Changes in Va. and N.C. Swine Waste Regulations
Livestock Update, November 1996
Allen Harper, Extension Animal Scientist-Swine, Tidewater AREC
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, North Carolina experienced unprecedented growth in swine production. In the four year period from 1990 to 1994 the "Tar Heel" state rose from seventh in national ranking with a 2.8 million hog inventory to second among the U.S. states with a 6.6 million hog inventory. During this same era, growth in Virginia's swine industry was stagnant and the December 1, 1995, inventory of 380,000 head was only about 55 % of typical Virginia hog and pig inventories before 1980.
Certainly a combination of factors were involved in establishing record growth in North Carolina's swine industry while Virginia experienced a decline. But one often cited contributing factor was the considerable difference in regulations for operating confined livestock feeding operations in the two states. In short, North Carolina's regulations were considered lenient, inexpensive and "producer friendly" while Virginia's were considered strict, costly and discouraging to larger confinement hog operations. Regulatory changes in both states within the past two years have the potential to impact regional swine industry growth in the near term future. As described in Dave Kenyon's VCE publication 446-049, the "General Permit for Confined Animal Feeding Operations" was adopted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and became effective on November 16, 1994. A July 1, 1996, regulatory update letter from the North Carolina Pork Producers Association reported on significant changes in regulations for confined swine operations in their state. The following outline provides some of the primary considerations in the new Virginia and North Carolina regulatory policies as related to swine operations.
Virginia General Permit for Confined Animal Feeding Operations (adapted from VCE publication 446-049, D. Kenyon, 1995):
Applies to confined animal feeding operations with over 300 animal units utilizing liquid waste collection and storage systems. For hog farms, 300 animal units is more than 750 swine weighing 55 lbs or greater.
A single Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) general permit regulation applies to all permitted operations for a designated ten-year period. The current general VPA permit is effective from November 16, 1994, through November 16, 2004. When the current general VPA permit expires, Virginia DEQ will likely write a new general permit.
Producers may still apply for an individual VPA permit which is valid for a 10 year period. For individual permits, the permit conditions will be designed specific for the individual confinement feeding operation.
The general VPA permit registration form is one page. In addition to the registration form, a local government ordinance form and a Department of Conservation and Recreation certified nutrient management plan specifying how waste nutrients will be utilized is required. With these forms and plans in proper order, response time from the DEQ office is about 1 month.
The basis of the general permit process is a valid nutrient management plan which specifies how waste nutrients are collected, stored and applied to soils in a manner that protects the environment.
Soils receiving waste nutrients must be tested every 3 years; collected waste must be tested every year.
Earthen basins (lagoons) installed below or within one foot of the seasonal high water table are required to have groundwater monitoring wells, at least one up-gradient and one down-gradient well is necessary if monitoring wells are required.
Buffer zones for land applications of waste material are 200 ft. from occupied dwellings, 100 ft from water supply wells, 50 ft from surface waters (25 ft if subsurface injected), 50 ft from limestone outcroppings and 25 ft from other rock outcroppings. These buffer zones do not supersede any buffers required by local government which would be specified in the local government ordinance form.
New Waste Handling Permits for North Carolina Swine Feed Operations (Adapted from North Carolina Pork Producers Association Newsletter, July 1, 1996):
Effective January 1, 1997, all swine operations that operate or plan to construct a swine waste management system must obtain a permit.
Effective January 1, 1997, all swine operations subject to a permit will be inspected at least once annually for compliance by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
Effective January 1, 1997, annual permit fees of $50 for 38,500 to 99,999 lbs of swine capacity, $100 for 100,000 to 799,999 lbs of swine capacity and $200 for 800,000 lbs or more of swine capacity will be charged by DEM.
The permit law applies to farms with 250 or more swine.
Effective January 1, 1997, any "operator in charge" of animal waste application must complete certification training and maintain certification by taking recertification training every three years.
Effective immediately, any person intending to build a swine farm requiring a permit must notify all neighboring property owners with a certified letter.
NC Natural Resources Conservation Service requires soil tests every 2 years, liquid waste analysis twice each year and dry waste analysis before application.
Swine building and lagoon buffer zones are 1500 ft from an occupied residence, 2,500 ft from a church, school or hospital and at least 500 ft from the property boundary. Land application buffer zones are 50 ft from property which has an occupied dwelling and 50 ft from perennial streams or rivers.
With proper implementation by conscientious producers, it is reasonable to suggest that the current VPA regulations create an opportunity for moderate swine production growth while protecting Virginia's natural resources. It is also reasonable to suggest that some swine industry growth would be beneficial by creating additional agricultural opportunities in rural Virginia.