Developing a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP)

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Livestock producers are presented with a number of challenges and opportunities. Developing a quality Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) can effectively help landowners address natural resource concerns related to soil erosion, water quality, and air quality from manure management. As livestock operations continue to expand and concentrate in certain parts of the country, utilizing a CNMP becomes even more important. Following the NRCS 9-step planning process is critical in developing a good plan. Effective communication is a key element between all parties involved in the planning process. A CNMP documents the decisions made by the landowner for the farmstead area, crop and pasture area, and nutrient management. Information will cover the elements essential for developing a quality CNMP.

What did we do?

Since the CNMP documents the records of decisions by the landowner, it has to be organized in such a fashion that it is understandable to and usable by the landowner. The CNMP is the landowner’s plan. Therefore, the role of the planner is to help landowners do the things that will most benefit them and the resources in the long run. This will take both time and effort. To provide consistency with other conservation planning efforts within NRCS, CNMPs following the same process outlined in the National Planning Procedures Handbook. There are several items that are essential for a quality CNMP to be developed:

• Have a good understanding of potential resource concerns especially soil erosion, water quality and air quality.

• Make the appropriate number of site visits. Trying to do this from the office will likely lead to a poor quality CNMP that may not be implemented.

• Address resource concerns for the Farmstead and Crop and Pasture areas.

• Ensure that all nutrient sources are addressed.

• Follow the 9 steps of planning.

• Decisions are agreed upon by the landowner. The CNMP reflects the landowner’s record of decisions.

• Follow-up to address any questions or concerns.

• Update as necessary. A CNMP is not a static document.


Land application of animal manure without proper land treatment practices

Muddy field with standing water

Proper animal manure storage required to address water quality issues

Picture of lined water bed

Evaluation of storage area to adequately address surface and subsurface
water quality issues

Picture of tractor and tanker spreader

Land application and nutrient management are critical elements for a
properly prepared CNMP

What have we learned?

The quality of CNMPs varies greatly across the country. Some were becoming so large that landowners were having difficulty finding the activities that needed to be completed. The revised CNMP format and process following the NRCS Conservation Planning approach should improve both the quality and usability of the plans developed. Due to statutes in the Farm Bill, all conservation practices recorded in the record of decision of the CNMP, whether receiving financial assistance or not, must be implemented by the end of the established contract period between the landowner and NRCS. Therefore it is important to only include the practices that are going to be implemented. CNMPs should be periodically updated to account for operational changes such as animal numbers, cropping systems, or land application methods.

Future Plans

The CNMP planning process will be evaluated to determine whether landowner objectives are being met and resource concerns properly addressed. Additional evaluations will look at the consistency of the plans generated across the country and the usability by landowners.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Jeffrey P. Porter, P.E.; National Animal Manure and Nutrient Management Team Leader, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service

Corresponding author email

Additional information


USDA-NRCS General Manual – Title 190, Part 405 – Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans

USDA-NRCS Handbooks – Title 180, Part 600 – National Planning Procedures Handbook

Code of Federal Register (CFR) Title 7, Part 1466 – Environmental Quality Incentives Program (1466.7 EQIP Plan of Operations and 1466.21 Contract Requirements)


Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans and the Planning Process –

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