Arkansas Farm Bureau announced Tuesday its support for changes made Monday by legislators to SB 550 that would transfer liquid animal waste permitting authority to the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC).
Arkansas Farm Bureau worked closely with Sen. Gary Stubblefield, sponsor of SB 550 (which passed the Senate 25-5 last week), and Rep. Mary Bentley, sponsor of the legislation in the House, and other key legislative leaders to add several steps of transparency to the legislation. The bill is expected to be in front of the House ag committee for review on Wednesday.
The additions reinforce and clarify the legislation’s original intent that existing regulations be transferred to ANRC from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).
The additions include:
- The legislation shall not supersede or adversely impact the authority delegated to the ADEQ by EPA Region VI to administer National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program.
- The legislation shall maintain the current standards and requirements of the Arkansas Pollution Control & Ecology Commission Reg. 5 Liquid Animal Waste Systems.
- ANRC shall establish public notification requirements, qualifications, standards and procedures for review of the nutrient management plan and issuance of permits for liquid livestock litter management systems.
- Further clarification of the role ANRC and county conservation boards play in the permitting process.
ArFB President Randy Veach emphasized that the purpose of the legislation was to align regulatory authority for agriculture permits with the ANRC, which under Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s reorganization plan will be part of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.
“This legislation addresses two major issues: it puts all animal agriculture no-discharge permitting and approval under the same state agency (ANRC) and gives farmers and ranchers one government agency to deal with when seeking environmental permits,” Veach said.
“This should make it very transparent that the bill’s intention, all along, was to move existing regulations from one agency to another. As we have had discussions with legislators, they told us they understood our intent, but they asked us for additional language that will make that very clear to others outside of the legislative process and bring additional transparency to the bill.
“There have been some wildly inaccurate and baseless comments about the intentions of this legislation. This legislation does not weaken current laws concerning water quality nor does it remove public notification requirements before permits can be approved. In fact, it never did.
“Now, these additions should remove any concern with the proposed legislation and pave the way for approval.”
In a meeting with ANRC’s commissioners on April 20, director Bruce Holland said his agency was ready for the responsibility of liquid animal waste permitting, if the legislature approved the measure.
Farm Bureau’s Veach said the need to move liquid animal waste permits to the ANRC was requested by Farm Bureau members during the organization’s grassroots policy development process. Currently, Veach said, if a poultry farmer also has dairy or swine, that farmer must deal with ANRC for one approval and ADEQ for another. The proposed legislation will streamline that process and put all agricultural permitting within one state agency.
“It is the grassroots nature of this organization that makes us an effective advocate on behalf of the men and women of agriculture,” Veach said. “The members of the General Assembly understand that our policies reflect the input and wisdom of members in every county in Arkansas. We believe these additions reflect the purpose and intent of our members’ wishes.”
Arkansas Farm Bureau is a private advocacy organization of more than 190,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.
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