Delmarva Farmer Columnists


Dairies’ consent agreements may have wide impact (May 26, 2015)

Ag Law

By Ashley Newhall, Legal Specialist, University of Maryland, CANR Agricultural and Resource Economics

On May 11, George DeRuyter & Son Dairy, LLC; Henry Bosma Dairy; and Cow Palace Dairy, LLC entered into consent agreements with a number of environmental groups in order to continue operating as long as the conditions outlined in the agreements are met.
These consent agreements are a result of a Federal district court decision in Washington state finding that manure from dairy farms could be considered “solid waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
This finding has the potential to affect farms throughout the entire United States because RCRA is a Federal act and could potentially impact decisions interpreting RCRA as it applies to agriculture in general.
As it relates to this issue, the Act covers the disposal of solid and hazardous waste in environmentally sounds methods.
In short, several Washington dairies were found in violation of RCRA because the dairies were not disposing of manure (called a solid by the court) in alignment with the Act.
The consent agreements grant the Environmental Protection Agency the responsibility of overseeing implementation of the conditions and enforcement of the terms.
Further, EPA can inspect the dairies at any time upon reasonable notice and during reasonably convenient times.
Taking a closer look at each individual consent agreement, the following topics were addressed:
• Lagoon lining and maintenance: Each dairy is charged with double lining all lagoons with geosynthetic clay liners and a 40 mil synthetic liner. This task must be completed between 2018 and 2020, depending on the specific dairy and the amount of lagoons on each facility.
• Groundwater monitoring: The three dairies mentioned above, and a few additional dairies in the area, will fund the installation of a grid of 14 new monitoring wells as soon as reasonably conceivable.
• Technology implementation: As part of their commitment to reducing the nutrients applied to their operation, the three dairies have agreed to install and maintain new technology. The hope is that these systems will reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus content of the liquid manure. Bosma Dairy and Cow Palace Dairy have already installed the systems and will maintain a centrifuge manure separator. George DeRuyter & Son Dairy has installed a Dissolved Air Flotation Device system.
• Underground conveyance inspection: The three dairies have agreed to inspect all underground conveyance systems, which include but are not limited to piping, joints, manholes, inlet structures, and discharge structures. Inspection practices will consist of pressure testing pipes, video inspection, and documentation of all underground structures.
• Cow pens: All dairies are required to install concrete aprons along all water troughs within all pens and build the infrastructure of pipes and the like in order to direct all water waste to the facilities’ lagoon systems. Additionally, dairies must implement a protocol to address all low lying water and wet spots in pens and alleviate said water. Manure scraping of pens is required once a week and all accumulated piles must be removed monthly.
• Silage area: All silage must be located entirely on a watertight surface. Natural products, such as hay but not corn, are not considered silage or required to be in the silage area. Rather these materials should be stored in AgBags and situated in such a way that if a leak were to occur it would drain into the lagoon system.
• Compost area: By Dec. 31, 2019, the compost area must be limited to 30 acres. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, all composted manure will be fully cycled annually so that no compost will remain on the facility for more than one calendar year. Cow Palace has also agreed to participate in an Aerated Pile Project.
• Manure application and field monitoring: Each dairy will ensure that all future application of liquid and solid manure to fields either owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the dairies are based on the nutrient management budget illustrated in exhibits of the agreement. Application must be based on residual soil nitrate and phosphors levels and rates articulated in the agreement, individually calculated for each dairy.
• Provision of bottled water or reverse osmosis system: Last, Bosma Dairy and Cow Palace Dairy have agreed to participate in the “Clean Drinking Water Project” which is available to residences identified within a geographical region defined in the consent agreement, The project is administered by an outside party, to which each dairy financially contributes.

Millions on tap for food entrepreneurs, ag producers (May 26, 2015)

Keeping the Farm

By Anne Herring, Coordinator, USDA Rural Development, Virginia

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the USDA plans to make $30 million available to farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs to develop new product lines.
Funding will be made available through USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant program.
“Farmers and ranchers are creative people who, with a little help, can put that creativity to work and improve the bottom line for their operations,” Vilsack said. “Value Added Producer Grants enable them to develop new product lines to grow their businesses and expand their contributions to our nation’s economy.
“This support is especially important for beginning farmers, military veterans engaging in farming and smaller farm operations participating in the local and regional food system.”
More information on how to apply will be published in the May 8 Federal Register.
VAPG grants can be used to develop new product lines from raw agricultural products or additional uses for already developed product lines.
Military veterans, socially-disadvantaged, and beginning farmers and ranchers; operators of small- and medium-sized family farms and ranches; farmer and rancher cooperatives; and applicants that propose mid-tier value chain projects are given special priority in applying for VAPGs.
Additional priority is given to group applicants who seek funding for projects that “best contribute” to creating or increasing marketing opportunities for these type of operators.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded 853 Value-Added Producer Grants totaling $104.5 million.
Approximately 19 percent of the grants and 13 percent of total funding has been awarded to beginning farmers and ranchers.
During the 2013-14 funding cycle, nearly half of VAPG awards went to farmers and ranchers developing products for the local food sector.
Value Added Producer Grants are a key element of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the department’s work on local and regional food systems.
Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of the four pillars of rural economic development.
Congress increased funding for the VAPG program when it passed the 2014 Farm Bill.
That law builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
Since the bill’s enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including expanding access to rural credit, developing new markets for rural-made products, and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America.
For more information, visit
President Barack Obama’s historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger.
Under his leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way — in an effort to strengthen America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.