Changes proposed to conservation rule

Jan Shepel

Madison — Farmers will soon be able to weigh in on changes to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s rule on soil and water conservation.
            Changes to the rule, known as ATCP 50, were approved by the department’s citizen policy board in November and are designed to make the state’s nutrient management regulations match up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 590 Nutrient Management Standard.
            The rules are an update from the 2005 version of the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s to the 2015 version and its technical standards.
            That revision of the 590 rule was a two-year process and involved a group of farmers, hydrogeologists, soil scientists, conservationists and nutrient management specialists from the agriculture department and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
            The revised ATCP 50, which will go out to public hearings in January, includes increased cost share rates for nutrient management planning, identifying an acceptable alternative method to the phosphorus index, addressing potential conflicts of interest for DATCP certified soil testing laboratories, clarifying nutrient management plan submission requirements for nutrient management planners and provide a process for canceling conservation engineer’s certification.
Together, the web of regulations from the state and federal agencies establish a framework for the Wisconsin's “non-point source” pollution control program. The program works with counties to install and share costs of farmland conservation practices, plan for soil and water conservation and farmland preservation, oversee manure storage and local livestock operations and train conservation professionals.
Some things that didn’t change in the NRCS 590 regulation include soil testing requirements, limiting nitrogen and phosphorus application rates to what is needed by the crop, restriction mapping, meeting “tolerable” soil loss, no ponding or runoff during manure application.
That regulation also states that manure cannot be spread on saturated soils, in concentrated flow channels, on non-harvested buffer strips, or on land where vegetation is not removed or on fields that exceed tolerable soil loss (T.)
The 590 regulation did strengthen winter manure spreading requirements and put in place greater groundwater and surface water protections. The proposed changes are aimed at keeping manure and other nutrients away from direct conduits to groundwater, while allowing farmers to choose conservation practices that are appropriate for their operations. Sara Walling, chief of the Nutrient Management and Water Quality Section at DATCP, said that what her staff was hearing from farmers was that they wanted options.
The winter spreading restrictions will include a 7,000 gallon-per-acre limit or 60 pounds of P2O5, whichever is less. No winter manure spreading will be allowed in so-called soil and water quality management areas or within 300 feet of direct conduits to groundwater.
The 590 rule also prohibits liquid manure applications in February and March in areas where there has been Department of Natural Resources well compensation for manure contamination or on soils with five feet or less of Silurian dolomite. That would include certain areas with Karst topography in northeast counties like Door and Kewaunee.

New restrictions on winter manure spreading are included in new rules.

Winter manure spreading

The new rules will make new restrictions on winter spreading plans. These new winter spreading plans will identify the quantity of nutrients to be spread during winter, or generated in 14 days, whichever is greater; capacity of storage for each manure type generated and capacity for stacking manure that is greater than 16 percent dry matter without permanent storage.
The current rules only require farmers to identify fields that don’t have a winter restriction and fields with low slope and erosion potential and those farthest away from surface water as part of their winter spreading plan.
The new winter spreading plan will not allow farmers to apply manure on slopes greater than 6 percent (a change from 12 percent) or to fields with concentrated flow channels unless two specific conservation practices are implemented.
The new regulations, said Walling, are intended to force farmers and agronomy professionals to think ahead and identify the capacity of storage and stacking.
            The new regulations also restrict the spreading of nutrients around irrigation wells, community water wells and other wells, like those used by churches, schools and restaurants.
The 590 regulations, which are being rolled into the DATCP rule, also made the change to prohibit manure applications on areas identified by the Land Conservation Committee or in a conservation plan as “areas contributing runoff to direct conduits to groundwater” unless manure is substantially buried (incorporated) within 24 hours of application.
            Fall nitrogen applications are also coming under new restrictions in the combined rules. Practices and rates are different depending on the nitrogen restriction and rates are limited based on soil temperatures.

NM cost-share increase

The nutrient management cost-share rate will increase under the new rule from the current $7 per acre, per year for four years ($28) to $10 per acre, per year for four years ($40.) Walling said the rationale for this was to cover increases in soil testing costs, cover the increase in time that will be required by planners to develop winter spreading plans and the potential need for farmers to acquire more land to ensure the nutrient management plan meets all land based restrictions and application rates and allows farmers to utilize all of their manure.
The proposed changes would also clarify that farmers might be required to meet conservation standards in some cases even if cost-sharing is not available.
The revised rule would also clarify that, whenever a nutrient management plan is required by local regulations, it would have to meet state standards.
In 1997 state legislation was passed that directed the DNR and DATCP to develop a new non-point source pollution prevention program for the state. The DNR’s role was to develop “performance standards” for farming activities while DATCP was directed to develop “best management practices” for farmers to use in implementing those performance standards.
The DATCP rule must now be updated to reflect the NRCS 590 Nutrient Management Standard.

Hearings scheduled

Four public hearings are scheduled on proposed changes to ATCP 50. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has scheduled these hearings:
Eau Claire – Monday, Jan. 9, 2-4 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m., Chippewa Valley Technical College, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Business Education Center, Room 103A
Platteville – Thursday, Jan. 19, 2-4 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m., Markee Pioneer Student Center, 1 University Plaza, University North Room.
Appleton – Monday, Jan. 23, 2-4 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m., Fox Valley Technical College, 1825 N. Bluemound Road, Room A1701A, Entrance 16.
Madison – Thursday, Jan. 26, 2-4 p.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m., State Agriculture Building, 2811 Agriculture Drive, Room 106.
Walling said the last time the rule was revised they had a fifth hearing in Tomahawk but there was very little attendance at that time, so they decided to pare the list to four hearings. The department plans to present the final rule -- incorporating any changes made as a result of the hearing process – to the DATCP board in May 2017 with the rule becoming effective in late 2017 or early 2018.
In addition to the public hearings, comments will be accepted until Thursday, Feb. 9, via mail and email, and online. Mail comments to DATCP, ATTN Sue Porter, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53708-8911. Email comments to Comment online at