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Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell announced stronger regulations for large-scale farming operations and new manure management requirements for all agricultural operations to protect Pennsylvania waterways.
The sweeping changes go beyond federal requirements and provide a comprehensive solution to nutrient management problems in the state, balancing the needs of the state's agricultural community with efforts to protect the integrity of commonwealth water resources.
"Pennsylvania has been a leader in working with the agricultural community to address nutrient management issues," Governor Rendell said. "These regulations were crafted in partnership with the state's farmers and designed to protect the rural quality of life while supporting commercially competitive agricultural production. Implementing these new rules will keep our environment clean and ensure farming remains a critical part of Pennsylvania's economy."
Pennsylvania was the first state to enact nutrient management laws for farms, as well as a leader in setting up a federally approved permit program for large-scale farming operations.
These new requirements, issued by the Department of Environmental Protection, go beyond federal regulations, expanding the number of farming operations considered Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from 165 to 350, therefore requiring more operations to obtain permits. CAFOs are large farming operations with a high number of animals. These operations produce large amounts of animal waste, which must be properly managed to protect water quality.
Together with nutrient management regulations developed by the Department of Agriculture and currently being implemented by the State Conservation Commission through county conservation districts, the number of highly regulated farms will jump by 600 percent. More than 5,000 farms soon will have full nutrient management plans as well as vegetative buffers or setbacks along the edge of streams to protect Pennsylvania waterways.
"With a greater number and broader variety of farming operations now covered, Pennsylvania can boast some of the most comprehensive and progressive agricultural regulations in the nation," DEP Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said.
"Throughout the regulatory process, our goal was to provide agriculture with the opportunity to grow and adapt to business changes, while also addressing the needs of communities to protect the environment," said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolf. "These regulations are a careful balance between the two."
To enhance water resource protection and water quality, revisions were made that clarify and strengthen requirements related to agricultural operations, including provisions for manure storage facilities and land application of manure. This includes minimum setbacks and buffers along the edge of streams where no manure can be applied.
Under the new regulations, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations now are required to set up either a 100-ft setback or a 35-ft vegetated buffer from water bodies for manure application. Farms that import manure must meet the same setback and buffer requirements as the farm that produces the manure. More large manure storage systems also will require DEP permits.
In addition, these revisions bring Pennsylvania's program in line with the federal CAFO rule, enabling the commonwealth to maintain delegation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program for CAFOs.
A complete copy of the regulations can be found in the Oct. 22 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, as well as on DEP's website at http://www.dep.state.pa.us, Keyword: "CAFOs."