Confinement Site Applicators

Introduction and Definitions

House File 2494, passed in 1998, requires that after March 2, 1999 a confinement site applicator shall not apply dry or liquid manure to land unless the person is certified. 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."  A confinement site is "a site where there is located a manure storage structure which is part of a confinement feeding operation, other than a small animal feeding operation."  A confinement feeding operation means “an animal feeding operation in which animals are confined to areas which are totally roofed." Confinement site applicators applying manure from a small animal feeding operation (SAFO) are exempt from being certified.

The definition of a SAFO is related to animal unit (a.u.) capacity and is defined as an operation with 500 or less a.u. If a confinement livestock operation has more than a 500 a.u. capacity, the operator must be certified to handle, haul and apply manure, see Table 1 to determine animal unit capacity.

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 certification, but must still be certified as a confinement site applicator:

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

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Becoming Certified and Maintaining Your Certification

Confinement site manure applicator certification is good for 3 calendar years.  Confinement site manure applicators can become certified initially or renew their 3-year certification in one of four ways:

  1. Attend a two-hour training course offered January through February annually at most County Extension offices, or the list of 2024 locations can be found in the 2024 Confinement Site Manure Applicator Workshop Brochure or
  2. View the 2-hour training video at your County Extension office or
  3. Take training online for Confinement Site Manure Applicators.
  4. Visit a DNR field office and take a test consisting of 50 multiple choice questions.

The DNR now offers E-Learning for both Confinement and Commercial Applicators. To take the education course online applicators will need to register for an IowaID. This can be done by clicking on the E-Learning link above and following the prompts. The DNR also offers manure applicators online payment processing and information regarding their renewals, expiration dates, and fees. This information is available at the Manure Applicator Certification Application.

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

The certification fee for confinement site manure applicators in 2023 is $100 for a 3-year license.  In addition to the certification fee, HF 644 passed in May 2003, requires confinement site applicators to pay an annual education fee as determined by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The education fee for 2023 is $25. The certification and education fees have not changed for 2023.

Iowa State University Extension highly encourages all confinement site manure applicators to attend training at one of the workshops listed in the link to the right or to consult their local County Extension Office’s policy for "reshowing" these programs. There is no charge 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.

Training and Testing

Confinement site applicators that missed a two-hour training workshop during their 3-year certification will receive a letter from DNR stating they need to take the exam to be eligible to re-certify. Please contact your DNR Field Office to schedule an appointment to take the exam.

If applicators are required to take the exam to become eligible to re-certify, upon passing the exam they can either 1) take a second exam on a different day to renew their certificates for the next 3-year period, or 2) attend a training workshop prior to March 1, 2023 to renew their certificates, or 3) take their training online at DNR’s e-learning site, Anyone renewing their 3-year certificate after March 1, 2023 will be required to pay the late fee.

Uniform Certification Deadline

Due to changes in the law, a uniform certification deadline policy was instituted in 2002. The uniform certification deadline states that confinement site manure applicator certifications will expire on December 31st of the third year of the license. Confinement site applicators will then have until March 1 of the following year to apply manure without being certified. After March 1 confinement site applicators cannot apply manure until they pass the exam or watch the video and send in the required form and fees for renewal. Any renewal that is postmarked after March 1 of the year following the expiration date will be charged a late fee of $12.50 by the DNR and applicators will not receive their certificates until all fees are paid.

Family Member Exemption

In 2000 the Legislature passed a law that allows family members to be certified under one manure applicator certificate of a certified family member. This means that if you are a "spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling", you can be certified under an existing certified family member's certification. The family will only have to pay one certification 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 or pass the exam and pay annual education fee and, 3) must provide a notarized statement that you meet family member definition. The family member exemption only applies to Confinement Site Manure Applicators.

New Confinement Site Applicators

Confinement site applicators that have never been certified can become certified at any time of year by completing one of the options listed above, and submitting the appropriate form and fees. Certificates will expire on December 31st of the third year of the certification. Late fees are not assessed to new applicators.

table 1

Table 1. Calculating animal unit capacity to determine if you need to be certified to land apply manure of if you need to file a manure management plan. If the number of head in the 2nd column (in confinement) times the animal unit factor in the 3rd column exceeds 500 animal units for any one category or the sum of categories, you will need to file a manure management plan and become certified to apply manure. NOTE: Table adapted from DNR 542-4000, "Introduction and Instruction for the Manure Management Plan Form".

Additional Resources

2024 Confinement Site Manure Applicator Workshops - Dates and Locations offered by ISUE
DNR's Manure Applicator Certification Website
DNR 116 For Animal Producers and Confinement Site Manure Applicators - Manure Applicators Certification
DNR 113 Separation Distances for Land Application of Manure from Open Feedlots & Confinement Feeding Operations SAFOs
DNR 117 High Quality Water Resources
DNR 542-8002 Manure Management Plan Record Keeping Form
Distribution Map of Confinement Site Applicators
Manure Applicator Certification - Frequently Asked Questions