Over the years, Maine citizens experienced an increased awareness of point and non-point source pollution from nutrients and sediments. Subsequently, it became clear that it was essential to develop a statewide Nutrient Management Program focusing on agriculture, a recognized nutrient contributor to the waters of Maine. It was determined that a fundamental goal of the program should be to implement education opportunities and agricultural best management practices to reduce nutrient loads into our water bodies.
The Maine Nutrient Management Law, 7:4201 et seq., enacted by the legislature in 1998, established the framework for a comprehensive Nutrient Management Program. The Nutrient Management Rules, 01-001 Chapter 565, which ensued, were based on the Nutrient Management Law. The impetus for regulating farm nutrients primarily came from the farming community itself and from local soil and water conservation districts and others, who shared a common interest in the proper storage, management and utilization of these nutrients. There was conviction among farmers and agricultural leaders that the best way to address the nutrient management concerns would be by taking a proactive approach to managing these issues.
About the Nutrient Management Law
The Law has several components around which various initiatives of the Law are focused. A key element of the Nutrient Management Program is the Nutrient Management Plan, of which over 750 have been developed since the inception of the program. Farm operations that meet certain conditions are required to develop a Plan, specifically if:
- The farm confines and feeds 50 or more animal units at any one time (one animal unit = 1000 pounds of live animal weight);
- The farm stores or utilizes more than 100 tons of manure per year not generated on that farm;
- The farm is the subject of a verified complaint of improper manure handling; or
- The farm stores or utilizes regulated residuals.
Interested individuals are trained to be certified as nutrient management planners and are licensed by the Program, who then may develop and approve Nutrient Management Plans. A list of certified planners is available from the Nutrient Management Office. The Nutrient Management Office oversees nutrient management planning, coordinates enforcement actions as needed, and responds to municipalities and others regarding Right-to-Farm matters.
Another key element of the program is the ban on winter manure spreading from December 1st through March 15th of the following year. The Department developed a Loan Program administered by the Finance Authority of Maine, to help farmers comply with the Law.
A third component of the Law requires that certain livestock operations, because of their size or other criteria, are required to obtain a Livestock Operations Permit (LOP) from the Department. Also issued concurrently with the LOP, if applicable, is a Maine Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MEPDES) permit. MEPDES permits are issued by the Department of Environmental Protection in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The Department also monitors concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), consistent with the Chapter 565 Nutrient Management Rules, and assists these farms with compliance to federal CAFO Rules.