Nutrient strategy may impact producers statewide, according to ag groups
After the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s Nutrient Work Group released its draft nutrient strategy in a webinar on Feb. 27, Wyomingites should pay attention to the strategy, says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank.
“I do think that agriculture needs to pay attention,” she says. “This strategy will have an impact.”
Both point source and non-point source priorities are likely to impact the industry across the state.
“A lot of the best management practices that they’ll implement for managing E. coli will be similar,” she says. “I think this has the potential to significantly impact producers.”
Ken Hamilton, executive vice president of Wyoming Farm Bureau, was involved specifically with the section of the nutrient strategy related to point sources.
“I think some of the problem is that they want to establish numeric criteria,” Hamilton says, noting that similar efforts in Montana created some challenges.
“In Montana, they established numeric criteria that were not reasonable for the water bodies,” he explains. “As a result of that, they had to offer variances, which opened them up for lawsuits saying the state is allowing pollution of Montana waters.”
Hamilton also commented that much of the discussion held through work group meetings related to areas where there was nutrient pollution, specifically from nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as E. coli.
“Those things that we’re hoping to do is make sure that, if numeric criteria are established, is to make sure they’re reasonable,” Hamilton continues. “We want to make sure that criteria aren’t so strict that no activity can occur on that stream.”
Frank also adds that there is concern about the priority that highlights engagement with agencies and agriculture groups to evaluate effluent land application and reuse options, specific to waste water treatment plants.
An additional impact to ag targets concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and a priority to ensure compliance with their permits.
On the non-point source side of the strategy, Frank comments that many of the priorities identified impact agriculture in terms of identifying and implementing best management practices to reduce nutrients.
Brett Moline of Wyoming Farm Bureau explains that it is important that the work group is all-inclusive and applies fault with the appropriate party if nutrient pollution does occur.
“The biggest thing is to make sure that groups who aren’t at fault of nutrient pollution don’t have to change their practices,” Moline explained. “For example large municipalities use a lot more herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer per acre than agriculture. If there’s a problem, we need to go back to the source and not just blame it on agriculture.”
Moline noted that it is also important to include all potential partners. For example, University of Wyoming Extension and the conservation districts have offices in every county that may be useful in implementing best management practices around the state to reduce non-point source pollution.
“Everyone needs to understand what management practices can be implemented,” he says.
With uncertainty into the future with water regulations on a national level, Moline comments that continued discussion about water quality is always important.
“Right now, with the Waters of the U.S. rule changing, things are a little bit up in the air,” he says. “If WOTUS is changed favorably, or reverts to how it was, we may some problems alleviated.”
“It’s always good to have a discussion,” Moline explains. “We’ll see where we end up with this strategy.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.