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Morrill Hall of Agriculture
446 W. Circle Dr. Room 310
East Lansing, MI 48824
(517) 432-1555

Voluntary Certification Program for For-Hire Manure Applicators in Michigan

The goals of the voluntary certification program are as follows: 

  1. Prevent manure application problems before they occur.
  2. Increase nutrient management plan implementation.
  3. Improve professionalism among manure applicators.
  4. Demonstrate responsible manure application.
  5. Increase the base level of manure management knowledge of all employees. 

The program is segmented into three certification levels as follows: 

Level 1: Basic knowledge for all field staff on manure spill response and proper application techniques. 

To be certified in Level 1, an applicator must watch an audio visual presentation and pass a test with a minimum of 70 percent correct. The audio visual presentation is in English and Spanish. The test is given by the supervisor at each individual applicator firm.

To maintain Level 1 certification requires two hours of training and testing annually. 

Level 2: Advanced knowledge for crew supervisors. 

Modules include odor management, spreader calibration/recordkeeping, GPS tracking of applications, manure application in wet soils, regulations, ethics, and nutrient management plan implementation. More modules will be added as needs arise. 

To maintain Level 2 certification requires participating in a minimum of four modules over two years, plus showing proficiency through testing at 70 percent correct or higher. 

Level 3: Implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS) by the firm. 

Assistance and annual reviews are conducted by participating insurance companies. The template for EMS plans is loosely based on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality EMS Guidance Manual. Big Thumb Irrigation is an example of an acceptable EMS plans. 

Applicator firms must meet Level 1 requirements to gain Level 2, and meet Level 2 requirements to achieve Level 3. Classroom sessions are offered for Level 1 (train the trainer format) and Level 2. Trained Level 1 staff are then authorized to train other employees within their firm. 

Educational programs are sponsored by Michigan State University Extension. 

In March of 2002, the board of directors of the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin and a group of Michigan manure applicators independently approached Extension in each state to initiate a voluntary certification and training program. Over the next five months, applicators and Extension staff closely examined the seven existing manure applicator certification programs in the U.S. During this quest for information, Michigan and Wisconsin Extension educators joined forces with Illinois Extension to develop a tri-state for-hire manure applicator training and certification program. A three-year USDA-CSREES 406 grant via the CSREES Great Lakes Regional Water Quality Leadership Program was secured to assist in developing this program. 

With input from applicators, regulatory agencies, and government agencies in their respective states, a voluntary certification program was developed and piloted through 2005. Since 2005, the voluntary certification program in Michigan has been improved to become a program the applicators have adopted for their own use.