Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MDA once again proposes changes to rules governing manure management and stream fencing

In 2011, the Maryland Department of Agriculture proposed changes to its Nutrient Management Regulations that were intended to help the state meet its court mandated goals for improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. These proposals primarily concerned, as far as horse people are concerned, manure spreading and stream fencing. After a hue and cry by farmers, who thought they were too strict, and environmentalists, who thought they weren't strict enough, MDA went back to the drawing board. (For a more complete description of the 2011 proposal, see our blogpost of Tuesday, december 6, 2011.)
MDA has now reissued the proposal, after hearing and considering the concerns of various stake holders. Below is a summary of the provisions of most interest to horse owners. MDA will hold public meetings in four locations around the state in July, to accept public comment.  All meetings will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. For more information, contact the Nutrient Management Program at 410-841-5959.

North Central Maryland                     Western Maryland                
Tuesday, July 10, 2012                      Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Harford Community College              Washington County Agricultural Education Center
Amoss Center                                     7313 Sharpsburg Place
401 Thomas Run Road                       Boonsboro, MD 21733
Bel Air, MD  21015

Eastern Shore                                      Southern Maryland
Monday, July 23, 2012                       Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Talbot Community Center                  Calvert County Fairgrounds
10028 Ocean Gateway                       140 Calvert Fair Drive
Easton, MD 21601                              Prince Frederick, MD 20610

The draft regulations were published in the Maryland Register on June 29, 2012.  To read the proposed regulations online visit the Maryland Register at:  http://www.dsd.state.md.us/MDRegister/3913.pdf  or MDA’s website: http://www.mda.maryland.gov/pdf/proposednmregs2.pdf.

Written comments may be sent to:
Jo A. Mercer, Ed.D.
Program Manager
MDA’s Nutrient Management Program
Maryland Department of Agriculture
50 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, MD 21401,

or email jo.mercer@maryland.gov, or fax to (410) 841-5950.

Comments will be accepted through August 13, 2012

Now here is the summary:

The proposed changes to the Nutrient Management regulations concerning manure management and stream fencing include the following:

1. Changes to timing and rates of manure spreading and winter application ban
·         Spring and Summer (March 1 - September 9) application of organic nutrients must be injected or incorporated within 48 hours of application unless one of the following conditions apply:
            a. Livestock manures deposited directly by animals.
            b. Permanent pastures.
            c. Land used for hay production.
           [This is unchanged from the previous draft.]

·         New [as compared to previous draft] definition of “fall” for application purposes –
            a. For the years 2012 through 2015, nutrients applied from September 10 through November 15.
            b. After July 1, 2016, nutrients applied in counties east of the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River from September 10 through November 1.
            c. After July 1, 2016, nutrient applied in counties west of the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River from September 10 through November 15.
[Note that there is an unregulated gap between January 1 and July 1, 2016.]

·         Organic fertilizers in the fall – Except poultry litter, organic nutrient sources may be used in the fall for an existing crop or one to be planted in the fall or the following spring (before June 1) using rate restrictions outlined in Section 1-B of the Manual.
·         The same incorporation/injection provisions and exceptions apply for organic nutrient application in the fall as were outlined in the spring/summer section above.
·         Emergency applications in the event of an imminent overflow of a storage facility shall be managed in consultation with MDA.
[For Fall applications, the new version makes clear that manure can be spread on hay and pasture land. There is no mention of the “only if inadequate storage” requirement that was in the previous version.]

·         “Winter” as defined for application of nutrients is November 16th through February 28th, but beginning July 1, 2016 the definition will be November 2nd through February 28th east of the Bay.
·         The regulations ban the application of organic material in the winter.
·         The winter application ban does not apply to manure deposited by livestock.
·         After July 1, 2016 there is a ban on organic application in the winter except for a dairy or livestock operation with less than 50 animal units (fewer than 130 dairies in MD) or a municipal wastewater treatment plant with flow capacity of less than 0.5 million gallons per day (9 towns in MD).  These operations have until February 28, 2020 to observe the winter application ban.
[The winter provisions are unchanged from the prior version, except for the extension to 2020 for operations with fewer than 50 animal units.]

2.  Requirements for storage and handling of organic nutrient sources (manures, litter & sewage sludge)
·         Field storage – Stackable (including horse) manures (less than 60% moisture content) may be stored in fields temporarily when no other storage option is available .
·         Conditions for field storage include:
    Storage must be at least 35 feet from surface water and any irrigation or treatment ditch with vegetated buffer or at least 100 feet with no buffer; at least 100 feet from wells, springs or wetlands - but, if the well is down gradient, the distance must be at least 300 feet; 200 feet from any residence other than the property owner; outside flood prone areas subject to ponding; and if located on more than a 3% slope with no diversion installed, no farther than 150 feet from the top of the slope.
·         Poultry litter and other material must be stacked 6 feet high and peaked, and staged in a manner to prevent runoff.
·         Temporary storage for future piles should stay in the same place.
·         All nutrients in temporary stockpiling must be removed completely and the ground scraped and reseeded if necessary to restore to original condition.
[There appear to be no changes in the field storage provision from the previous version, except that the reference to the limit of 120 days of stockpiling has been removed.]

3.  Setbacks for the application of nutrients by machine and livestock - Effective January 1, 2014
·         For pastures and hayfields: 10-foot setback from surface water, perennial streams and intermittent streams (defined as a stream or the reach of a stream that is below the water table for at least some part of the year, and obtains its flow from surface runoff and ground water discharge). No manure may be spread or deposited by livestock. Ephemeral streams (flow only in direct response to precipitation in the immediate watershed and have a channel bottom that is always above the local water table) and irrigation and treatment ditches are exempt.
·         10-foot setback may not include plants that would be considered part of the crop grown in the field, except perennial forage for hay or pasture.
·         Stream fencing at least 10-feet from the stream bank is required to keep livestock out of streams, unless a farmer works with the Soil Conservation District to develop and implement a Soil Conservation and Water Quality Plan that includes BMPs such as stream crossings, alternative watering facilities, pasture management and other MDA-approved BMPs that are equally protective of water quality and stream health.  Operators are required to gate crossing areas wider than 12-feet.  Operators may allow livestock controlled access to streams for watering in accordance with NRCS standards.
·         Stream Crossings for movement of livestock – Operators are responsible for sediment and erosion control of stream crossing areas.  Operators are required to move livestock from one side of a stream to the other only through stream crossings designed to prevent erosion and sediment loss.
·         Alternatives to the nutrient application setback may be approved by MDA if they are equally protective of water quality and stream health.
·         35-foot setback on sacrifice lots (less than 75% grass or grass legume mix)
[The opportunity to work out alternatives to stream fencing and setbacks with the Soil Conservation District is new to this draft.

EPA has proposed a new draft guidance on the scope of the Clean Water Act

EPA has proposed a new draft guidance on the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA): fhttp://www.epa.gov/indian/pdf/wous_guidance_4-2011.pdf
Although they do not have the force of law, guidances help the field offices apply the law. This draft guidance interprets several recent court decisions, especially as to how to decide if bodies of water are covered by the CWA. It discusses "navigable and interstate waters," but also discusses whether and how other wet areas (e.g., wetlands, tributaries, etc.) might be considered to be covered by the CWA, and therefore subject to regulation by EPA. See page 5 of the document for a summary of key points.
EPA has stated its intent to finalize the documents based on comments received, and then to begin a rule making to incorporate it into EPA regulations. Comments can be submitted directly to the EPA and/or to US Senators and Representatives.