Agriculture, Environment Agencies Partner on Pollution Control to Help the Bay - Southern Maryland Headline News

Agriculture, Environment Agencies Partner on Pollution Control to Help the Bay


ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Maryland Departments of Agriculture (MDA) and Environment (MDE) on Friday, April 27 announced new cooperative actions to increase effectiveness of agricultural environmental protection programs to help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Farm operations with large numbers of animals and those using organic sources of nutrients have been identified as having the greatest potential to negatively impact water quality. MDA and MDE are immediately initiating three key initiatives to address potential impacts to water quality from agriculture: beginning the public process to expand state Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) regulations; accelerating completion of annual compliance reviews of all operations currently under CAFO permits; and targeting nutrient management audits to high risk animal operations.

"Maryland farmers are responsible and proactive stewards of the state's natural resources and are recognized as national leaders in environmental protection," said MDA Secretary Roger Richardson. "The new cooperative actions announced today are reasonable and responsible steps to further reduce any potential water quality impacts from agriculture."

"EPA CAFO standards were expected by July 2007, but are now very likely to be delayed further. We are aware of what EPA is likely to require and we want to be proactive and begin moving forward on state CAFO regulations to expand water quality protections in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries," said MDE Secretary Shari T. Wilson.

The following CAFO initiatives will be implemented immediately:

* MDE and MDA are working to complete and implement new CAFO regulations to include large poultry operations by the end of this year.

* MDA, working in cooperation with local soil conservation districts, will contact all animal agriculture operators to evaluate whether or not they fall within existing CAFO permit requirements and offer technical assistance to assure all operators currently covered have the proper permits and management measures in place. Within the next 60 days, MDE and MDA will jointly inspect the 10 currently permitted CAFO facilities to ensure that all current requirements are being met.

* MDA will target 40% of its nutrient management audits to animal operations and coordinate with MDE to prioritize audits on operations utilizing biosolids. MDA will audit nutrient management implementation on approximately 600 operations in FY2008.

CAFOs are large animal agriculture operations having more than 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2,500 swine, or 55,000 turkeys. When CAFOs are properly designed, constructed and managed, land application of manure according to a nutrient management plan is an agronomically important and environmentally safe source of nutrients and organic matter that increases productivity of cropland and does not cause water quality problems. Current Maryland regulations require a CAFO or discharge permit for these operations. There are now 10 permitted CAFOs in Maryland.

Although poultry operations are regulated under MDA's nutrient management law, CAFO regulations currently do not regulate poultry operations. In 2003, EPA updated federal CAFO requirements that included minimum standards for states to follow in regulating poultry operations. MDE and MDA worked together to develop proposed regulations for poultry operations and other facilities to meet the new federal rule. As proposed in 2005, the Maryland regulation would have required approximately 100 poultry operations to obtain CAFO permits for the first time. Concurrent with Maryland's process, the controversy about federal regulations resulted in several federal court challenges. The court's decision required EPA to change several key provisions of the 2003 federal requirements and to date the federal standard has not been reissued.

Source: Md. Dept. of Agriculture

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