The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it has completed an evaluation of Delaware’s animal agriculture regulations and programs. The assessment is one of six that the agency is conducting of state animal agriculture programs within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

EPA conducts periodic reviews of state programs as part of its oversight responsibilities under the Clean Water Act. This assessment looked at Delaware’s implementation of federal and state regulatory programs, as well as voluntary incentive-based programs to meet the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution reduction commitments in its Watershed Implementation Plan under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL.

EPA will use the assessment along with its ongoing Chesapeake Bay TMDL evaluations to help ensure that Delaware has the programs, policies, and resources necessary to succeed with its plan to meet the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.

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.  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 (DDA) 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 (CAFO) 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.

In addition, the assessment found that Delaware is relying heavily on voluntary agricultural cost-share programs to increase implementation of conservation practices and on better data collection efforts to document those practices that are already on the ground.

Along with the Delaware assessment, EPA also released its evaluations today of animal agriculture programs in Maryland and West Virginia. The agency issued similar reports on animal agriculture programs in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia earlier this year.

The reports are available here.