Agriculture’s Nutrient Exemptions At Risk

Producers asked for input ahead of 2020 hearings

Seven years ago, in June of 2012 to be exact, the Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) adopted Regulation 85. Prior to the rulemaking hearing a number of ag groups in Colorado came together to form the Colorado Ag Producers Alliance (CAPA) for the purpose of being part of the stakeholder process and to be “at the table” as the regulation was being drafted. The regulation was adopted in order to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loading to the state surface waters. 

Regulation 85 became effective in September of 2012 and since then CLA has been very active not just with CAPA members but with other organizations who have a vested interest in how Regulation 85 is ultimately enforced. One such group is the Colorado Monitoring Framework (CMF) which is a nonprofit organization formed with the objective of creating a collaborative process to comply with water quality regulations adopted by the WQCC. Initially CMF was primarily made up of municipal dischargers and water treatment entities. CAPA members recognized an opportunity collaborate with the CMF because the one thing we have in common is that we all are part of the nutrient criteria issue.

Representing agriculture’s voice within the CMF framework is the Agricultural Task Force. The Task Force has been working to educate and inform the agricultural community about the potential for upcoming nutrient regulations. Although agricultural nonpoint sources of nutrients are currently exempt from regulation, this exemption is up for review.

There are two upcoming WQCC reviews of Regulation 85 where nonpoint sources will be reviewed and decisions will be made:

     Fall 2020 – Examination of the progress made by nonpoint sources.

     Fall 2022 – Decision on the need to regulate nonpoint sources.

The following is from 85.5(5)(c)  

(c) Additional Nonpoint Source Actions

(i) During the triennial review of this control regulation, the division shall report to the commission on the progress implementing the activities addressed under this section.

(ii) If voluntary nonpoint source BMPs are not effective in managing nutrients by May 31, 2022, the commission may consider the adoption of prohibitions or precautionary measures to further limit nutrient concentrations.

(iii) Pursuant to section 25-8-205(5), C.R.S., after May 31, 2022 the commission may consider adopting, in consultation with the commissioner of agriculture, control regulations specific to agricultural and silvicultural practices if the commission determines that sufficient progress has not been demonstrated in agricultural nonpoint source nutrient management.

As we prepare for the 2020 informational hearing, input from the agricultural community is necessary and will be highly valuable to the WQCC’s decision making process. Information such as BMP’s applied, percent of operations in a region that employ nutrient management plans, water quality data regarding BMP impacts and monitoring and sampling data.

If you are interested in participating or would like to hear more information on this issue please contact Bill Hammerich at the CLA office (970) 378-0500.