Sullivan County Conservation District

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Nutrient Management
Agricultural Land Preservation
Chesapeake Bay Program
Soil Testing


Agriculture in Sullivan County

Agriculture is a very important part of Sullivan County.  It is still the number one industry in Sullivan County.  Sullivan County is also very fortunate to have great water quality flowing down its streams.  Almost every stream in the county is either High Quality (HQ) or Exceptional Value (EV).  It is the results of our biggest land user, agriculture, and the goals of doing things right that allow the county to have viable industry and a clean environment.

Being a part of agriculture in Sullivan County means being a good steward to the land and our natural resources.  By being a good steward, it is important to meet all regulatory requirements of sound nutrient, soil, and water management. 


Sullivan County finds itself in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and is required to meet expectations and goals of proper management practices to do it’s part to substantially decrease the nutrient and sedimentation pollution to the Bay.  Pennsylvania has recently amended its Chapter 102 Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control regulations (2010) and its Manure Management Manual (2011).  These regulations are statewide and compliance with the minimum requirements is something all farms in Pennsylvania, regardless of size, must do.  Manure Management requirements have been in existence since 1993.  The management of soil erosion and sedimentation has been a requirement since 1972.  Neither is new to Pennsylvania however, for most agricultural operations, it has been voluntary and many do not have the written verification as to how and where practices are occurring.

Manure Management Plans

All Pennsylvania farms that produce manure are required to, at minimum, have a manure management plan that addresses the production and use of the manure nutrients.  The plan also addresses pasture management practices, winter application of manure, manure storage and/or stockpiling, and animal concentration areas.  Farmers can choose to develop their own manure management plan, work with district technical staff to develop a plan or work with certified nutrient management plan writers to develop voluntary nutrient management plans that are more flexible towards management variances.  A manure management plan is an acceptable plan under Pennsylvania regulations if the operation has less than 2 animal equivalent units (AEUs) per acre of crop/pasture ground.  If an operation exceeds 2 AEUs/acre, a manure management plan is not feasible and the operator must have an Act 38 Nutrient Management Plan developed.  To determine AEUs/acre for your operation, refer to the calculations below.

 Manure management plans are relatively simple to complete and provide the operator with written documentation to how the farm is operated in regards to the number of animals, the crop and pasture acres, and the handling of manure nutrients.  By developing and maintaining a manure management plan, operators are meeting minimum compliance to state and federal rules and regulations of agriculture. 

Agricultural Erosion and Sedimentation Plan

Farms that till ground for crop production and/or exceed 5,000 square feet of earth disturbance are required to also have a written agricultural soil erosion and sedimentation plan that identifies fields, erosion potential areas, and practices being utilized and/or needed to minimize the soil loss.  These plans must take into account all crop land and farmstead issues including roof run-off, animal heavy use areas, animal concentration areas, tillage of crop fields and surface water controls to keep clean water clean. 

Minimum Compliance Assistance

The Conservation District is available to assist farm operations in the county with developing a manure management plan and/or an agricultural erosion and sediment control plan.  Both plans require maps of the farmland, animal types and numbers, tillage and crop rotation information, individual field acreage, and identification of environmentally sensitive areas of the farm.  Conservation District staff can assist with gathering information, evaluating an individual’s farm, and obtaining soil information.

The district offers workshops to the farmers of the county for the purpose of developing manure management plans at various times throughout the year.  We also provide individual assistance with manure management plan development and Ag related issues.  It is anticipated that workshops will also be offered for the purpose of developing the agricultural erosion and sedimentation plans in the near future.


Manure Spreader Calibration

An important part of maximizing manure nutrients for crop needs is to know the rate and amounts of manure that are being applied by a given tractor and spreader combination.  Load size and tractor speed, and PTO speed effect the application.  The conservation district has the ability to conduct manure spreader calibrations based on the farmers typical spreading habits.  Calibration involves obtaining weights of the tractor and spreader and measuring the effective application area of spreader loads on a field.  By calibrating the spreader, applications can be made in a fashion that maximizes nutrient needs to a particular crop.  Contact the district if you a re interested in having your manure spreader calibrated. 


Online Management Information and Tools

Am I in Compliance  ( Brochure)

Penn State Agronomy Guide

Manure Management Plan Guidance and Forms

Manure Management Plan Workbook

The Basics of Manure Management Regulations

The Basics of Agricultural Erosion and Sedimentation

USDA Web Soil Survey

PA One Stop Farm Management Program  Excellent tool for farm field mapping and planning.  (Requires free download and use of Mozilla Firefox.)

PA Nutrient Management Website

Pennsylvania's Nutrient Management Act (Act38)  

The Nutrient Management Act is a state law that passed in 1993. The regulations became effective in October 1997. The main goal of the Act is to minimize surface and groundwater nutrient loads from agricultural operations and to increase farm profitability through proper nutrient management. The Act requires nutrient management plans for operation that have the following criteria.

Nutrient Management Plans Catagories

Required Plans
Pennsylvania's Nutrient Management Act requires that all concentrated animal operations (CAOs), greater than 2 Animal Equivalent Units (AEU) per acre used for manure application (AU= 1,000 pounds of live animal weight) must develop a nutrient management plan for their operation.  Thes required plans must be written, reviewed, and approved as a certified plan.

Voluntary Plans
Livestock and poultry operations that have 2 or fewer AEUs per acre may voluntarily develop a nutrient management plan under the act to receive limited liability protection, benefits of proper nutrient management and possible cost-share to implement plan identified BMPs.  In most cases, these plans will also go through the review and approval process to certify the plan. 

To determine the number of AEUs, the following formula is used:

To determine the AEUs per acre, the following formula is used:

Remember, if your AEUs per acre is greater than 2, your operation is a CAFO and you are required to develop a nutrient management plan for your operation.

$$ Agricultural Cost-Share Programs $$

 USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resource Conservation Service Funding

The district's partner agencies of USDA offer numerous funding sources for the agricultural community.  The conservation district can coordinate meetings between a farmer and USDA staff at any time.  For additional information on USDA programs, visit our "links" page to access USDA websites.

Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program 


  • The Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program allows farmers and businesses to earn tax credits in exchange for "Best Management Practices" (BMPs) on agricultural operations that will enhance farm production and protect natural resources.
  • The program is administered by the State Conservation Commission (Commission) and the tax credits are awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.
  • Eligible applicants may receive between 50% and 75% of project costs as state tax credits for up to $150,000 per agricultural operation. The amount of tax credit available to a recipient is dependent on the type of BMP implemented.


There are three ways for farmers to participate in the REAP program - Self, Sell or Sponsor

  • Implement eligible BMPs and receive tax credits directly to reduce a state tax bill. (Self)
  • Sell tax credits to another Pennsylvania taxpayer. (Sell)
    (Note - Farmer must hold for 1 year after date that tax credit is granted.)
  • Work with a sponsor that will help finance a farmer's BMPs. The farmer will be compensated for making improvements and the sponsor will receive the tax credit. (Sponsor)


1. Current Plans - Agricultural operations must have a current:

  • conservation plan (or an NRCS approved grazing- 528 plan).
  • an agricultural erosion and sedimentation control plan (An Ag E&S plan is part of a properly written conservation plan).
  • a nutrient management plan, if required (for a CAO or CAFO).

The cost of developing and implementing these plans may be included to qualify for the tax credit.

2. Properly Protected Barnyards - An agricultural operation with an animal concentration area (ACA) such as a barnyard or loafing area, must have implemented the Best Management Practices (BMPs) to abate storm water runoff, loss of sediment and nutrients, and runoff of other pollutants form the ACA, or the implementation of these BMPs must be included in the application for a tax credit.

3. Fully Implemented Crop Field and NM BMPs - An agricultural operation with uncompleted BMPs required in an Ag E&S plan and/or a nutrient management plan must first include the remaining BMPs included in these plans in the application for a tax credit.


1. Tax credits for 75% of eligible costs include the following:

  • Nutrient Management Plan, Ag. E&S Plan and/or Conservation Plan development.
  • BMPs for ACAs and barnyard runoff, stream bank fencing with 50 foot forested riparian buffers, and 50 foot forested riparian buffers.

2. Tax credits for 50% of eligible costs include:

  • Any Commission approved BMP or equipment necessary to reduce existing sediment and nutrient concerns, such as: manure storage systems, alternative manure treatment practices, filter strips, grassed waterways, management intensive grazing systems and no till planting equipment.
  • Stream bank fencing with 35 foot riparian buffers (grassed or forested).

3. No tax credit will be provided for a publicly funded portion of a project.

4. The tax credit is to be returned if the practice is not maintained for the life span of the practice.

5. Tax credits can only be awarded to projects completed or equipment purchased after the effective date of the Act, which is October 23, 2007.


The following are eligible costs of a project to which a tax credit may be applied:

  • Project design, engineering, and associated planning
  • project management costs, including constructing, document preparation and applications
  • Project construction and installation
  • Equipment, materials and other eligible project components
  • Post construction expenses
  • Interest payments on loans for project implementation for up to one year prior to the award of the tax credit.


  • REAP differs from traditional conservation programs. It is a tax credit where, unless the farmer works with a sponsoring business, the farmer must finance all up-front costs. The tax credit is issued after the installation of a practice or purchase of eligible equipment. State or federal cost-share portions of a project are ineligible for REAP tax credits.
  • Many producers owe few, if any, state taxes. REAP tax credits can be used by the farmer for up to fifteen years, and are transferable and can be sold to other taxpayers. Through REAP's sponsorship program, another business could help finance a project and apply for the tax credit instead of the producer. An accountant or other financial professional can advise farmers on the benefits of REAP for their operation.
  • REAP tax credits may be sold, and there are individuals and corporations that wish to reduce their tax liability by purchasing tax credits. Several brokers in Pennsylvania help arrange tax credit transfers.
For more Information on the REAP program please contact
Joel D. Semke
REAP Coordinator
State Conservation Commission
(717) 705-4032

Agricultural Land Preservation

The Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program was developed in 1988 to help slow the loss of prime farmland to non-agricultural uses. The program enables state, county and local governments to purchase conservation easements (sometimes called development rights) from owners of quality farmland. The state currently has 5,071 farms preserved which includes 531,025 acres.  The first easements were purchased in 1989. Counties participating in the program have appointed agricultural land preservation boards with a state board created to oversee this program. The state board is responsible for distribution of state funds, approval and monitoring of county programs and specific easement purchases.  Currently the county has 7 farms preserved which includes 649 acres.

In 1994 the Commissioners of Sullivan County established a seven member board consisting of three farmers, one local government representative, one building industry representative and two citizens at large to develop and oversee an easement program for Sullivan County.

Sullivan County Agricultural Land Preservation Program 

The Sullivan County Agricultural Land Preservation Board purchases development rights or easements from farmers in Sullivan County. After an application is submitted and the application fee is paid, it will be checked to make sure that all minimum requirements are met (see minimum eligibility criteria below). If all minimum requirements are met, the board will complete an on-site assessment. The application will be scored with the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment system (LESA). The LESA system provides a way to rank the easement applications by evaluating soil and locational factors for each tract. These factors include development pressure and likelihood of impact of future development. The application with the highest LESA score will be appraised first, followed by the next highest LESA score, and so on.

Based on the appraisal, the Board will make the landowner an offer for their development rights. If both parties (the Board and the landowner) agree on the figure, the easement will be purchased using local and state dollars. The landowner will receive the money agreed to in the contract. They will still own the land, but because they no longer own the development rights, agricultural production will be the only future use of the land. A soil conservation plan must be followed when farming the property.
The program administrator can help you fill out an application or make sure you meet the criteria below:

Minimum Eligibility Criteria

  1. Be located in an Agricultural Security Area which has at least 500 acres enrolled which include Fox, Forks, Elkland, Cherry, and Shrewsbury Townships.  Colley Township is included now with Cherry Township ASA.
  2. Be contiguous acreage of at least 50 acres in size unless the tract is at least 10 acres in size and is either utilized for a crop unique to the area or is contiguous to a property which has a perpetual conservation easement in place which is held by a “qualified conservation organization,” as that term is defined at Section 170 (h) of the Internal Revenue Code.

    Contiguous Acreage is defined as all portions of one operational unit as described in the deed, or deeds, whether or not the portions are divided by streams, public roads, bridges, and whether or not described as multiple tax parcels, tracts, purparts, or other property identifiers. It includes supportive lands such as unpaved field access roads, drainage areas, border strips, hedgerows, submerged lands, marshes, ponds, and streams.
  3. Contain at least 50% of soils which are available for agricultural production and are of capability classes I through IV, as defined by the USDA - Natural Resource Conservation Service.  Acreage may need to be excluded.
  4. Contain the greater 50% or 10 acres of harvested cropland, pasture or grazing lands.

If you would like a copy of the program application (cost is $15.75) or would like more information please contact Jackie Rouse, Program Administrator at 570-928-7057 or go to our contact us page.

Chesapeake Bay Program

The Chesapeake Bay Program is a technical and financial assistance program available to farmers owning land within Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna or Potomac River Basin’s prior to 1984. Under the Chesapeake Bay Program eligible landowners may receive free technical assistance towards the planning, design and installation of structural BMPs.  In many cases, the conservation district can secure funding for various projects or practices needed to achieve compliance to agricultural regulations.  The district also works closely with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to obtain funding and additional technical support through various federal programs.

Some of the eligible practices include, animal waste management, barnyard runoff control, roof runoff management, composting, permanent vegetative cover, diversions, grazing land protection, critical area protection, waterways, cropland protection, conservation tillage, no till, cover crops, stream protection, sediment and erosion control, soil and manure analysis.

Several other financial assistance programs are available to provide funding in the form of grants or low interest loans to offset the cost of nutrient management plan development and/or implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in an approved Act 38 nutrient management plan.

If you are interesting in learning more about any of these programs please contact Corey Richmond at (570) 928-7057.

Sullivan County’s Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy

Soil Testing

If you grow anything these days it is important to conduct proper soil testing. We have proven technology to find out what nutrients are in our soils and what each crop needs for optimum growth. When we over fertilize we waste time, energy, and money and this effects the bottom line. Here are some frequently asked questions about soil sampling.

How large an area can be included in a single soil sample and can several fields be combined into one sample?

The key is to sample uniform areas with similar, manure, fertilizer and cropping histories. Soil types are also key in determining the size of a individual soil test.  Too often a wrong assumption is made that if fields have the same crop then everything else is similar and one soil test is adequate for that crop. However, most of the time there is significant field-to-field variation in soil test levels. Thus, the best sampling strategy is usually to sample each field individually.

If the samples from individual fields that are managed exactly the same are very similar, these fields could be combined in the future. However, the Nutrient Management Technical Manual indicates that a single soil sample should not cover more than about 20 acres total.

How often should I take soil samples?

It is recommended that samples be taken every 3 years (the regulations for ACT 38 specify this testing for operations requiring nutrient management plans).

What is the standard procedure for soil sampling?

Guidelines for taking soil samples can be found in the Penn State Agronomy Guide and are summarized below:

  1. Do not wait until the last minute. The best time to sample is in the summer or fall.
  2. Take cores from at least 15 to 20 spots randomly over the field to obtain a representative sample. One sample should not represent more than 20 acres.
  3. Sample between rows. Avoid old fencerows, dead furrows, and other spots that are not representative of the whole field.
  4. Take separate samples from problem areas if they can be treated separately.
  5. In cultivated fields, sample to plow depth
  6. Take two samples from no-till fields: one to a 6 inch depth for lime and fertilizer recommendations, and one to a 2 inch depth to monitor surface acidity.
  7. Sample permanent pastures to a 3 to 4 inch depth.
  8. Collect the samples in a clean container.
  9. Mix the core samplings, allow to air dry and remove roots and stones.
  10. Fill the soil test container.
  11. Complete the information sheet, giving all of the information requested. Be sure to include the soil name. Remember, the recommendation can be only as good as the information supplied.

How can I find out more about the soils on my property?

This information is found in the USDA Soil Survey. Every county has a Soil Survey. The Soil Survey identifies the location of soil types and references the areas on aerial photographs for the entire County. It also provides information on each soil found in the County. The Sullivan County Conservation District will gladly provide assistance in obtaining soil maps for your operation. All soil mapping is now done through an internet site maintained by the USDA.  Penn State has developed a soil mapping site that uses soil data from USDA but tends to be easier to navigate.  The links below provides access to both websites.

  USDA Web Soil Survey

Where can I get a soil testing kit or a soil probe?

Soil testing kit, soil testing probes, and assistance can be obtained through the Sullivan County Conservation District Office.  There is a fee associated with the test kit analysis.  All soil tests submitted through the District Office are tested at the Penn State Soil Lab.   For more information, contact the district office at 570-928-7057.


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