What’s New with Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs)?

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A Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) is a management plan to utilize nutrients and to manage the collection, handling, storage, application, & utilization of animal waste. The purpose of the plan is to address soil erosion, water quality, and air quality concerns. Even though a CNMP is not a regulatory document, portions can potentially be used in the permitting process. It is meant to be a dynamic plan to help the producer’s operation to be sustainable. Landowner of animal feeding operations (AFO’s) that receive technical and/or financial assistance from NRCS are required to have a CNMP. This includes dairies, beef feedlots, poultry, and swine operations. Land application of manure is not a requirement. There are no animal numbers thresholds for a CNMP.

What did we do?

In 1999 the Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations directed USDA and EPA to work together to address environmental issues with AFO’s. The CNMP was developed as a voluntary way for a landowner to take action. The original document had a ten part format and was truly comprehensive. Any planner or engineer associated with the plan had to sign it. Developing a CNMP in this format was difficult and time consuming and in some cases the document became so large in size that no one updated them.

What have we learned?

In October 2015 the format changed back to a plan that is more consistent with a conservation plan, recording the decisions of the landowner/cooperator with regard to managing waste and utilizing the nutrients.

The plan now has a four part format. The first part is the signature page where the NRCS representative and the landowner sign confirming the decisions. Section one follows the signature page and documents decisions with regard to the Production Area (Farmstead). It includes maps, animal inventory, and records of decisions for the production area only. Section two documents the decisions with regard to the Land Treatment Area (Crop and Pasture). It contains maps, resource assessments, implementation requirements and records of decision for the land treatment areas. The third section documents decisions with regard to Nutrient Management. This includes risk analyses, setbacks, nutrient applications, and field balances.

For livestock operations with greater than 300 animal units a printout of the National Air Quality Site Assessment tool (NAQSAT) is now required as supporting documentation in the CNMP. It is to increase awareness of air quality issues that may be addressed on farm.

Several parts of the original format are not included in the current format. This includes the Operation and Maintenance plan and the Emergency Response plan. Both would now be found in the case file and not in the CNMP itself.

Picture of a field

Looking at crop residue.

Slurry containment

Evaluating solid separation on the farmstead.

Picture of people in field at demo

Discussing crop rotation and setbacks.

Future Plans

States are currently integrating the new national format. The CNMP format will be reviewed periodically to make sure that the document stays on track as a usable management tool for the landowner.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Sandy Means, Environmental Engineer, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, East National Technical Center, Greensboro, NC

Corresponding author email


Additional information


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

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