How Farmers Can Navigate Environmental Compliance

Farming is an industry that is already tied tightly to the environment, relying on the sun and rain and soil to grow the food that will feed the world. Despite this link, farmers still need to carefully navigate government-mandated environmental compliance. How can farmers ensure that their farms remain compliant without compromising their productivity?

Understand the Nature of Agriculture Pollution

The first important step is to understand the nature of agriculture pollution, how it affects local ecosystems, and how government regulations affect the industry. Until recently, there have only been a few regulations that directly affected the agriculture industry. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 required farmers and other landowners to get a permit before releasing pollutants into the environment and the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 allowed the EPA to control pesticide use, just to name a few.

It's up to each farm and each farmer to understand the nature of the agriculture pollution that their business creates. Once they understand the nature of the problem, it becomes easier to navigate government-mandated environmental compliance.

Air Pollution Requirement for Livestock Operators

Two acts are changing the way livestock operators manage their farms. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) will require livestock farms to report releases of any hazardous substance that's greater than the substance's reportable quantity or RQ.

For livestock farmers, this means releases of materials like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, both of which are found in animal waste. There are some scenarios where farms would be exempt, such as applying fertilizer to crops, but for farmers who are raising livestock, these reporting requirements could change the way that they're running their farms.

Creating an Environmental Policy Statement (EPS)

Farmers that are concerned about maintaining their environmental compliance should consider creating an environmental policy statement. While this isn't a requirement for any law or regulation, it can help to provide a concrete outline that explains how the farm and its staff will strive to remain compliant with local, state, and federal laws concerning the environment.

Start by outlining the basics of the farm — who owns it, who works there, and what crops or livestock are raised. Then outline how the farm and its employees will remain committed to regulatory compliance for the industry. Don't be afraid to customize it and make it your own. This is the mission statement that will help you keep your farm in compliance while allowing it to grow and thrive.

Research Agriculture Laws and Regulations

Finally, take the time to research agriculture laws and regulations in your state, for your specific type of agriculture. Remaining compliant with EPA regulations will only take you so far, especially if your state has more stringent rules about a specific crop or breed of livestock. They say that ignorance of the law is no excuse and that goes double for agriculture laws and regulations.

The EPA has a detailed list of the laws, seperated by type of farm (livestock, poultry, aquaculture, etc) that can help you make the best choices and create a farm that will continue to thrive well into the future while remaining compliant.

Looking Toward the Future

We've collectively done a lot of damage to the planet over the last hundred years, and these choices are starting to catch up with us in the form of climate change. Environmental compliance isn't there to make your life harder. It's giving you the tools to protect your local ecosystem while still creating a thriving farm. Taking the time to ensure that your farm is compliant will help you protect the planet and save you money in the long run.