If you keep manure-producing animals, even one horse in your backyard, you are required to write a manure management plan in Pennsylvania. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a difficult task.

It does mean that organizations, like the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, State Conservation Districts and Penn State Extension Offices have a monumental task in educating PA horse owners in particular.

Of all the segments of PA agriculture, equine operators are the least likely to have had contact with the extension and/or conservation districts or any of the agencies and services offered by the United States Department of Agriculture. Most equine operations in Pennsylvania are NOT a CAFO or CAO therefore, have never been regulated before. The Alliance, partnered with Capital Area RC&D, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Cumberland County Conservation program to hold two workshops explaining the new regulations, Best Management Practices and Pasture Management technique. These workshops will be followed up with opportunities to work with the conservation district to write manure management plans and get it done.

The first “Whine, Cheese and Mud Social Hour,” will be held on August 30, at Rendezvous Run Farm, Cumberland County. RRF is in the process of employing BMPs to protect a local stream. The second workshop will be held at Wilson College’s Equestrian Center that houses up to 70 horses, one of PA‘s few equine CAFOs. The date for Wilson’s workshop will be announced in the near future.

Why bother with small horse operations? According to a Penn State University Study, of the 31,000 operations which house horses in Pennsylvania, 23,250 are non-commercial operations and over 75 percent are on limited acreage, requiring intensive management.

That doesn’t mean every operation will have to go through an extensive permitting process like a CAFO. They will need to basically consider employing better management practices on their farms, like not apply manure to a field within 100 feet of a stream and documenting those processes in a manure management plan.

This is also the first time that horse operations are eligible to apply for federal conservation funding programs like CBWI Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, CRP Conservation Reserve Program, CSP Conservation Stewardship Program, EQIP Environmental Quality Incentives Program, GRP Grassland Reserve Program, WHIP Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.