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Added scrutiny on small farms by EPA

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency have signed an agreement that will mean greater pollution scrutiny of small farming operations along the Chesapeake Bay including farms in King George and Westmoreland counties.


Under the agreement, the EPA won’t revise or expand pollution control rules for large animal operations — such as the Eastern Shore’s chicken farms — as it agreed to do in a 2010 court-approved settlement, but instead will focus on reducing pollution from smaller farming operations.

The purpose of the new agreement is to resolve litigation that has been filed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation against the EPA for not working harder to clean up the bay and the threat of challenges by the large farm operators concerned about the EPA’s rule-making procedures.

Under the new agreement, instead of seeking a new rule cracking down on large farm operations, the EPA will launch a review of those operations. But the EPA will also intensify scrutiny of thousands of smaller farming operations along the Chesapeake Bay to determine if tougher regulations are needed to meet pollution reduction targets.

The new agreement is intended to provide additional certainty that pollution goals along the Chesapeake Bay’s six-state, 64,000-square mile will be reached by 2025.  

Jon Capacasa, the EPA’s director of water protection, said the changes came about after realizing many of the small farm operations don’t fall under the current regulations.

“When we looked at the data about animal agriculture and the large amount of manure generated, we found two-thirds of the manure came from smaller operations,” Capacasa said.

The agreement was met with skepticism by small farm operators. “They are overreaching,” said Woodrow Hynson, a long-time farmer who is a member of the Westmoreland Board of Supervisors. “I don’t know of any small farmer who is not trying to do all that he can to keep our waters clean.”

Kim Coble, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s vice president for environmental protection and restoration, said the goal of the EPA lawsuit and of the new settlement agreement was to “ensure that science-based pollution limits were developed and that states implemented specific plans to reach those goals.”
 “We believe this agreement is an important step in achieving those goals,” Coble said.

 

Richard Leggitt

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