New farm regulations spark seminars

Published 8:29 pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

For the first time since the Clean Water Act was put in place in 1973, farmers are being required to abide by regulations to prevent oil spills from reaching area waters. Compliance with the regulations, however, has caused some confusion with local farmers.

The Beaufort County Cooperative Extension office will host a day of free seminars with representatives from AgCompliance, an environmental engineering firm, to help clarify the new regulations. The workshops will be held July 24 at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to allow as many farmers from Beaufort County and the surrounding counties to attend, said Rod Gurganus, director of the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension.

The Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) program, requires that farms put in place emergency plans that would prevent oil spills from entering the surface waters of any body of water nearby. Farms that store more than 1,320 gallons of oil aboveground or 42,000 gallons below ground are now required to have a back-up plan in case of a spill.

“There are some farmers out there that will be under that number, but for the most part, most of our farmers store more than 1,320 gallons of fuel or lubricants,” Gurganus explained. “It applies to the majority of farmers.”

Gurganus said the seminars are open to all farmers in Beaufort and surrounding counties.

While agCompliance is a private company that does offer its services to help farmers determine a customized SPCC plan, Gurganus said the seminars are more about education than sales. AgCompliance makes it its business to explain the regulation and what it means to the average farmer, without a high-pressure sales pitch, he explained.

Gurganus said the SPCC rule had always included farms, but over the years, exemptions for farms were made at the federal level. That ended in May. Some local farmers have already taken steps toward compliance, Gurganus said, but there are still questions.

“We’ve spent a fair amount of time, from our office, trying to get the farmers education about what it (SPCC compliance) requires. One of the biggest questions is: who’s going to come around and inspect?” he asked.

“It’s an old regulation, but new to farmers.”

The Beaufort County Cooperative Extension office is located at 155-A Airport Road, Washington, 252-946-0111.