Manure Setbacks, How Far is Far Enough?
Some Basic Considerations
The basics for surface applied unincorporated manure include that a) the applicator should observe a minimum of 150 ft setback from surface waters, including ditches and areas subject to flooding; and b) if conservation measures, such as, vegetative buffers are in place they may be sufficient to protect surface waters from runoff. Following these recommendations will help achieve conformance with Right-to-Farm guidelines and provide nuisance protection. But they do not over ride common sense. The goal is to prevent manure from reaching surface water. If you are on a slope, using high rate of manure application, or on a field where conditions still allow manure runoff to reach surface waters, then the 150 ft setback and/or vegetative buffer strip may still not be enough. In this scenario, selecting a different manure application rate, utilizing a less risky field or waiting for an opportunity when manure can be incorporated may be a better decision.
For Right-to-Farm guidelines, if manure is incorporated within 48 hr the setbacks are not necessary. Quicker incorporation is always recommended to both preserve the nitrogen in the manure and ensure against a sudden rain event. Right-to-Farm allows surface applied manure when no-till or hay field conditions make incorporation unfeasible.
Keeping records of manure applications, including field and weather conditions, will be the way to validate your actions. These are guidelines for Right-to-Farm protection. If your farm is under an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit then be sure to follow those requirements which are mandatory for compliance. Setbacks also may apply for injected manure.
For a complete listing of Right-to-Farm guidelines for manure, visit
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