The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it has completed an evaluation of Pennsylvania and Virginia’s animal agriculture 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.
EPA’s assessment evaluated both states’ implementation of programs to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution going to waterways within the Bay Watershed, as called for under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL. The assessment looked at the Commonwealth’s implementation of federal and state regulatory programs, as well as voluntary incentive-based programs to meet the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reduction commitments in its TMDL Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).
The assessment found that Pennsylvania has robust and well-implemented federal Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) and state Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO) programs. The CAO program includes additional operations that are not regulated under the federal CAFO program. These programs regulate approximately 10-20 percent of Pennsylvania’s animal agriculture operations.
For the remaining 80-90 percent of Pennsylvania’s animal agriculture operations, EPA’s assessment found that the Commonwealth is lacking a strong compliance assurance program to achieve full compliance with its Manure Management Program and Agriculture Erosion and Sediment Control Program that cover these operations.
In addition, the assessment found that beyond compliance with current regulations, additional state policies and programs are likely to be necessary for implementing agricultural conservation practices that reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution.
EPA will use this assessment along with other evaluations to assist Pennsylvania in developing the necessary programs, policies and resources to ensure the Commonwealth meets its commitments under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
The assessment found that Virginia has a robust and well-implemented Virginia Pollutant Abatement Program (VPA) that covers the majority of poultry and swine operations in the Commonwealth. Virginia issued its first two Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permits to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in February 2015. EPA will continue to work with Virginia to ensure that facilities needing VPDES CAFO permits obtain them.
The assessment also found that Virginia is relying heavily on voluntary programs to achieve the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution reduction targets in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and the Virginia WIP. EPA is encouraged by the response of Virginia farmers to participate in programs such as the stream exclusion cost-share program and the Resource Management Plan program.
Continued support to farmers will be critical to ensure that these programs keep up with the pace of Virginia’s pollution reduction commitments, particularly for the smaller dairies that are not regulated through the state or federal permitting programs.