Manure Applicator Certification
Questions & Answers

1. What are the types of Manure Applicator Certifications defined by Iowa law?
A confinement site manure applicator is “a person, other than a commercial manure service or a commercial manure service representative who applies manure on land if the manure originates from a manure storage structure. Confinement site applicators applying manure from a small animal feeding operation (SAFO, less than 500 animal units in confinement) are exempt from being certified. Farmers applying manure from an open feedlot are exempt from being certified. Confinement site applicators must attend 2 hours of annual training each year of their 3 year license or take and pass an exam once every 3 years. For a list of training workshops being held in 2017 you can download the brochure. The certification fee for confinement site applicators is $100 per three years. In addition to the certification fee, there will be the $25 educational fee which is an annual fee. The certification and education fees have not changed for 2017.

Legislative changes in early 2003 subdivided the commercial manure applicator program into two categories: commercial manure services and commercial manure service representatives.  A commercial manure service is "a sole proprietor or business association engaged in the business of transporting, handling, storing, or applying manure for a fee." The commercial manure service representative was further divided into two classifications, managers and representatives. A commercial manure service representative is "manager, employee, agent, or contractor of a commercial manure service, if the person is engaged in transporting, handling, storing, or applying manure on behalf of a the service." A manager of a commercial manure service is "a person who is actively involved in the operation of the service and makes management decisions in the operation of a commercial manure service."

A commercial manure service must be licensed annually and the fee is $200.  The manager must meet certification requirements by attending 3 hour of annual training prior to March 1, annually or taking and passing the yearly exam. The manager’s certification fees are included under the commercial manure service business fee. In addition to the $200 fee paid by the business, the manager will need to pay an annual education fee of $25. The certification fee for commercial manure service representatives is $75 annually and the education fee is $25 yearly. The fees have not changed for 2017. Commercial manure service representatives must also meet certification requirements by attending 3 hours of annual training or by taking and passing the yearly exam. For a copy of the 2017 commercial manure applicator brochure with workshop locations please click here.

Iowa State University Extension highly encourages all commercial or confinement site manure applicators to attend training at one of the workshop sites offered in 2017 or to consult their local County Extension Office’s policy for "reshowing" these programs. There is no charge to for attending the workshops or viewing the video on the scheduled reshow date and time at the local County Extension Office. However, applicators requesting to view the training materials on dates not scheduled at the local County Extension Office will be charged a fee of $10 per person.  Anyone not able to attend training should schedule an appointment with their DNR field office to take the certification exam.

2. How do I know if I need to become certified as a commercial manure service or representative?
If you are a commercial manure business you will need to become certified to handle either liquid or dry manure from all types of manure storage structures (liquid or dry) and from any size and type of operation (SAFO, confinement feeding operation, open feedlot) . Basically handling manure means if you have any involvement in the removal or application of manure or hauling manure from one site to another site, and application of the manure. This includes activities such as manning the tractor and pump.v If you are a commercial manure service representative or employee of a commercial manure service, you will need to be certified.  Certification as a commercial manure service representative is not required of a person who is any of the following, but certification as a confinement site applicator is required:

  • Actively engaged in farming who trades work with another such person
  • Employed by a person actively engaged in farming not solely as manure applicator who applies manure as an incidental part of the person’s general duties.
  • Engaged in applying manure as an incidental part of a custom farming operation
  • Engaged in applying manure as an incidental part of a person’s duties.
  • Applying, transporting, handling or storing manure within a period of 30 days from the date of initial employment as a commercial manure service representative if the person applying the manure is acting under the direct instructions and control of a certified commercial service representative who is physically present a the manure application site by being in sight or immediate communication distance of the supervised person where the certified commercial service representative can communicate with the supervised persons at all times.
  • Employed by a research college to apply manure from animal feeding operations that are part of the research activities or experiments of the research college.

3. How do I know if I need to become certified as a confinement site manure applicator?
As for confinement site applicators, you must be certified to apply manure if you are hauling manure from a confinement operation and the size of the operation is greater than 500 animal units. To determine if you have more than 500 a.u.  This applies to situations where you are hauling all the manure from a confinement site or if you are hauling several loads of manure from a confinement site.

If you are a producer who is applying manure (on your fields) that has come from a confinement operation you do not own, but it’s large enough to require applicator certification, you must also be certified to land apply the manure. Confinement site applicators may include people who are part-time employees of, or who trade work with, other active farmers.  The following people are exempt from a commercial manure applicator certification, but must still be certified as a confinement site applicator:

  • Someone actively engaged in farming and trades work with another active farmer,
  • Someone employed by an active farmer and applies 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.

Exemptions: Confinement site applicators are exempt from certification if they are:

  • Part-time employees or family members of a confinement site applicator and 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.
  • 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.

4. How do I become certified to land apply manure?
The law states that commercial applicators must pass an annual exam OR attend three hours of continuing education each year. Commercial manure applicator certification is accomplished in one of three ways:

In addition to completing one of the above requirements, you must also submit the appropriate fees and the application form to the DNR. 

Confinement site manure applicator certification is valid for 3 calendar years, starting the year the applicator is certified and expire on December 31 of the third year. Confinement site manure applicators can become certified initially certified or renew their 3-year certification in one of three ways:

Each of these options requires that the appropriate paperwork and fee be submitted to the DNR in order to complete the certification process.

5. As a new employee or commercial manure service representative working for a commercial manure service, I understand I can work for the first 30 days of my initial employment without being certified.  Please explain the requirement for supervision.  Do I need to be within sight and sound of a certified commercial service representative?  Do they need to be present?
New employees of a commercial manure service who are not yet certified can apply manure for the first 30 days of employment after they are hired, if they are supervised by a certified commercial manure applicator. The law requires a certified representative to be within sight or immediate communication distance of the uncertified person.  The certified representative must be physically present at the manure application site and supervising the uncertified person who is applying manure. The uncertified representative must also be actively seeking certification.  After 30 days, the new employees must meet certification requirements. This 30 day exemption is only valid once and does not apply each time the employee is rehired.

6.  Please explain the supervision clause for confinement site applicators. 
A part time employee or family member of a confinement site applicator may apply manure without certification, if they are under direct supervision by a certified confinement site manure applicator.  The certified applicator must be physically present at the manure application site or the pumpout site (wherever the uncertified person is working) by being in sight or hearing distance of the supervised person. The certified confinement site applicator must be able to physically observe and communicate with the uncertified applicator at all times.

7. If someone goes to the Commercial Certification session, will that also qualify for a Confinement Site Applicator Certification?
Yes.  A person attending a Commercial Manure certification workshop will be considered to have met the training requirements for being certified as a Confinement Site Applicator. Due to the difference in hours of training required, the reverse of this is not the case (i.e. -a person attending the Confinement Site training meeting will not have met the training requirements to be certified as a Commercial Applicator).

To obtain certification as a Confinement Site Applicator, a person attending a Commercial Applicator training session will need to attend all 3 hours of the commercial training program versus the 2 hours required for the confinement site program, complete and obtain the instructor's signature on the Application for Confinement Site Manure Applicator Certification or Renewal of Certification form (DNR 542-3301) and submit fees as required.

8. What is the length of the certification period?
In the commercial applicator program, the license is a one-year certificate. Currently, all Commercial Manure Applicator Certifications will expire on March 1, regardless of when you become certified. The certification period for commercial service representatives is March 1sto March 1st of the next year.

Confinement site manure applicator certification is good for 3 calendar years, starting the year the applicator is certified and certificates will expire on December 31st of the third year of the certificate. Confinement site certificates continue to have a two-month grace period that makes applications for certificates due March 1 of the year following the expiration of the certificate.  

9.  I have attended a training meeting or taken an exam and passed, and have mailed my certification form and fee to the DNR.  Will I receive a certification card or some form verifying my certification?
If you are a Confinement Site Manure Applicator you will receive a certification card that is valid through December 31st of the third calendar year of your certification cycle.  It will take approximately 30 days to receive the card after you submit the completed application form and appropriate fees. Please keep this card with you when applying manure.

If you are a commercial manure service representative or manager you will receive a certification card that is valid from March 1 (or whenever you submitted your application form and fees) through March 1 of the following year. It will take approximately 30 days to receive the card after you submit the completed application form and appropriate fees. Please keep this card with you when applying manure. If you have not received your certification card or have questions about your certification license, please call the DNR Licensing Bureau at 515-281-5918.

10. Is there a phone number at DNR that I can call to ask questions regarding state rules?
You can call one of the DNR Field Offices listed below or visit the DNR Field Office Web page

Field Office 1, Manchester, (563) 927-2640
Field Office 2, Mason City, (641) 424-4073
Field Office 3, Spencer, (712) 262-4177
Field Office 4, Atlantic, (712) 243-1934
Field Office 5, Des Moines, (515) 725-8268
Field Office 6, Washington, (319) 653-2135
To Report Spills (515) 725-8694

11.  I am a commercial/confinement site manure applicator.  I did not get certified last year.  I need to apply manure now and I can’t wait for the certification meetings.  How do I get certified?
There are several options.  First, if you are either a confinement site applicator or a commercial manure service representative or manager and you have not been certified, you can contact your County Extension office and schedule an appointment to watch the appropriate videotape.  Confinement site manure applicators must watch a 2-hr tape and commercial manure service representatives or managers must watch a 3-hr tape.  Second, if you either a confinement site manure applicator or a commercial manure service representative or manager, you can call a DNR field office to schedule an appointment to take the exam. Exams are only given at DNR field offices.

12.  If I want to take the exam to become certified as a commercial manure service representative or manager or confinement site manure applicator is there a study guide or some document I can access to prepare for the exam?
Yes.  There are electronic versions of study guides available for each certification program. 
PM 1779, the Confinement Site Manure Applicator Certification Study Guide
PM 1778, the Commercial Manure Applicator Certification Study Guide
You may obtain copies of these web-based study guides at your local County Extension Office, but local charges for paper and copying may apply.  Applicators who already have the study guides may also update existing study guides by accessing revised chapters on the web pages listed above or by contacting their local county extension office.
Other resources include:
DNR Manure Applicator Certification Web Page
DNR 115 Commercial Manure Applicator Certification Fact Sheet
DNR 116 Confinement Site Manure Applicator Certification Fact Sheet
DNR 113 Separation Distances for Land Application Fact Sheet
DNR 117 High Quality Water Resources
Dry-Bedded Manure Stockpiling Regulations- For Cattle and Swine Confinements
Confinement Dry Manure Stockpiling Regulations
Open Feedlot Manure Stockpiling Regulations

13.  What family members are included in the exemption for the Confinement Site Applicator Certification?
In 2000 the Legislature passed a law that allows family members to be certified under one paid manure applicator certificate of a certified family member. This means that if you are a “spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling” involved in the same agricultural operation you can be certified under an existing certified family farm member’s certification. The family will only have to pay one fee every three years.  The provisions include: 1) family members must apply for the certification within one year of the date of primary family member certification or renewal, 2) family members must still attend training each of the three years or pass an exam and pay the annual education fee, and 3) must provide a notarized statement that you meet family farm member definition.  The family farm member exemption only applies to Confinement Site Manure Applicators.

14. I am a confinement site manure applicator and I attended my first certification workshop or I renewed my certification in 2014.  I have not attended a certification meeting since that time.  Will I have to take an exam to recertify in 2017?
Yes. Confinement site applicators that missed a two-hour training workshop during their 3-year certification cycle will receive a letter from DNR stating they need to take the exam to be eligible to recertify. The exam is a 50 question, true-false, multiple-choice exam.  Applicators must get 35 of the 50 questions correct to pass. You must schedule an appointment to take the exam at the DNR field office.  A list of DNR field office phone numbers is found in question 10.

15. As a confinement site manure applicator who is required to take the exam to be eligible to recertify, what do I need to do to continue my certification after I take and pass the exam?

At this point in time you have four choices to start your next 3-cycle of certification.  

16.  How do I know if I have 500 animal units and need to be certified as a confinement site applicator?
To calculate animal unit (a.u.) capacity, multiply the greatest number of animals you maintain in your operation (confinement) at one time from Col. 1 times the equivalency factor in Col. 2. Sum the numbers in Col. 3.  If the sum of Col. 3 exceeds 500 a.u. you need to be certified to apply manure and you must file a manure management plan.  (Table adapted from DNR 542-4000).

Table

17.  As the owner/manager of a commercial manure service, I understand I can substitute new employees for employees that have left my business. The new employees must still attend the 3-hour training workshops or take and pass the exam, but the business will not be required to pay additional certification fees if the certification fees have already been paid.  How do I substitute employees? 
As owner/manager, you will need to notify the DNR within 30 days of the name and driver’s license or social security number of any employee who has been terminated or newly hired.  The DNR will provide you with several copies of form DNR 542-4023 Employee Substitution and Termination Form to complete that process.  When a representative quits or is terminated, if the commercial manure service paid the individual’s certification fee the certificate number stays with the company and the new representative can replace the person who left.  However, the new hire must still take the 3-hr training or pass the exam and pay the education fee. 

18.  I have attended a video/webcast or passed an exam and have sent in my fees with the paperwork.  Am I considered certified?  Can I still apply manure without having my certification card?
Once the training session has been attended or exam passed and applicable fees have been mailed with the application form to DNR, you are considered certified.  Once the certification card is received, you should carry it with you at all times.  It is recommended that you carry your copy of the application form and copy of the check until you receive your certification card.  The field office staff will record your name and address and contact the licensing bureau to determine if you are currently certified.

19.  Will the education fee also apply to confinement site applicators or commercial manure service representatives if they choose to take the exam to meet certification requirements instead of attending a training session?
The education fee applies both when an exam is taken and when training sessions are attended.  However, the education fee does not apply when a confinement site applicator is required to take the “make-up” exam to be eligible to recertify due to one or more missed training sessions.

20.  How do commercial manure services communicate to DNR that they want to substitute a new employee under an existing license?
The manager or owner of a confinement of a commercial manure service must notify the DNR within 30 days of whenever an employee is hired or terminated.  The owner or manager will need to provide the status of the employee (terminated, hired/substituted) and their driver’s license or social security number.  The DNR will provide several copies of form DNR 542-4023, Employee Substitution and Termination Form to each company to make this process easier.  Commercial manure services may also call their regional DNR field office to request copies of this form.

21. Do I need a valid driver’s license to apply manure?
A farmer or farmer’s hired hand (confinement site applicator), not under a driver’s license sanction, may operate within 2 miles of a farm with no driver’s license.
A person who has a sanctioned license may not drive any vehicle on a public highway.
If a person has a barred driver’s license they are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle anywhere.

22.   Where do I find information on separation distances for land application of manure?
Separation distances for land application of manure are found in the fact sheet DNR 113.

23.  What do I need to know about stockpiling manure?
Stockpiling regulations depend on the source of the manure.  You can learn about stockpiling requirements from the following DNR publications. Commercial manure applicators hauling manure and dumping or stockpiling manure for farmers should be aware of separation distances for stockpiles.

Dry-Bedded Manure Stockpiling Regulations - For Cattle and Swine Confinements

Confinement Dry Manure Stockpiling Regulations

Open Feedlot Manure Stockpiling Regulations