Manure applicators offered online training, certification

Commercial manure applicators and confinement site manure applicators can now acquire training and state certification online as well as through traditional classroom instruction.

Farmers who spread manure from their livestock confinements and owners of commercial manure-spreading businesses must be certified by the state of Iowa, and a new online training and fee-payment system introduced by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) aims to simplify the certification process.

Gene Tinker, DNR animal feeding operations coordinator, said the online system extends the convenience of certification training to the home or office.

“Applicators can still complete training in person, watch a video at a county Extension office or take a test at a DNR field office and mail a check in to pay their certification fees, just as they always have,” Tinker said.

The new online method brings another option to the process, he said, “allowing applicators to take training, pay fees or print their certificates via an online system, or use any combination of traditional and online services.”

Tinker said the major advantage of the online option is the convenience of paying fees.

“We think that’s a great benefit for those who spend the winter out of state or applicators from neighboring states who apply manure in Iowa,” he said. Online manure-application training is available to anyone, Tinker said, but is specifically designed to help manure applicators meet state requirements for certification.

According to Rachel Klein, program coordinator with the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Manure Management Action Group, more than 4,500 individuals are currently certified to apply manure in Iowa, and nearly half of these are commercial applicators.
Liquid manure can be injected into the soil.
Liquid manure can be injected into the soil.

Applicators can take the online training on any device with internet access but might get the best performance on a desktop computer.

If a trainee uses a public-access computer for training, the DNR recommends checking with the access provider – such as a coffee shop, library or motel – to verify the security of the connection, particularly when sharing information about bank accounts.

Topics in the online training modules include biosecurity for human and animal safety and nutrient management and its relation to water quality. Each module is followed by a short activity testing the trainee’s comprehension.

Online training is similar to in-person or video training, but it is self-paced, and applicators may complete one topic at a time or all topics in one sitting. Online training is limited to one applicator per computer.

Both confinement site applicators and commercial manure applicators must take and pass the DNR’s 50-question exam, featuring multiple-choice and true-false questions. Commercial applicators receive three hours of training and confinement site applicators two hours.

Iowa State Representative Jared Klein, a Republican from Keota and member of the Washington County Pork Producers, introduced legislation in the last session of the Iowa General Assembly that would have reduced the training time of commercial manure applicators from three hours to two. The bill failed to pass.

A $200 license fee is paid annually by commercial manure services, which includes a certification fee for one designated owner or manager. The designated owner or manager must also pay an additional education fee of $25 annually.

Certifications for additional employees of a manure application business are each $75 annually plus the $25 education fee. Both the education certification fees fall due March 1.

Confinement site applicators receive a three-year certification at a cost of $100 plus the $25 education fee. According to DNR regulations, confinement site manure application certification is required for:

  • Someone actively engaged in farming and trading work with another active farmer,
  • Someone employed by an active farmer and applying manure only as in incidental part of the job,
  • Someone who applies manure as an incidental part of a custom farming operation, or
  • Someone who applies manure as an incidental part of their job duties.

Manure spreaders who are exempt from the DNR’s certification requirements include:

  • Part-time employees or family members of a confinement site applicator who are under the direct instruction and control of a certified confinement site manure applicator who is physically present and can physically observe and communicate with the supervised person at all times.
  • People employed by a research college to apply manure from an animal feeding operation that is part of the research activities or experiments of the research college.

More information about online training can be found on the DNR’s manure application website. Applicators and business managers can also check their own records for renewals, expiration dates and fees on the website.

Traditional in-person training options include two-hour workshops for confinement site applicators and three-hour workshops for commercial applicators. Workshops are led by agricultural and biosystems engineering specialists, livestock specialists and field agronomists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Commercial applicators can also take a three-hour training via statewide videocast airing in early January, and videotaped sessions are also available by appointment throughout the year.

Upcoming training dates can be found on the manure applicator’s section of the ISU Extension and Outreach’s Iowa Manure Management Action Group’s website.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach developed the online training course in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The Iowa Legislature provided funding for the project.


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