Nutrient Management Act, 2002, Understanding When Farms Require an NMS, NMP or NASM Plan
Table of Contents
Under the regulations of the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 (NMA), a farmer may be required to have one or more of three documents:
Because most of the requirements of the NMA apply to farmers when they are required to have one of these documents, understanding when a farm is required to have one or more of these documents is a key component of complying with the regulations.
The NMA has two basic principles: environmental protection and a sustainable future for agriculture operations and rural development. NMS, NMP and NASM plans recognize the balance between these principles and attempt to help producers successfully manage the nutrients under their control.
This factsheet explains what is included in each of these documents and when a farmer is required to have an NMS, NMP or NASM plan.
Most provisions of the Regulation do not apply to farm units that generate five or fewer nutrient units of manure annually. However, all farm units, regardless of size, are currently subject to the following provisions of the Regulation:
Table 1 outlines the common items and unique features for each document.
Table 1. Comparison of nutrient management documents
In the Regulation, a nutrient unit is defined as "the amount of nutrients that give the fertilizer replacement value of the lower of 43 kg of nitrogen or 55 kg of phosphate as nutrient as established by reference to the Nutrient Management Protocol. "
Nutrient units are calculated by referring to Table 1, Nutrient Unit Livestock Information, in the Nutrient Management Tables, which lists various species and sizes of animals, and the number of each it takes to generate one NU.
Table 2, right, shows some examples of nutrient unit calculations.
Table 2. Nutrient unit calculations
Source: Table 1 from the Nutrient Management Tables.
The Regulations concerning manure storage capacity, runoff management from livestock yards and the siting and construction requirements for manure storages come into effect when a farm operation is "phased-in," that is, required to have a nutrient management strategy (NMS).
Nutrient management strategies are either approved by OMAFRA or kept on file at the farm, and the farm operation is registered.
OMAFRA approval of the NMS is required:
If your agricultural operation requires an NMS that does not require OMAFRA approval, register the operation in accordance with Part 9 of the Nutrient Management (NM) Protocol.
An agricultural operation registered under the NM Protocol is still required to have and follow an NMS prepared by a certified person. The NMS must be kept on file at the farm. See Nutrient Management Protocol for Ontario Regulation 267/03 Made under the Nutrient Management Act, 2002 Part 9 - Registration of Farms for more details on requirement information.
An NMS prepared because of conditions on a phased-in farm not planning construction usually results in the farm operation registering under Part 9 of the NM Protocol. On such farms, the last three scenarios listed above require OMAFRA approval of the NMS.
In contrast, construction will require the operation to have an OMAFRA-approved NMS prior to building a livestock barn or manure storage facility. With these types of construction projects, approval of the NMS before construction helps ensure that manure management issues are addressed early in the planning process. As such, issues such as adequate manure storage capacity, acceptable runoff management, proper setbacks to wells, surface water and other sensitive features can be factored into the business plan for the new or expanded facility from the start.
Once a farm is required to have an NMS, it must be renewed every 5 years, assuming the operation continues to generate manure (i.e., continues to have livestock or poultry), or whenever one of the other triggers are met.
The box below shows the differences between phased-in farms with and without planned construction and what is required of them by the NMA.
A. Phased-In Farms
(no construction planned)
B. Phased-In farms
Other than the provisions that apply to all farms (see Requirements for All Farms), the remainder of the regulations concerning land application of manure and other agricultural source material (ASM) such as runoff come into effect on a farm when it is required to have a nutrient management plan (NMP). It is important to note that a farm can only be required to have an NMP if it is also required to have an NMS first.
A farm is required to have an NMP when:
The NMP outlines cropping practices, field management and land application of manure and other nutrients according to accepted agronomic practices. It can help the farmer optimize the value of the manure and other nutrients in the cropping program while minimizing the risks to surface and groundwater resources.
Even if the Regulation does not require a farming operation to have an NMP, by undergoing the NMP process, a farmer can find opportunities to better utilize the nutrients from manure and other materials and save money on fertilizer purchases.
Some farms receive materials for land application that originate from non-agricultural sources. These off-farm materials are known as non-agricultural source materials (NASM). Examples of NASM include sewage biosolids, pulp and paper biosolids and residual materials from food processors.
NASM are divided into three categories based on the characteristics of the material. Each category has specific regulatory requirements.
For farms applying up to 20 t/ha of Category 1 NASM, no NASM plan is required. For a complete list of materials in each category, see ontario.ca/laws and search for "O. Reg 267/03."
Table 3 highlights the three categories of NASM and the approval requirements for NASM plans. The full tables with the NASM categories are located in Schedule 4 at the end of the Regulations.
Table 3. NASM categories and approval requirements
Note: In the regulation, NASM are categorized as CM1 or CM2 based on the concentration of metals.
A NASM plan is similar to an NMP because both documents deal with the land application of nutrients and both documents address the protection of sensitive features such as watercourses and wells. The NASM plan, however, includes application rate limitations based on the analysis of the materials and the soils receiving the materials. The application rate of all nutrient sources can be limited by:
In addition, where an NMP would include all the agricultural fields in a farm unit, a NASM plan can be limited to one or more fields where the NASM is going to be applied and the NASM storage area on the farm.
A certified NASM plan developer must complete the NASM plan. See Preparation of NMS, NMP and NASM Plans for more information.
A NASM plan must be completed for the land application of Category 2 and Category 3 materials. NASM plans require approval by OMAFRA if they involve:
For a complete overview of NASM requirements, see ontario.ca/nasm-omafra.
In preparing an NMS, an NMP or a NASM plan, the name and contact information for the farm operator must be identified, along with the location information for all of the properties in the farm unit including lot, concession, name of the municipality and the roll number.
Those who farm on more than one property (i.e., more than one deed) can include additional properties in the farm unit. Choices include:
If preparing an NMS to build a manure storage facility or barn for livestock housing, as a minimum, the property where the construction is to occur must be included in the farm unit.
The farm unit in a NASM plan includes the contact information for the farmer and the location information for any property where NASM will be received, both for land application or for storage. If nutrients (i.e., manure) are not generated on the property, the farm unit is limited to the NASM storage facility(ies) on the property and the field(s) where the NASM is to be applied and not necessarily the entire property.
If the farmer opts to hire a consultant to prepare any of these documents, some time is saved because the consultant can usually start quickly and the farmer will benefit from the consultant's professional experience. When working with any potential service provider, farmers are encouraged to ask about the price for this service and ask for professional references and timelines when the consultant expects to have a completed document.
All certificates require completion of a course. The Agricultural Operation Strategy or Plan Development Certificate and the NASM Plan Development Certificate also require completing assignments and passing an exam.
Table 4 summarizes the certification requirements for individuals preparing an NMS, NMP or NASM plan.
Table 4. Summary of preparation optons for NMS, NMP and NASM plans
Note: For more information on certification, visit nutrientmanagement.ca. The site also includes information for certified consultants.
In addition to being a regulatory requirement for some farms, an NMS, NMP or NASM plan can help a farmer chart a course for the future that optimizes the use of nutrients on the farm while protecting nearby water resources. The NMS addresses issues in and around the barn such as the amount of manure generated, adequate storage capacity and acceptable runoff management. The NMP documents the application of the nutrients in the fields that safeguard nearby water resources such as wells and surface water, while maximizing the use of nutrients by the crops. Similar to an NMP, NASM plans are required for some non-agricultural source materials that are applied to agricultural fields. A NASM plan documents the same protective practices and safeguards covered by an NMP.
This factsheet was written by Peter Doris, Environmental Specialist, OMAFRA, Brighton, and Dale McComb, Environmental Specialist, OMAFRA, Guelph.
Nutrient Management Disclaimer 2018
The information in this factsheet is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon to determine legal obligations. To determine your legal obligations, consult the relevant law at ontario.ca/laws. If legal advice is required, consult a lawyer. In the event of a conflict between the information in this factsheet and any applicable law, the law prevails.
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