Comments on a new state program that would that encourage farmers to adopt comprehensive plans to reduce pollution runoff into the state’s rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay in return for a “safe harbor” from future expansion of reduction requirements are being accepted through Friday, Sept. 14. While farmers would voluntarily agree to implement a resource management plan, regulations are being developed to ensure the program is handled consistently across the Commonwealth.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is accepting comments on regulations establishing agricultural resource management plans. The department is seeking comments that propose improvements to the proposed regulations or share thoughts on the programs costs, benefits and potential impacts.
The draft regulations propose qualifications for resource management plan developers. For crop and hay lands the proposed plans could call for nutrient management planning, soil conservation plans and the use of grass or forest buffers. For croplands the plans could also call for the use of cover crops. Pasture and grazing land plans could also call for nutrient management planning, soil conservation, buffers and providing watering systems for animals that keep them from accessing streams.
An approved resource management plan would be good for nine years. While the plan is in place, the farm operation would be exempt from any new environmental regulations related to the Chesapeake Bay or local TMDLs or total maximum daily loads. TMDLs represent the maximum amount of pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can flow to streams that have been found to be impaired. The plans would not exempt operations from existing regulations such as those for operators of poultry or larger confined feeding operations.
Copies of the proposed regulations and other background materials can be found on the Virginia Town Hall at www.townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewstage.cfm?stageid=6170&display=general
Comments can be submitted to the regulatory Town Hall website at www.townhall.virginia.gov or by mail to the DCR Regulatory Coordinator at: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 203 Governor Street, Suite 302, Richmond, Virginia 23219. Comments may also be emailed to the regulatory coordinator at: firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (804) 786-6141. All written comments must include the name and address of the commenter (e-mail addresses would also be appreciated). In order to be considered, comments must be received by midnight on the last day of the public comment period.