Dairy Excel/Channel: Ohio close to final permit rules

I have been eagerly awaiting news from the Ohio Department of Agriculture about the takeover of responsibilities for permitting large-scale livestock, poultry and dairy operations from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

You will recall that permitting for such large-scale operations (those that confine more than 1,000 animal units) is being transferred from the EPA to the Ohio Department of Agriculture under authority of Ohio Senate Bill 141, signed by Gov. Taft in December 2000.

The department of agriculture has been hard at work since then, forming a new division, the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, which has been responsible to develop and implement the new rules and will be responsible for enforcing them.

The department’s rules advisory committee has met 16 times since December 2000, and has helped the department draft new rules governing construction standards for new and existing large-scale operations, including all aspects of manure storage, handling, transportation and land application by these farms and the farms’ insect and rodent control plans.

Under the new system, the state EPA, federal EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will also remain involved in protecting the environment from potential mishaps from these operations.

Ohio’s department of agriculture is presently working with the U.S. EPA to obtain authority for issuing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for large-scale livestock, poultry and dairy operations that will be designed to discharge manure into the waters of the state under the very unusual circumstance of a 25-year, 24-hour storm.

The ag department originally hopes to submit the proposed new rules to the joint committee on agency rule and review (JCARR) in mid-January, however, on Jan. 22, Ohio’sa livestock industry groups were notified that the department’s file development and legal review processes were taking longer than anticipated.

It now appears that ODA will file the proposed rules with JCARR March 1.

Once the rules are filed with JCARR, a public hearing will be held, plus a hearing with JCARR. So, it will probably be late spring or early summer before ODA takes over the operation and control of Ohio’s permitting program for large-scale livestock, poultry and dairy farms.

meanwhile, public input and comment is being solicited about the draft rules, administrative requirements for permits and enforcement procedures.

You can read the recommended draft rules at the department of agriculture’s Web site, www.state.oh.us/agr/. After reading the proposed rules, you can also send e-mail or letter opinions and comments to: Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, Ohio Department of Agriculture, 8995 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg, OH 43068.

As you read the proposed rules, keep in mind that the only operations that will be immediately and directly affected by these regulations, once adopted, will be the large farms that confine more than 1,000 animal units. These concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, are the only ones now required to obtain permits to construct and operate under S.B. 141.

However, if a written complaint is received at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, by a local game protector, or at your local Soil and Water Conservation District office, about a pollution problem on your farm or any farm, regardless of size, then the ODA, Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources or your local SWCD may get involved in an investigation and possible enforcement of these and other regulations such as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, etc.

An important part of the administrative requirements for the Permit to Install, the Permit to Operate, and the NPDES permit is having a manure nutrient management plan approved and implemented. Even if you do not plan to construct or operate a CAFO, you will be required to implement a manure nutrient management plan in order to receive cost-share assistance from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency for manure handling structures and facilities.

The Ohio livestock industry considers the takeover of the permitting program by ODA to be a positive step that will improve uniformity in the application and enforcement of rules and regulations on livestock farms.

I think it will help you to better know what rules and regulations apply to you and what procedures you have to follow to comply.

(The author is an agricultural extension agent in Columbiana County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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