Ag Policy Blog

EPA Analyzes Successes, Shortfalls of Three Chesapeake Bay States

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pointed to the successes and shortfalls of agriculture programs in Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia in implementing the total maximum daily loads, or TMDLS, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, in many cases emphasizing the voluntary measures well under way in three of the six states in the watershed, in a news release Monday.

The EPA released similar reports on programs in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia earlier this year.

EPA conducts periodic reviews of state programs as part of oversight of the Clean Water Act.

In short, EPA found Delaware and Maryland have used concentrated animal feeding permit systems effectively, while pointing out the state of West Virginia has some work to do.

Here are some of the highlights:

-"The assessment found that Delaware's nutrient management program has broad coverage, regulating over 1,000 farms throughout the state, including both crop and livestock farms," EPA said in a news release. "While regulated farms are required to develop and implement nutrient management plans, farmers are not required to submit them to the Delaware Department of Agriculture for review or approval. DDA assists farmers in getting back into compliance with their nutrient management plans, but does not take enforcement actions for noncompliance.

"DDA is currently addressing several deficiencies in its data systems to improve its accounting of the number of farmers that are covered under the regulations and the level of compliance with the nutrient management regulations.

"The assessment found that Delaware's concentrated animal feeding operations program has issued only one CAFO permit since 2010, with a backlog of approximately 440 farms that have applied for and are waiting to receive CAFO permits. Delaware has committed to register 150 CAFOs under its permit program by the end of 2015."

EPA said the state is relying "heavily" on voluntary agricultural cost-share programs to expand conservation practices and to better collect data to document those practices.

-EPA found Maryland's nutrient management program regulates more than 5,400 farms, including both crop and livestock operations.

"In addition to requiring farmers to develop and implement nutrient management plans, the program requires agricultural conservation practices such as setbacks for nutrient applications next to streams, and livestock stream exclusion practices."

In addition, Maryland finalized phosphorus management tool regulations in June to help farmers manage phosphorus.

According to the assessment, Maryland's CAFO program requires permit coverage for about 570 farms out of about 5,400 farms regulated by the state nutrient management program.

"Maryland has developed an agricultural certainty program to further encourage farmers to implement agricultural conservation and maintains the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost Share Program which provides funding to farmers to implement required conservation practices," EPA said.

-EPA found West Virginia's CAFO program has issued permits to just two farms out of more than 2,600 West Virginia animal feeding operations.

"EPA will continue to work with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to ensure compliance at animal feeding operations in West Virginia," EPA said.

"The assessment also found that though West Virginia has a nutrient management program, most nutrient management plans are voluntary under the program and are not assessed for compliance. West Virginia reports that approximately 375 farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have active nutrient management plans and estimates that 95% of these are animal agriculture operations."

EPA said West Virginia also relies "heavily" on voluntary agricultural cost-share programs.…

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Coy Allen
9/1/2015 | 7:26 AM CDT
When I visited muscle farmers off New England states they told me the greatest polluters (I. e. don't have/rent a farm just below a golf course) are golf courses? Will EPA check those sites under this new ruling?