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Tommy Bass: firstname.lastname@example.org
On its surface, an environmental policy statement appears to be a feel good activityone with very little practical value. In reality, the development of an environmental policy statement has proven to be a very worthwhile activity for farm and ranch families.
Instructional notes will be in italics throughout this presentation. These italicized portions are for reference only and are not meant to be part of the script .
In a classroom setting, the environmental policy statement exercise can guide the application of very broad general knowledge (environmental stewardship in agriculture) to a very specific situation (a real or case study farm/ranch). This power point contains a set of slides that can be used as-is or modified by an educator and used to instruct the development of a policy statement for a farm or ranch. The intended audience for this powerpoint is either beginning farmers or ranchers or high school/jr. college ag students, but it will also be useful to other groups as well.
If this will be used with farmers/ranchers, the worksheet Taking Stock: Environmental Issues Important to My Farm/Ranch should be sent ahead of time and filled out prior to the program.
Throughout the notes section of this powerpoint, you will see farm/ranch or farmer/rancher. Since it is awkward to say farm or ranch throughout a presentation, you are encouraged to select one term or the other as best fits your audience and simply ignore the references to the other term.
*Agriculture, especially animal agriculture is being watched more closely by a general public concerned about environmental impacts and the changing landscape of agriculture (trend toward fewer, larger farms). We are also experiencing a time when people, who have become very disconnected from their food sources, are showing a greater interest in where food and fiber come from. These consumers have access to a great deal of information but often do not have the background knowledge needed to make judgments about the credibility of those information sources.
As urban and suburban areas expand into rural areas, they come face to face with agricultural operations. The opposite trend is also occurring as agricultural production is moving into urban areas. This is especially noticeable in areas where groups are turning vacant lots into community gardens or individuals are keeping chickens or other animals in back yards. Animal producers especially need to be sensitive to the impact of their activities on neighbors as manure odors, flies, and animal noise can all be the source of neighbor complaints. Regardless of who was there first , farmers/ranchers who consider their neighbors when making management decisions and take time to communicate with those around them will be more likely to receive support and tolerance for occasional nuisances. *Most agricultural operations are considered non-point sources, which are area-wide sources of pollution. A point source can be thought of more as a smoke stack or like a pipe from which discharges flow. One exception to this is for animal operations that are classified as a CAFO or concentrated animal feeding operation. (Source: http://cfpub1.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=7 accessed Feb. 8, 2011). An operation that meets the regulatory definition of CAFO, is considered a point source and generally is required to get a permit. These regulations are covered more in-depth in a separate module.
Some of the main water quality issues associated with agriculture are sediments and nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus), chemicals or fuel. There has been increasing concern over the potential for pathogens (microbes that can cause diseases) or veterinary pharmaceuticals (antibiotics, hormones, or other animal health products) to reach water supplies. On farms or ranches, these can come from open lots or barnyards, pastures, chemical or fuel storage structures, fields, farm roads, feed or silage storage, manure spreading sites and others.*Agriculture has experienced an increasing level of regulation. Most of these regulations are driven by real and potential impacts on water quality. At the federal level, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251-1387, was adopted in 1948. A significant amendment of that law in 1972 (with additional amendments in 1977 and 1987) became commonly known as the Clean Water Act ("CWA).
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authority to enforce the CWA. In most cases, EPA has delegated that authority to state or tribal governments to enforce within their jurisdiction. State or tribal programs can include more stringent requirements than the federal program, but cannot go the other way and change requirements to be less stringent. Who is the delegated authority in your state? (http://www.envcap.org/statetools/srt/srt.html )Two of the more common entities are Department of Environmental Quality or Department of Natural Resources.
In addition to federal/state programs, agricultural operations may be subject to local ordinances like zoning regulations. Zoning regulations often dictate where a facility can be sitedhow far from the property line, how far from neighbors and other public facilities. This also works in reverse, as it may dictate distances that new homes or businesses need to be set back from an existing agricultural operation.
*Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are specific designations and generally apply to confinement operations or confinement areas and not animals on pasture. Depending on size and/or connection to water resources, the operation may need a permit. The permits are part of a federal program, but are usually issued through the state authority. Depending on the program, a permit generally requires that an operation allow inspections, conduct regular inspections and maintenance of structures and equipment, keep records, and report manure spills.*For many other sectors of agriculture, crop and pastures, forest and orchards, there are few specific regulations especially at the federal level. It is important to remember that relatively few instances of poor management or a little negative publicity tends to create support and momentum for the development of regulations.
Most normal farming activities are exempted from the Clean Water Act, but the provisions can still apply. Some examples are: drainage of wetlands or building dams without proper permissions.
Voluntary conservation efforts are proactive efforts on the part of a landowner to protect natural resources. These can be paid our of their own pocket or be funded wholly or partially through one of many public and private programs out there. These will vary widely by location, but there are often federal programs through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), state programs through your state regulatory authority or State Department of Agriculture. At the local level there are soil and water conservation districts, wildlife organizations, watershed planning groups, and others. For landowners willing to do some research and do paperwork, there are many opportunities to fund conservation efforts.*Under the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Plan (SPCC), farms or ranches that have the capacity to store more than 1320 gallons (above ground) of fuel, oil or certain pesticides that are considered oil products need to follow rules aimed at preventing spills. Buried storage in excess of 42,000 gallons will trigger the same requirement. For more information or handouts, see http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/content/spcc/ *While water quality tends to be where the rules and regulations have been in the past, current and future efforts are focusing more on air quality. In some states, there are already air regulations on the books that affect agriculture. In most cases, the state regulations focus on specific chemical compounds such as hydrogen sulfide. In other cases, particulate matter (also known as dust) has been the focus of regulations. The concept of odor, while the most common complaint is difficult to regulate because odors are an extremely complex interaction between 400 or more compounds found in livestock or poultry manure. Odor rules tend to be indirectly found in the form of zoning regulations which require certain distances between facilities or may require a farm to develop a plan to minimize odors.
Noxious weeds are another issue that affects most farms and ranches. Noxious weed rules are generally set by the state, but are enforced by counties. Counties can add more weeds to the list, but cannot remove weeds from the state list.
Wildlife habitat and the Endangered Species Act have affected many farms and ranches, especially in the western part of the United States. The identification of endangered species used to be an unpleasant prospect for ag operators. However, wildlife managers are more widely recognizing that proactive management and practices are often the reason that habitat is improving and supporting endangered species. The programs are becoming less prescriptive and...