Revisions discussed for animal feeding operations

Managing Editor

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. (Oct. 21, 2014) — Despite sparse attendance from the farm community, concerns were raised over Maryland’s renewal of its permit for animal feeding operations at a public hearing last week.
The current General Discharge permit expires Nov. 30 after a five year life. The new permit is scheduled to take effect Dec. 1.
Revisions to the current permit were outlined at the hearing, and the draft of the new permit is posted on the Maryland Department of Environment’s website,
Concerns directly related to the permit that were raised at the hearing focused on the potential for a permit fee to be implemented, expanding the rights of entry and adding provisions to require future installation of best management practices.
Regarding the possibility of a fee, Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. said if a fee that could be as high as $1,200 a year were imposed it would go to the state’s general fund and not necessarily to the Maryland Department of Environment that issues the permit or to help with Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.
“That is more money that if forced to pay to the state they will not have to install best management practices. It kind of doesn’t make sense,” Satterfield said.
He said when the existing permit was discussed years ago an agreement was reached with the MDE that Maryland would not have permit fee as long as neighboring states did not collect one and it should stay that way to maintain some competitive balance.
Somerset County farmer and state Delegate, Charles Otto Dist. 38-A, said a substantial fee would be easier for larger farms to handle and “encourage so-called factory farming” by smaller farms having to get bigger to handle the cost.
Satterfield said he was also concerned about added language in the draft permit to require additional best management practices be installed to meet water quality standards that may be developed while the permit is in effect.
“That’s changing the rules after the game began,” Satterfiled said.
In the new draft permit, the “Right of Entry” section was expanded to give U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a say in who could visit the farm for inspection.
Otto said who should be allowed to enter a farm should not be covered in this permit.
“I think we’re adding oranges to an apple basket,” Otto said.
Farmers who spoke at the hearing roundly objected to the permit as one more layer of regulation they face in doing business.
“I feel like I ought to be in the circus because I’ve become such a good juggler,” said Margaret Wheeler, a poultry farmer in Wicomico County, referring to the paperwork and expenses involved farming. “I’ve had to work hard to keep the little piece of land my parents gave me and I just feel like this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
The comment period for the draft permit ended Oct. 20.
The Maryland Department of Environment has plans to prepare a response to the comments it received, decide if any further changes are needed to the draft and issue a final permit in November.
Aggrieved parties then have the option to take the issue to court through a judicial review process.