PDF _ RL30437 - Water Quality Initiatives and Agriculture
20-Dec-2000; Claudia Copeland; 32 p.

Abstract: Congress most recently enacted amendments to the nation?s water quality law, the Clean Water Act (CWA), in 1987. But national water quality policy has evolved in the intervening years, as a result of implementation of the 1987 amendments and related Administration initiatives intended to fulfill the requirements and meet the goals and objectives of the Act. Agriculture, which has been a relatively minor component of national water quality policies and programs, especially regulatory policies, is now involved in several aspects of three recent initiatives. In the Clean Water Action Plan, a Clinton Administration initiative intended to address the nation?s remaining water quality challenges, several key actions focus on agriculture, federal lands, and forestry as part of the overall goal of the Plan to more effectively control nonpoint source pollution. Specific outcomes, requirements affecting agriculture, if any, and any possible deadlines will be evident as the key actions are set in motion. One of the first Administration actions to carry out the Clean Water Action Plan was a national strategy for addressing waste management by one segment of agriculture, animal feeding operations (AFOs). Under the AFO strategy, all operators of animal feedings operations are expected to develop and implement site-specific comprehensive nutrient management plans, while an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 large AFOs and those contributing to water quality impairments will be priorities for regulatory programs and enforcement. A third policy development, separate from the Clean Water Action Plan, is implementation of existing CWA requirements which concern measures to improve the quality of waters that remain pollutant-impaired even after application of traditional pollution controls by industrial and municipal ?point sources.? Most of agriculture is classified as a ?nonpoint source? and is not subject to CWA controls. These requirements are the Act?s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program. As states implement the TMDL program, where agricultural sources are identified as responsible for water quality impairments, they may be required to adopt control actions and/or management measures. Determinations of impairments and required actions will be site-specific and variable. However, there is controversy over whether nonpoint sources of pollution (diffuse runoff that does not come from a pipe, ditch, or similar conveyance) are lawfully covered by the TMDL program. If only point sources are covered, impacts on agriculture would be considerably fewer. Regulatory changes proposed in 1999 to strengthen the TMDL program were widely criticized by agriculture and forestry groups, other industry groups, states and localities, and environmental groups. Final changes, issued in July 2000, dropped provisions that could have directly affected some in agriculture and forestry, but the new rules remain controversial. This report provides background on the Clean Water Action Plan, the Unified National AFO Strategy, and implementation of the TMDL provisions of the Clean Water Act. It includes a glossary of terms and a chronology of key dates and deadlines related to the initiatives. [read report]

Topics: Water, Agriculture, Natural Resources

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