrogen fertilizer source on at least 20 percent of total cropland.
Under a more stringent standard, where applied manure does not
exceed crop phosphorus needs, crop farmers within a 100-mile
radius would have to accept manure as the only phosphorous
source on at least 60 percent of the total cropland.
USDA financial and technical assistance in managing
and utilizing the nutrients in manure could increase crop
farmers’ willingness to accept manure application on their
land. Where hauling costs for manure land application are
high, the ERS analysis indicates potential to reduce the
amount of land receiving manure by expanding industrial
processes that use manure to produce energy or commercial
fertilizer products, and by feeding animal rations that lessen
manure nutrient content.
Marcel Aillery
Noel Gollehon
This finding is drawn from . . .
A broader ERS study of farm, regional, and national level implica-
tions of new animal waste regulations and guidelines:
Management for Water Quality: Costs to Animal Feeding Operations of
Applying Manure Nutrients to Land
, by M. Ribaudo, N. Gollehon, M.
Aillery, J. Kaplan, R. Johansson, J.Agapoff, L. Christensen,V.
Breneman, and M. Peters,AER-824, USDA/ERS, June 2003,
available at:
Manure Management: A Growing
Challenge in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
60% willingness to
accept manure
100% willingness to
accept manure
Higher willingness of crop farmers to accept manure would
reduce out-of-county transport in the Chesapeake
Bay watershed
S ource: B ased on 1997 C ensus of A griculture data.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed is outlined in red.
Maps show all manure being applied under a
phosphorus standard that restricts manure
application to crop phosphorus needs.
Inter-county m anure m ovem ent
1,000 dry tons of net transfer
-60 to -40
-40 to -20
-20 to -5
-5 to 5
5 to 35
35 to 140
140 to 355
Im ports
Photo by Ken Hammond, USDA