Recently there has been a lot of talk about EPA, the Chesapeake Bay, the TMDL, WIP’s, NMP, etc. How does one really know what is going on? All these terms and acronyms can be confusing. So I am going to try and make things a little less confusing.

EPA – Environmental Protection Agency is a federal agency whose mission is to protect human health and the environment.

USDA – United States Department of Agriculture provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.

NRCS – Natural Resource Conservation Service is a federal agency that works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance designed to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals that results in productive lands and healthy ecosystems.

USGS – United States Geological Survey is the Nation’s largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems.

DEP – Department of Environmental Protection is a PA state agency whose mission is to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment.

PDA – Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture encourages, protects and promotes agriculture and related industries throughout the commonwealth while providing consumer protection through inspection services that impact the health and financial security of Pennsylvania’s citizens.

SCC – State Conservation Commission of PA has a primary mission to ensure the wise use of Pennsylvania’s natural resources and to protect and restore the natural environment through the conservation of its soil water and related resources.

NMP – Nutrient Management Plan is a plan developed following the guidelines of Act 38


AEU – Animal Equivalent Unit is equal to one thousand pounds live weight of livestock or poultry animals on an annualized basis.

CAO – Concentrated Animal Operation is an agricultural operation with eight or more animal equivalent units where the animal density exceeds two AEU’s per acre on an annualized basis and is required to have a NMP under Act 38.


VAO – Voluntary Animal Operation is an operation that voluntarily agrees to meet the requirements of Act 38 even though their animal densities are less than two AEU’s per acre.

AFO – Animal Feeding Operation are defined by EPA as agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations.

CAFO – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation as defined by DEP is an animal operation that meets or exceeds any of the animal density thresholds set by DEP. Examples of the threshold: 700 mature dairy cows, 500 horses, 55,000 turkeys

Act 38 – The Pennsylvania Act 38 program regulates all high-density livestock and poultry operations within the Commonwealth known as CAO. These operations must develop and implement an approved NM plan in conformance with the criteria outlined in the regulations.

Chapter 91 – Requires all farms in Pennsylvania, producing or utilizing manure, to follow the Department of Environmental Protection’s Manure Management Manual.  However CAOs, CAFOs or volunteers may fall under more stringent regulations such as Act 38, the Nutrient Management Law or DEP’s CAFO requirements.


MMM – Manure Management Manual is a guidance manual published by DEP which describes approved manure management practices for all farms related to controlling and preventing pollution. 


Chapter 102 – This chapter requires persons proposing or conducting earth disturbance activities to develop, implement and maintain Best Management Practices to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation and to manage post construction storm water.  Chapter 102 plans for agricultural operations are sometimes referred to as Ag E&S Plans and some NRCS Conservation Plans will satisfy these requirements.

BMP – Best Management Practice is a practice or combination of practices determined to be effective and practicable in achieving a certain goal. Example: cover crop to reduce erosion, NMP to reduce nutrient run-off, post milking teat dip to prevent mastitis


ACA – Animal Concentration Area is any area where animals are confined and a growing crop can’t be maintained. Examples: barnyard, feedlot, exercise area.

AG E&S Plan – Agricultural Erosion and Sediment Control Plan is a site specific plan identifying BMPs to minimize accelerated erosion and sedimentation from agricultural run-off, required by Chapter 102.


Conservation Plan – Is a voluntary written plan that addresses natural resource concerns that effect soil, water, plants, animals, and air. This plan also identifies BMPs for agricultural plowing and tilling activities and heavy use areas. A copy of this plan is typically kept on file at the county NRCS and on the agricultural operation.

CNMP – Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan is a conservation plan for an animal feeding operation that must meet NRCS quality criteria for water quality and soil erosion. This plan will address the following elements: manure and waste water handling and storage, land treatment practices, nutrient management, and record keeping.

CWA – Clean Water Act establishes the basic structure for regulating the discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

TMDL – Total Maximum Daily Load is a regulatory term in the U.S. CWA, describing a value of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. TMDL may also mean a set of pollution limits has been established to meet applicable water quality standards for a specific watershed.

WIP – Watershed Implementation Plan details how and when a state plans to meet pollution allocations set under the TMDL.

NPDES – National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.

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