Friday, December 18, 2009

Farmers say Chesapeake Bay rules will bankrupt some farms

Farmers and Water pollution experts are losing track of a basic issue.

N and P are used as fertilizers in agriculture, even aquaculturists use small quantity to cause algae blooms in fish ponds.

So why should N and P be regarded as pollutants.

All thats needed is to use then productively even in water, even on a large scale.
This is possible using Nualgi and Diatom Algae.
Ponds in each farm can be used to grow fish.


Farmers say Chesapeake Bay rules will bankrupt some farms

The Virginian-Pilot © December 14, 2009

Farmers nationwide are gearing up for a battle against the federal government over plans to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

It's not that farmers are against a bay cleanup, said Greg Hicks, communications director for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

But he says the new directives could put small dairy farmers and cattle producers out of business because of the expense of the regulations.

"They want to mandate what has been voluntary in the past," Hicks said. "If it's passed, commodity experts are saying there will cease to be Virginia milk. All of our small dairy farmers will be out of business within two years."

Hicks said small cattle producers with herds of less than 200 would suffer, and that even grain producers in the Hampton Roads region would be affected by the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Act of 2009. House and Senate versions of the measure were introduced in October and are currently in committee.

Under the proposal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency essentially would take over many of the environmental regulations dealing with the Bay that previously have been handled by state regulators. Also, under President Barack Obama, the EPA is preparing a new Bay cleanup plan that should be ready late next year.

"We've had a good working relationship with Bay people in the state," Hicks said. "Farmers have already spent a lot of their own money on this problem, and they've gotten no credit for it."

The problem mostly has to do with the nutrient buildup in the Bay, considered hazardous to fish, shell fish and water plants.

The measure is a reauthorization of the Chesapeake Bay Program, according to Farm Bureau officials. But it would take policing of the Bay out of the hands of state officials and put it in the hands of federal officials. The extent of the regulations the EPA would be implementing is still questionable, Hicks said. The American Farm Bureau will also be battling against the measure, Hicks said.

Ann Jennings, Virginia executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said that the Virginia Farm Bureau and farmers in general are confused about the new legislation. "We're desperately trying to work with the farmers," Jennings said. "We want to help improve the water quality. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation can guide farmers to funding resources."

Wilmer Stoneman, associate director of governmental relations for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said: "The Chesapeake Bay's current condition is from 400 years of contact from humans. We can't overcome that in 30 years or 15 years or even two years. It's going to take time and effort from everyone."

Donna Kerr, a third-generation Amelia County dairy farmer, said she already has voluntarily implemented conservation practices on her 200-head dairy farm. She has planted riparian buffers and cover crops to protect water quality and prevent soil erosion. She also has fenced her cows out of the streams on her land.

Hicks said that Kerr's actions are likely good examples of what the new regulations will require, but it could also mean daily monitoring of nutrients being released into the Bay from things such as fertilizer and manure piles.

Stoneman said farmers are accused of being one of the largest contributors of nutrients in the Bay and are being unfairly blamed.

A ccording to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and the Virginia office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, state farmers used 269,000 fewer tons of fertilizer in the years since the Bay cleanup efforts started in 1987. The cost of fertilizer has risen steadily in the last few years.

Jennings, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said that everyone, including developers, municipalities and home owners, needs to work together to reduce the nutrient footprint.

Proponents of the regulatory move say farmers could make money with the new way of regulating Bay pollution in the "nutrient trading" element of the package. The system works similar to wetlands banks set up to preserve environmentally sensitive land. Farmers not using as much of the allowed nutrient allocation could "sell" the difference.

"The trading provision of the proposed legislation and the federal Farm Bill are components of federal strategies that will benefit the agricultural community," according to a news release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The measure also includes at least $96 million, and possibly substantially more, for technical assistance to farmers, as well as $75 million for 'Stewardship Grants' to fund pollution reduction activities."

Stoneman said there's no real "new" money on the horizon.

T here are so many uncertainties to the new proposals, said Gary Cross, a Southampton County farmer. "I don't think anybody understands it," Cross said.

McClatchy News Service contributed to this report.

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