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EPA Meets with Valley Farmers About Upcoming Inspections

By: McKinsey Harris Email
By: McKinsey Harris Email

On Tuesday night, the Environmental Protection Agency met with Valley farmers to discuss upcoming farm inspections at some local dairy farms.

Those inspections will start next month.

Officials'll be looking at best management practices used on farms to help with water quality both locally and for the Chesapeake Bay.

Farmers said they were curious to hear what is expected of them, but many commented after the meeting that they're still just as unsure as they were last fall.

Lynn Koontz is a cattle and poultry farmer and was a dairy farmer until about five years ago.

He says his farm has been working hard to reduce to pollution since the 1970s.

"I mean, I feel like I'm doing all I can do. And I don't know what they would recommend what I do to make it any better, I really don't," says Koontz.

He has things like manure storage, crop cover and extra vegetation to filter runoff water.

"And then the water can go down, get in the tile, and then get underneath the ground and go to the creek without taking all the topsoil and nutrients with it. Clean it, get it underneath the ground, and get it out," says Koontz.

Mark Zolandz is an environmental specialist with the EPA.

Based on their inspections, he said they're focusing on small dairy farms this spring because that's where they've seen the most issues.

"So whatever practices that need to be implemented, we're going to work with the state and the farm community to make sure those get implemented in an appropriate time frame," says Zolandz.

He says many farmers may already have the practices they're looking for in place, but others may need more help.

Farmers say they hope the EPA also holds others accountable besides farmers, because this is a long-term issue.

"EPA wants, you know, they think you cut the switch here, tomorrow we can go sample the bay and everything's going to be hunky dory. It doesn't work that way. And they need to realize that, you just don't do things overnight out here on the farmland," says Koontz.

Koontz says the past couple of years have been really bad for dairy farmers, especially the smaller dairy farmers.

He says, with many of them in the red after last year, an inspection resulting in fines or the need for a lot of work could just drive them out of the business.

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