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Winter Manure Spreading Ban Ends on April 1 - But Farmers Are Urged to Assess Carefully Before Proceeding

Winter Manure Spreading Ban Ends on April 1 - But Farmers Are Urged to Assess Carefully Before Proceeding

April 1st is the end of the Winter Manure Spreading Ban imposed by the Accepted Agricultural Practice Regulations (AAPs). But the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) is reminding farmers that they should carefully assess their individual situation to make sure they do not violate the AAPs if they choose to spread manure at this time.  The AAPs require that all agricultural wastes be managed in order to prevent adverse impacts to water quality.  That means that while it is legal to spread manure once the Winter Ban is over, manure must still be applied in a way that does not result in runoff to surface water, or across property boundaries.  If these conditions occur as a result of spreading manure, a farmer could be subject to an enforcement action for violating the AAPs.

To help farmers remain in compliance with the AAPs, the Agency of Agriculture recommends the following:

  • If you still have room in your manure pit, wait until snow is off the fields before you spread manure.
  • If you do not have room in your pit, reach out to the Agency of Agriculture or one of the organizations listed below to seek alternative solutions.
  • If these options are not viable, and you must spread manure before snow is off the fields:
    • choose fields that are relatively flat and far away from rivers and streams
    • if you must spread on fields near rivers and streams, do not apply manure within 150 feet of  the top of the bank
    • if you are spreading in fields with ditches, do not apply manure within 150 feet of the ditch
    • do not apply manure within 100 feet of property lines and roads
    • utilize reduced rates of application

In addition, those farms operating under an NRCS 590 compliant nutrient management plan are reminded that application of manure to frozen ground, or snow-covered ground, or in conditions where offsite losses of nutrients are likely, is prohibited, unless mitigated by the criteria outlined in their plan.

The Agency urges all those considering applying manure at this time of year to operate with the utmost of care so that water quality is protected.

“Individual conditions vary significantly across the state,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont’s Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. “Farmers need to assess their fields carefully and take action to ensure they are in compliance and are protecting our waterways.”

The Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition and The Farmers Watershed Alliance are also urging farmers to proceed with caution.

“Please consider delaying your manure applications until soil conditions are appropriate for heavy traffic and nutrient applications,” said Kirsten Workman, UVM Agronomy Specialist and Secretary of the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition. “Rushing these manure applications when soil is frozen, too wet, and/or snow covered could result in unintended nutrient loss into local waterways, and in most cases, it is against the law. If you are running short on storage for your manure and feel like you are in a situation where manure application is unavoidable, please to contact one of our organizations listed below. Our goal is to help your farm find a means to manage the manure without potentially damaging the field, soils, and surrounding water."

  • Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition 802- 388-4969 x348
  • Farmers Watershed Alliance 802-752-5156
  • UVM Extension Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team in Middlebury 802-388-4969 or 1-800-956-1125 (toll-free in Vt.)
  • UVM Extension Northwest Crops & Soils Program in St. Albans 802- 524-6501 or 1-800-639-2130 (toll-free in Vt.)

The manure spreading ban is a regulation that has been in place since 1995 under the Accepted Agricultural Practice rules. Vermont was a leading state in developing such a ban. In recent years several other states have considered adopting, or have adopted, the idea. Research has shown that manure applications on frozen ground can increase the runoff potential. Vermont chose to select a ban period from December 15th to April 1st each year to protect water quality; however the Agency has discretion with those dates to accommodate unusual circumstances. 

For questions about the AAPs and how to manage your manure application operations to prevent impacts to water quality, please call the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets at 802-828-2431.