Farmers and farm supporters: Let Ecology & State Leaders know what you think!
Dear Whatcom County Dairy Farmer:
October 2 is the new deadline to provide input to the Department of Ecology relating to their proposed CAFO Discharge permit and accompanying manure management regulations.
The Whatcom County Dairy Federation and the Steering Committee of Whatcom Family Dairies has been working with the state Dairy Federation to present our formal objections to this permit. After careful analysis it is clear that it would prove devastating to the entire industry, adding very significant costs, operational and paperwork burdens.
We strongly urge you to send a letter or email to the Department of Ecology by October 2, and copy our legislative delegation.
While it is best to submit your thoughts in your own words, we are also providing you with some of the key issues of concern about this permit and regulations. We have also posted on this website a short presentation that undermines Ecology’s primary basis for this permit, which is their unproven assumption that manure lagoons pollute groundwater.
To assist you in writing your response, here are some of the primary objections to the permit that the Dairy Federation and Whatcom Family Farmers are focusing on:
The primary objections are:
- The permit is based on faulty premise of pollution.
The entire permit is based on the premise that dairy farms pollute the waters of the state, specifically that dairy lagoons pollute. Soil and water quality testing makes clear that this accusation is not supported by the evidence. Indeed, Ecology permit writers admit they have no evidence for pollution but are requiring farmers to conduct extensive and expensive testing to “prove” their innocence. This is a “guilty until proven innocent” approach that may be illegal and certainly violates a primary value of our nation and society.
- Ecology wrongly claims permit is required by federal and state law.
Ecology basis its claim that the permit is required by federal and state law on the false premise of pollution. Without that proof dairy farms do not fit the definition of a CAFO under EPA rules. Similarly, Ecology’s argument under state law that manure is industrial and commercial waste” is faulty in defining farms as industrial or commercial operations and defining manure as waste. In fact, enforcement of this permit would violate state law (RCW 90.48.450) which prevents state from enforcement that would result in the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes.
- New permit causes regulatory confusion through expanding Ecology’s reach
Since 2003 dairy farms in the state have been closely regulated by the Department of Agriculture under the Dairy Nutrient Management Act which has been very effective in minimizing environmental impacts from dairy farms. Ecology’s own testing proves it. But Ecology has long complained that dairy farm regulation is not under their department. This new permit completely rewrites the existing regulations but in ways that clearly demonstrate the Department of Ecology lacks even the most fundamental understanding of the realities of farming.
- Causes environmental loss without offering any new protection.
More regulation and their costs equate to loss of farms. This permit adds huge new bureaucratic burdens and high costs to farmers and will no doubt cause many to quit or move to neighboring states with a less heavy hand. Ecology will have accelerated the trend to converting farmland to other crops that are not regulated and to residential and urban use that history and studies show are the greater cause of water quality problems. Water quality will decline, but Ecology wins with an expansion of power, but at the expense of farms and the environment.
Beyond these fundamental objections, there are many specific provisions in the regulations that make it unworkable, including:
- Pre-application soil testing.
Testing the manure and the soil at various depths before each application adds costs and operational and reporting burdens without any clear benefit.
- Restrict application based on three day weather forecasts.
Weather forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, particularly out to three days and in the unsettled weather of our rainy seasons. This restriction will mean farmers would have far less time to apply manure, greatly increasing the land required and the storage required. That’s ironic, given that the permit is based on the supposed pollution from storage.
- Engineering drawings and 180 day approval of infrastructure changes.
No emergency repairs involving manure storage, pump replacement, riser maintenance or anything involving manure infrastructure could be done without an expensive engineer preparing drawings and submitting to Ecology. The fact they have six months to review even the most minor changes makes this requirement ludicrous.
- Greatly expanded and inflexible buffers.
Ecology replaces the existing regulations involving buffers that provide common sense and science-based flexibility, with standard requirements. This will sharply reduce the land used for application and also reduce the land value of current farmland. This may well be the most expensive element.
To view or download copy of the draft permit:
To submit comments to the Department of Ecology:
Washington Department of Ecology
c/o Jon Jennings
PO Box 47696
Olympia, WA 98504-7696
FAX: (360) 407-6426
To contact Rep. Vincent Buys
Phone: (360) 786-7854 Toll-free: (800) 562-6000
Mail: Rep. Vincent Buys
P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
To contact Rep. Luanne VanWerven
Phone: (360) 786-7980 Toll-free: (800) 562-6000
Mail: Rep. Luanne Van Werven
P.O. Box 40600
To contact Senator Doug Ericksen:
Phone (360) 786 - 7682 Toll-free hotline: (800) 562-6000
Mail: Senator Doug Ericksen
PO Box 40442
Olympia, WA 98504
We would appreciate it if you would also copy Whatcom Family Farmers on your email or letter:
Mail: Whatcom Family Farmers
112 S. 6th Street
Lynden, WA 98264