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Jim Meade / Iowa City
Senior Advisor

Herding cats

This article provides a very sobering explanation of the issues involved in farmer compliance with mandatory Chesapeake Bay nutrient management plans.

http://www.choicesmagazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/innovating-policy-for-chesapeake-bay-...

A key issue is that farmers will only comply if they are convinced the science is right.  Absent that, they will cheat, lie, prevaricate and otherwise avoid obeying the rules fully.

The article is about 2 pages long.  Very readable.  It was eye-opening and revealing to me. 

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10 Replies
Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Herding cats

Thanks for the link, Jim.  Hailing from VA, and farming in the same watershed here as we always did when we lived there, I can tell you that the Commonweath was way behind in the regulatory arena. 

 

This information is also vitally interesting to me as a volunteer in service to a National Estuary Program. The part of VA that sheds into the Albemarle-Pamlico Sounds is called the "Southern Rivers," and is virtually everything south of Petersburg (intersection of I-85 and I-95) where we grew up and farmed, before moving here. 

 

I will be printing this one out,. to peruse while at a State of the Sounds conference later this week, and may share it with some of my contacts in the program.  Coming out of a highly regulated patch of the pig farming business, I can say that we do our best to comply. 

 

A lot of the loopholes in the other states' rules just do not exist here..and if there is evidence of systematic swindling  by some consulting firms, then someone is turninng a blind eye.  It is just too easy to catch cheaters, if you know what you are doing.   

 

Then again, I had to police a failed regulatory setup on my mined farm up there, and I never thought it was an accident that things got so far out of hand...so, the comments about the governor being a whore to business are probably spot on....

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smokeyjay
Advisor

Re: Herding cats

Some things about the TMDL's are being left out in this article.  First, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, though it has some agricultural producers within its boundaries, the majority of the watershed consists of rivers, streams, forrests and urban residences.  The plan calls for runoff control of all urban residential properties, even restricting runoff to prevent water leaving the yards of each residence. An unimagineable impracticality, for sure.  And this runoff is suspect in much of the tmdl's going into the watershed.  Yet, there is little said in public media about it.

 

As for the fellows who skirt the law by raising yield projections and application rates, there is always someone that is willing to avoid the law.  Other than these annectdotal statements being reported in the press, I've never heard nor understood why a farmer would willingly overapply fertilizer, especially when it costs so much and the law of diminishing returns can put him out of business in quick fashion. 

 

Having said that, the implications of restricting phosphate application to cropland has severe repercussions on productivity. 

 

The intent of the EPA in the future is to use this model of TMDL on other watersheds, like the Mississippi basin, which covers the entire Midwestern U.S. land mass.  

 

If you like the Chesapeake Bay watershed plan, you will really like what it does to the rest of the nation, that is, until commodity shortages become commonplace and prices really hit the skies.

 

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belarus
Senior Contributor

Re: Herding cats

We have the best government that corporate and foreign special interests can buy.    Its a fascist state.  Here is a good listen.....  www.endofamerica4.com  

Cleaning up our air and water are good things.  Running small business out of the US in a concerted effort is fraud.  Too many out of control beauracrats in the US trying to make a name for themselves. 

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Herding cats

Smokey, we have stood and asked this question for almost two decades now: If we are limited to applying nutrient from manure on this side of the property line (in fact, several different setbacks away from it - you will never believe how many acres of land that costs us in production), how is it that the guy on tshe other side can apply chemical fertilizer in any amount, right up to the boundary? No one limits the nutrient load there...so, the regulations create a distinction without a difference. That just avpccounts for inequities in concern over nutrient loading in agriculture. Controlling the habits of homeowners would be like herding houseflies by comparison.
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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Herding cats

I am all for clean water and air...have spent decades working as a volunteer for the cause. We have always managed both manure and HEL for best protection of natural resources. Everything we as himnas do has at least some potential for negative impacts on the ecosystem. This is not Eden, so we can't just walk up to a tree and pick a peach, and wander around in a fig leaf. The trick is to do the best you can to minimize the footprint you leave wherever you go.
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smokeyjay
Advisor

Re: Herding cats

Yes, there is no justifiable reason why they have that difference, especially if both are required to inject.

 

 

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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Re: Herding cats

I honestly do not know of anyone injecting either type of nutrient, so still no difference. On the element of yield manipulation, we are required to utilize thr Realistic Yield Expectstion ( RYE) as one factor in our nutrient management planning. RYE will be based upon that crop type on this soil type. If we want to increase the application rate, one means of doing so is to establish an actual yield in excess of the RYE. I have honestly never bothered to diddle with this variable, since grass is so much a function of rainfall, and that is rarely favorable enough three years straight to boost yields to any appreciable degree. If pushed, I suppose we could pick three years and push the point. Hope it never comes to that. Here's a weird point: We cannot utilize manure on the setback margins of fields, so lose that effectively from the NMP uptake. If we did choose to apply commercial fertilizer there, on land that we cannot use in the plan, we would have to account for the nutrient on the buffers in the plan. Causes us to sacrifice many acres for no good reason. Only relief we get is where we rent or the kids own adjoining land...can apply up to the lines there, by waiving the setbacks. Where there is a road, with no legal right of way, we still setback, even though we really own the roadbed by virtue of owning both sides to the center line...but, we set back anyway, just to be safe. Setbacks on some eras of permits are less stringent than others. We have a saying in NC: Not everything is the Neuse...for the Neuse River, which has all sort of problems with nutrient loading. It is a mistake to treat every watershed the same way, whether you model on the Chesapeake Bay, one river feeding into the AP Sounds, or any other single system. Each one is unique.... Talk about splitting hairs....I have been warning other farmers for nearly twenty years, that it was hogs first, eventually everything. Hate when I am right about things this way...
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Kay/NC
Honored Advisor

Also,

If we inject, rates are reduced, compared to broadcast rates of nutrient, at least for manure. You guys will get told not only how much you are al.owed to use, but how and when you may apply it...without thirty days of a growing crop for our plans. Want more?
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smokeyjay
Advisor

Re: Also,

I'm surprised they don't require injection.  Much of the N is lost without it.  But on our watershed, though they don't require injection for regular fertilizers, they "recommend" it.  Injection has been shown to greatly reduce Phosphate loading of resevoirs and streams.

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