Winter fertilizer prohibition lifted early, but can return if weather turns bad

The new policy considers soil conditions, not just the date

The Manitoba government’s winter prohibition on applying fertilizer and manure was lifted April 1 because of thawed soils — 10 days earlier than the normal date of April 11 — just in time for what could be an early spring if the weather co-operates.

The news was welcomed by Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), which has been working with Conservation and Water Stewardship to time plant nutrient applications on soil conditions rather than fixed dates.

The government doesn’t want farmers applying nutrients on frozen ground because the potential run-off could further pollute Lake Winnipeg, already suffering from massive algae blooms from too much phosphorus.

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It demonstrates what a general farm organization can accomplish when it works with industry and government to find solutions for the environment and farmers, KAP vice-president Glenn Young said in an interview from his farm at Cypress River April 2.

“It certainly shows our lobby organization can be effective,” he said. “We lobby for these types of things on an ongoing basis.”

That lobbying helped in the creation of an advisory committee last fall, which includes Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship, KAP, Manitoba Beef Producers, the Canadian Agri-Retailers Association, commercial manure applicators and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

“This committee puts everyone on the same page,” David Hay, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship’s, acting manager of the water quality management section, said in an interview March 20. “In the past everyone had their own ideas so this was an opportunity for us to establish a very, very timely system to be able to make those changes.

Although farmers can now apply nutrients to their land, all other requirements of the Nutrient Management Regulation and the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation remain in effect, including setback requirements for winter spreading of livestock manure, the government said in a news release. Nutrients cannot be applied to sensitive lands along waterways or to lands classified as Nutrient Management Zone N4.

Farmers are obliged to assess weather conditions forecasts when applying nutrients before Apr. 11. Nutrients should not be applied when the forecast calls for snow or heavy rains that would result in run-off. Under provincial regulations the prohibition can be restored if weather conditions warrant. (More information on the restriction of winter application of nutrients is available at: www.manitoba.ca/nutrientdates.)

Nutrient regulation is complex. It took time to fine tune the policy so it works for the environment and farmers, Young said.

Part of KAP’s success stems from its good working relationship with government staff, he said.

“We can have a meeting with them and no matter what the issue is there’s an understanding that everyone at the table is trying to do the right thing for agriculture,” he said. “We certainly respect them and I think the reverse is true as well.”

The respect KAP garners comes from its broad membership, including commodity groups and democratic structure, which brings forward policies from the grassroots and then thoroughly researches and debates them.

“KAP as an umbrella organization, I think our job is to bring people together… and it’s a two-way street,” Young said.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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