Manure brokers can assist producers in finding markets for livestock manure, help buyers and sellers understand transportation regulations and provide details about crop nutrient needs that might add value to the end-user, according to Robert Meinen, senior Extension associate with the Pennsylvania State University Department of Dairy and Animal Science.

Pennsylvania requires manure brokers to obtain training and state certification, but Meinen says there can be a lot of variation in manure transport rules from state to state. He urges producers to gain a good understanding of manure transportation and storage regulations even if a broker is helping with the manure sale.

A panel of manure brokers provided advice to attendees at the recent North American Manure Expo in Norfolk, NE. Each panel member emphasized the importance of acquiring a reliable manure analysis before buying or selling.

Abe Sandquist, owns a nutrient management consulting business in Woodbine, IA where he helps facilitate manure sales, as well as working with crop and livestock producers to meet environmental regulations. Sandquist says taking multiple manure samples is crucial to pinpointing the actual value of the manure. Because manure can be variable, focusing only on one sample or the highest-testing sample could prove risky if the manure does not provide the crop yield benefits the client expects. He helps producers take manure samples and assists in establishing values based on the results.

Kendall Bonenberger, president of Environmental Sciences, Inc. (ESI), Lincoln, NE, uses his training as a certified crop consultant and soil scientists to work with clients to obtain soil samples so manure can be priced and used based on what each field needs. He works with optical scans and plant tissue samples to fine-tune the nutrient requirements of the crops his clients plan to fertilize.

Bonenberger and Sandquist help their clients set up transportation for the manure. As part of this service, they monitor local environmental regulations, assemble proper documentation for transporting manure, and follow federal, state and local regulations.

Meinen says producers who are interested in working with a manure broker should take the time to make sure all parties understand the expectations of a transaction. "Often these types of agreements are worked out with a handshake, but I encourage producers to work with a written contract," he explains. "A contract offers some protection and also clearly lays out the expectations." Meinen says a contract can help spell out details, such as when the manure should be delivered. If the manure is going to be stored, the specifics about where it will be unloaded should be included in the contract. "When solid manures are delivered it is paramount to stack them in a location that minimizes environmental risk and in accordance with state setback guidelines," Meinen says.

Summing up his suggestions, Meinen says producers need to make sure they are informed about regulations and certification required in their local area. For more information about working with manure brokers, see the Sept. 15, 2011 issue of National Hog Farmer, soon to be posted at nationalhogfarmer.com/.