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  Winter AEM Code update – what dairy producers need to know
 BC Dairy sat down with Josh Andrews, Nutrient Management Agrologist to receive the latest Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Code of Practice updates and relevant information for dairy producers.
BC Dairy Staff
Q: For those producers who haven’t met you yet--what is your role within the Ministry?
Josh: I began working for the Ministry as a Nutrient Management Agrologist back in 2018. ‘Nutrient Management Agrologist’ essentially means that I help farmers deal with things that involve nutrients and their use on farm. This normally includes manure or fertilizer applications, Nutrient Management Plans, soil testing, or other similar topics.
Q: What is the Ministry’s role
with respect to the Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Code?
Josh: Our role is to assist farmers and the agriculture sector so that they can be productive and adopt practices that are environmentally sustainable. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is responsible for writing and enforcing the AEM Code; however, our Ministry does help farmers understand the AEM Code with our programs, information, and tools.
Q: For those producers located
in high rainfall areas, what do they need to know about manure spreading changes?
Josh: Producers need to know that there are now two different periods of time where manure spreading is affected in high-precipitation areas, which is mainly the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. The first is
the ‘No spread period’ which is in November, December, and January, which is exactly as it sounds - manure cannot be spread during these months. The next period is
the ‘shoulder season,’ which are
the months of October, February, and March. This is the period where manure can be spread, but a risk assessment must be completed
first. For a risk assessment, we have created the BC ARM Tool which
lets farmers look at the rainfall forecast and their field conditions to determine the risk of runoff occurring after they apply. A risk assessment
needs to be completed before application in the shoulder season.
Q: What about producers who are not in high rainfall areas - can you speak to winter spreading information?
Josh: There are some spreading rules that will affect all areas of the province, even if you’re not in a high-precipitation area. These rules are based on field conditions - if your field is covered in snow, frozen down to 5cm, water-saturated, or if there is strong wind or rainfall, then manure should not be spread.
Q: What about manure storage? What are the top changes for farmers to be aware of?
Josh: I think the biggest difference is the restrictions on applications during certain times of the year or under certain field conditions, which affects how long manure must be stored. We normally recommend 6 to 7 months storage capacity just in case farmers aren’t able to apply.
There are also some other new
rules regarding protective bases and leak assessments for earthen lagoons or liquid manure structures in vulnerable aquifer recharge areas that farmers should be aware of.
Q: We’ve received questions from producers about soil test timing and frequency. Can you share what producers need to know about soil testing (with respect to the Code)?
Josh: Producers need to know
that they now need to soil sample regularly under the Code. The two analyses that need to be run on the samples are soil phosphorus and post-harvest nitrate.
Soil phosphorus is fairly straightforward - this is normally performed on basic soil fertility tests that most farmers are familiar with. These samples are normally taken in the spring or fall.
Post-harvest nitrate is somewhat new - it’s used to determine how much nitrogen was used over the growing season by your crops. Since this test is backwards looking, it can
only be taken in the late summer
to early fall once your crops are harvested or have stopped taking up nitrogen.
Both of these soil tests need to be performed at least once every three years. If the post-harvest nitrate
test is above 100 kg/ha, which is about 25 ppm, then it needs to be performed again the following year.
Q: How does a producer know whether they need a nutrient management plan? Who can they go to if they need a plan?
Josh: NMPs are currently being phased-in under the Code. If
you are in one of the two high-
risk areas defined by the Code, vulnerable aquifer recharge areas or phosphorus-affected areas,
and have soil test results that are above a certain threshold, then you might need an NMP. Some of the vulnerable aquifer recharge areas have been phased in already, and the final one will be phased-in next year. The phosphorus-affected areas are being phased-in in 2024.
Of course, I can’t verbally explain where each of these areas are, but there is a map online that allows you to type in your address and determine where your farm is in relation to the two high-risk areas.
If farmers do find out that they need a plan, I’d recommend talking
to a Planning Advisor with our Environmental Farm Plan program to find out how they can get support.
Q: What are the key records that producers need to keep on their farm to make sure they are complying with the AEM Code?
Josh: Most of the records for dairy farmers under the AEM Code are related to manure or fertilizer applications. Anytime you make an application, keep track of the field where the manure or fertilizer was applied, the date it was applied, the nutrient content of the material that was applied, the rate that was applied, and other things of that nature.
Q: Where can producers go if they need help to understand the requirements and how they apply to their farm?
Josh: I think the best source is AgriService BC, as producers can send in their questions via email
or phone, and it will be sent to someone who is knowledgeable in that area.
For a complete picture, the B.C. Environmental Farm Plan Program
is a great way to find out where
you stand relative to regulations through a confidential process with a Planning Advisor.
Q: Any final words/advice or recommendations for farmers
as they continue to adapt their operations to the requirements of the AEM Code?
Josh: I think the important thing is to just keep track of everything you’re doing related to nutrient application. Records can be many things - they can be fertilizer plans or receipts, notes from a custom applicator, or things you write down in a notebook. Not only will it be beneficial under the AEM Code, it is also a great way to track your nutrient applications and relate it to your production.
    For assistance and support BC Dairy Staff are available to answer questions and supp

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