In play was the renewal of a Virginia general permit regulating the state’s largest confined dairy, cattle, swine, and poultry farms -- generally those farms with more than 300 animal units.
Current permit requirements, which expire in November and are being updated and renewed by the board for another 10 years, do not require these farms to fence their animals out of streams and rivers in order to keep their waste from fouling public waters.
For many months, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and other conservation stakeholders have asked the board to include a requirement for stream fencing in the permit. Excluding farm animals from streams is demonstrably a cost-effective way to reduce erosion, bacteria, and nutrient pollution in rural streams, as well as to prevent disease in livestock.
Of course, reducing nutrient and sediment pollution in state waterways is the primary goal of the state’s Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, Virginia’s plan to restore the Bay and its rivers to good health. The Blueprint calls for all of the Bay restoration partners to reach 60 percent of their pollution reduction goals by 2017 and to have 100% of their pollution controls in place by 2025.
So given an opportunity to substantially cut runoff pollution from animal farms with this permit, you’d think Virginia would jump at the chance. You’d be wrong.