Virginia is adopting a new strategy to head off water quality concerns. This new approach is a proactive one, says the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, for addressing potential water concerns that could come up on some comparatively small but concentrated livestock or poultry operations. These are farms where animals are confined and fed for 45 days or more in any 12-month period and crops or vegetation are not sustained in the normal growing season.
The new approach is a cooperative one between Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality and VDACS. The program emphasizes voluntary implementation of best management practices (BMPs) to address risks or impacts to water quality that can originate from a confined livestock or poultry farm.
DEQ is contacting farm owners and operators to discuss the strategy and to schedule onsite assessments. If an onsite assessment identifies water quality risks or impacts, agency staff will work with the farm owner or operator to establish a plan and schedule to address the water quality concern.
The strategy offers an alternative to additional regulatory requirements, says VDACS. It is not a one-size-fits-all regulation but is site specific and allows flexibility based on the type of operation, the physical site, the type and number of livestock and other factors.
"The DEQ (Virginia Department of Environmental Quality) and VDACS have collaborated on the development of this strategy by which small animal feeding operations will be evaluated for site-specific risks or impacts to water quality," says DEQ director David K. Paylor. "It allows us to be flexible when addressing these concerns and puts a top priority on voluntary solutions."
"We are in favor of this approach that takes into account the many variables of a smaller animal feeding operation," adds VDACS Commissioner Matt Lohr. "Additional regulations may be unnecessarily burdensome on many farmers, but a voluntary assessment strategy will provide better guidance when addressing water quality issues."
DEQ estimates there are approximately 800 farms in Virginia of the size and type the agency is interested in that will be assessed in the next three years.