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Have a Nutrient Management Plan? Be Prepared for an On-Farm Record Review

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

By Sarah Everhart

Person using iPhone (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

If you have a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), then you should be prepared for the MDA to perform an on-farm record review. (Some NMPs are administered by MDE; for an explanation see my earlier post .) The MDA nutrient management specialists conduct several hundred farm audits annually to verify that farmers are properly implementing NMPs to protect water quality. Although the majority of farms selected for record reviews are selected randomly, the MDA does target farms with previous violations and/or complaints for inspection.

What happens during an on-farm record review?

The MDA nutrient management specialists inform farmers about NMP technical and regulatory requirements and provide advice on required record-keeping systems. During the review, the specialist will compare nutrient recommendations outlined in the farmer’s nutrient management plan to appli­cation records and fertilizer receipts. The spe­cialist will ask to see the farm’s most recent nutrient management plan as well as the following documents:

· Receipts for fertilizer purchases, including nutrient source information and analysis

· Actual field-specific or management unit yield information for the last five years

· Farm map detailing crop fields

· Current soil test results and manure analyses, if applicable

· Field-specific nutrient recommendations

· Phosphorus risk assessment and related recommen­dations. Farms with a Fertility Index Value (FIV) of 150 or more should run both the P-Site Index and the Phosphorus Management Tool.

· Nutrient rates, quantity and application, timing, and method

· Fertilizer applicator voucher or certificate number

· Records/justification of plan modifications

How can you best prepare for an on-farm record review?

The best way to prepare for an on-farm record review is to keep accurate records. A good record-keeping system allows farmers to evaluate crop and nutrient manage­ment decisions while contributing significantly to the accuracy of their nutrient management plans. During an audit, these records help the MDA nutrient management specialists verify farmer compliance with nutri­ent management plans. Both MDA and UME have record-keeping tools which can assist farmers with this task. Additionally, farmers should be prepared for the specialist to walk the farm property to con­firm the installation of new stream protection practices or ask to see the farm’s soil conser­vation and water quality plan.

What happens after an on-farm record review?

Following the audit, the farmer will be given a copy of the report. If the operation is found in compliance with the program, no further action is necessary. If the farm has not met program require­ments, recommendations will be provided and a follow-up visit may be scheduled.

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