RICHMOND — The Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will be implementing a new strategy to proactively address potential water quality concerns that may arise on small farms that raise livestock and poultry in a concentrated area. These may include dairies, feedlots, poultry operations and other types of farms.
The strategy builds on existing state programs to help meet Virginia’s water quality goals, and it offers an alternative to additional regulatory requirements. It is not a one-size-fits-all regulation but is site specific and allows flexibility based on the type of operation, the physical site, the type and number of livestock and other factors.
“DEQ and VDACS have collaborated on the development of this strategy by which small animal feeding operations will be evaluated for site-specific risks or impacts to water quality,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “It allows us to be flexible when addressing these concerns and puts a top priority on voluntary solutions.”
“We are in favor of this approach that takes into account the many variables of a smaller animal feeding operation,” added VDACS Commissioner Matt Lohr. “Additional regulations may be unnecessarily burdensome on many farmers, but a voluntary assessment strategy will provide better guidance when addressing water quality issues.”
The strategy, which originally was piloted on six farms in the Shenandoah Valley, emphasizes voluntary implementation of best management practices, or BMPs, to address risks or impacts to water quality that may originate from a confined livestock or poultry farm.
BMPs are methods or techniques found to be the most effective and practical means in achieving an objective, in this case, clean water.
DEQ estimates there are approximately 800 such farms in Virginia to be assessed in the next three years.
These farms are lots or facilities where animals are confined and fed for 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and crops or vegetation are not sustained in the normal growing season.
DEQ is contacting farm owners and operators to discuss the strategy and to schedule onsite assessments. If an onsite assessment identifies water quality risks or impacts, agency staff will work cooperatively with the farm owner or operator to establish a plan and schedule to address the water quality concern.
The Virginia Dairymen’s Association supports this new approach.
Eric Paulson, executive secretary, said, “Dairy farmers in Virginia have long been stewards of the land. This flexible approach by DEQ and VDACS will help to maintain water quality and dairy farm viability. It will also serve to highlight many of the best management practices that farmers have implemented voluntarily. Avoiding burdensome regulations will allow dairy farm families to remain in business while also promoting water quality.”
More information is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov.