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Nutrient Management Certification Program

Created under Act 38 of 2005, the Nutrient Management Program, administered by the State Conservation Commission (Commission), requires certain agricultural operations to develop a nutrient management plan following nutrient management planning criteria established under Act 38. Act 38 requires that a certified Nutrient Management Specialist develop the nutrient management plan. The Department is mandated under Act 38 to establish a nutrient management certification program. The requirements for the Nutrient Management Certification Program are created by regulation establishing nutrient management specialist categories (commercial, public and individual); training, examination and planning requirements that demonstrate a person's competency in developing or reviewing nutrient management plans.

A person interested in certification may apply for one of three certification categories. A 'commercial' certificate allows a person to develop nutrient management plans for an agricultural operation. This certification is appropriate for private sector consultants. A 'public' certificate allows a person to review nutrient management plans, or recommend approval to a conservation district or the State Conservation Commission. This certification type is reserved for employees of conservation districts or state employees.  An 'individual' certificate allows a farmer to develop a nutrient management plan for his or her own agricultural operation.

Certification Process

Applicants for certification must attend a series of courses designed by the Department to address nutrient management planning principles and technology and pass an examination administered by the Department. Successful completion of the training courses will grant a person 'provisional' certification, which will allow an applicant to begin developing or reviewing nutrient management plans and complete 'final' certification requirements. At this stage of certification, an applicant for 'commercial' or 'public' certification granted 'provisional' certification has 3 years to complete the planning requirements. Each category type must complete planning activities to demonstrate the applicant's ability in developing or reviewing nutrient management plans.

    • Commercial Specialist must develop three (3) plans which comply with Act 38 requirements.
    • A Public Review Specialist must prepare one (1) plan and review two (2) nutrient management plans in compliance with Act38 requirements.
    • A Public Dual Specialist must develop two (2) plans and review two (2) nutrient management plans in compliance with Act 38 requirements.

When an applicant has completed the required coursework, passed the examination and completed the appropriate planning requirements, the Department will notify the applicant of his eligibility for 'final' certification, at which time the applicant will be required to submit an application and the appropriate certification fee (noted below) to apply for 'final' certification. All fees must be paid by check, or money order made payable to the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Certification Fees

    • Exam - $50 (Commercial & Public; Individual - no fee)
    • Commercial- $200.00
    • Public Review- $25.00
    • Public Dual - $50.00
    • Individual -$15.00

Coursework Information and Registration

Course work descriptions and examination information are available online at Course Descriptions.

A course calendar and registration information is available online at Course Calendar.

Applicants must register with the Department to attend the required courses and examination

You may register for coursework and exams on the PaPlants website. In order to register for the required trainings, you must register as a PaPlants user. To become a PaPlants User, please complete the Nutrient Management Certification Application located under forms.

You will receive a 'PaPlants' User ID and Pin Number. Use this information and the PaPlants Users Guide to register for coursework. Once you register for coursework, registration confirmation and directions to the training facility will be sent to you if you have supplied a valid email address.

Continuing Education

Certified nutrient management specialists must obtain continuing education credits (CECs) to maintain certification. Required CECs must be obtained in the amounts noted below before the certificate expires:

    • Commercial & Public Specialists - 20 CECs every three years with 5 of these credits in Commission or Department sponsored events.
    • Individual Specialists - 6 continuing education credits every three years.

Training courses providing CECs must be pre-approved by the Department. A listing of available training courses with CECs and how to register is online at PaPlants', Nutrient Management - CEC Meeting Search