Buyers of poultry litter produced within environmentally sensitive Oklahoma watersheds and transported elsewhere will be able to claim a state tax credit for part of their 2012 transactions.

Tax credits for such purchases began in 2005 as a way to protect streams, rivers and lakes from nutrient overloading, which leads to the degradation of water quality. The program was suspended in 2010, but has since resumed.

Eligible buyers can claim the credit of $10 a ton for the 2012 tax reporting period for purchases made after June 30. The credit applies only to litter purchased from Oklahoma poultry feeding operations within nutrient-limited watersheds and registered with the state.Officials of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture's environmental management service said the litter also must be applied by licensed poultry waste applicators. To qualify for the credit, applications must be made in watersheds that are not environmentally sensitive.

Because of the two-year moratorium, no credits may be claimed for litter purchases made between July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2012. If the tax credit exceeds the income tax owed by an eligible buyer, the unused credit may be carried over for up to five years.

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Local nutrient limited watersheds from which litter purchases qualify for the tax credit include the Illinois River and the Eucha-Spavinaw watersheds. Both have been at the center of legal battles over pollution caused by the excessive litter applications within those watersheds or the failure to contain the wastes.

Josh Payne, an animal waste management specialist with the Oklahoma State University Extension Office in Muskogee and an adjunct assistant professor, told the Muskogee Phoenix the demand for poultry wastes typically fluctuates with the price of commercial fertilizers. Payne said it is difficult to calculate any impact the moratorium might have had on poultry waste transfers.

"I don't think we've seen a significant decline in the amount of poultry litter being bought and transferred outside the nutrient limited watersheds," he said. "But I do know the credit was certainly missed by the producers who utilize it. I consider it a great subsidy to transport litter outside these watersheds - it is the only current subsidy we have."

Regulators who track the production and transfer of poultry wastes within the state reported in 2012 that 88 percent of the material generated within the Illinois River watershed in 2010 was exported outside the basin. Of the 65,010 tons of poultry waste produced within the watershed that year, 7,774 tons were applied within the basin, and 57,236 tons were transported to other sites in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas.