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01/26/10 - 05:46 PM
New environmental regulations are on the way, and they have farmers worried. The regulations will be handed down by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in cooperation with the US Environmental Protection Agency.
They are aimed at protecting lakes, rivers and streams from dangerous phosphorus and nitrogen levels. The regulations will depend on measuring water quality according to an assigned numeric nutrient number. Farmers and other landowners may have to meet the designated standard by a certain deadline.
Jackson County farmers have a few problems with that. First, they say they don’t know anything about the designated number or when the deadline will be set. Jeff Pittman, a fourth generation farmer, says he never heard anything about numbers.
“No, absolutely not,” Pittman said. “Our understanding was that those numbers would possibly be set in the last couple of weeks, and we have not heard anything.”
He said he’d be worried if the number was too high, and hopes it will be manageable. Ken Barton, of the Peanut Producer’s Association, has other questions. He said Florida borders two states that aren’t regulated, and that could pose problems.
“Who will be liable if at the state lines those waters don’t meet the criteria?” Barton asked. “I’ve asked, and no one can answer that question right now.”
Barton also said he was worried about where the regulation was coming from, because a recommendation from the US Department of Agriculture started it all.
They sent a letter saying ‘you have to have this deadline set by January 14, or we’re going to come in and impose that nutrient criteria for you,” Barton said of a US Department of Agriculture letter, which he says was sent to the state of Florida.
“We think that’s why this number’s going to be set—out of fear of litigation from meeting this deadline.”
After repeated requests for an interview, FDEP officials were not available at press time. They responded with an email which outlined the nutrient data, along with where the numbers could be found.
They also sent a list of locations for where public input will be solicited.
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