Governor Bob McDonnell today ceremonially signed eight pieces of environmental stewardship legislation that will help Virginia's agriculture industry grow and thrive while also enhancing water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and other Virginia watersheds. The bill signing took place during an afternoon event at Brookmeade Sod Farm in Hanover County. Legislation signed includes measures to regulate the use of certain fertilizers, allow agricultural land to be deemed in full compliance with its total maximum daily load allocation (TMDL) upon implementation and maintenance of a resource management plan, and authorize the Secretary of Natural Resources to study the expansion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Credit Exchange Program. Governor McDonnell was joined today by members of the General Assembly, as well as stakeholders from the agricultural and environmental communities.
Speaking about the legislation, Governor McDonnell remarked, "Agriculture is the largest industry in Virginia, generating an annual economic impact of $55 billion and providing more than 357,000 jobs across the Commonwealth. It is essential that we continue to implement environmentally sound measures that ensure this industry will grow and thrive, while simultaneously working towards enhancing water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's other watersheds. The eight pieces of legislation signed today are a positive step in that direction."
McDonnell continued, "Through legislation to regulate the use of certain fertilizers, we can ensure that less phosphorous drains into our rivers and streams, and that our growers and producers, golf course owners, and citizens throughout the Commonwealth are using the most environmentally friendly fertilizers available. Other legislation will allow owners of agricultural land with an approved resource management plan to be deemed in full compliance with their allocation of the TMDL and Virginia's Watershed Implementation Plan. This legislation will effectively recognize our agriculture land owners that are in compliance with efforts to enhance the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's other watersheds. When developing Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, we worked closely with our agricultural industry, environmental groups, and local government representatives to make sure that goals in the plan were realistic and achievable. The eight pieces of legislation signed today will bring us much closer to effectively enhancing the water quality of the Bay and Virginia's other watersheds and ensuring that our agriculture industry continues to use environmentally sound practices."
Speaking at today's bill signing, Delegate Ed Scott (R-Madison) remarked, "One essential part of enhancing the quality of our waterways, and particularly the Chesapeake Bay, is reducing the amount of phosphorous draining into the water. Through legislation passed during the 2011 General Assembly Session we will now prohibit, with certain exceptions, the sale and use of fertilizer or deicing agents containing phosphorous. As we look to enhancing water quality in the Bay and Virginia's other watersheds and become more environmentally friendly, we must make sure we aren't harming our largest industries simultaneously. This legislation is an example of Virginia's agriculture community taking the lead on commonsense measures that enable the agriculture industry and all fertilizer users to contribute in the cleanup of our waterways."
Delegate Harvey Morgan (R-Gloucester), chairman of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, added, "As we work to execute Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan that was approved by EPA in December, we need to collaborate with land owners and assist them in complying with the goals outlined in the plan. We must also recognize those who have implemented a resource management plan and ensure that they are deemed to be in compliance. Through legislation passed this spring, we will establish a program that will deem agricultural land owners who successfully implement a resource management plan to be in full compliance with load allocations in both our TMDL and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. Working together, the Commonwealth can provide farmers the certainty they seek, as well as the watermen in my communities who need clean water for their successful livelihoods."
Legislation Signed Today
SB1055 (Stuart)/HB1831 (E.Scott) -- Fertilizer; regulation of application and labeling.
* Prohibits the sale, distribution and use of lawn maintenance fertilizer containing phosphorus beginning December 31, 2013. Additionally, this legislation requires golf courses to implement nutrient management plans by 2017 and also requires the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to establish reporting requirements for contractor-applicators and licensees who apply lawn fertilizer to more than 100 acres of nonagricultural lands annually.
* Prohibits the sale of deicing agents containing urea, nitrogen or phosphorous intended for application on paved surfaces.
HB1830 (E. Scott) -- Resource management plans; effect of implementation, exclusions
* Allows farmers who develop and maintain agriculture resource management plans to be deemed as being in full compliance with any load allocation contained in a TMDL and any state water quality requirements for nutrient and sediment.
SB990 (Stuart)/ HB2057 (Poindexter) -- Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS); regulation of fertilizer, penalties.
* Revises the laws governing the manufacture and application of fertilizer to, among other things: (i) incorporate by reference the guidelines adopted by the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials, (ii) adopt precautionary labeling guidelines to prevent fertilizer runoff into waterways, (, (iii) require distributors of commercial fertilizer to submit an annual statistical report to the VDACS Commissioner regarding the amounts and localities of distributed product, (iv) authorize the VDACS Board to impose civil penalties for the violation of a written stop sale, and (v) allow the imposition of late fees for failing to obtain or renew a registration, license, or permit..
SJ334 (Whipple) -- Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Credit Exchange Program; Secretary of Natural Resources to study
* Requests that the Secretary of Natural Resources study the expansion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Nutrient Credit Exchange Program, ensuring that the stakeholder committee has representatives from local government, state government, environmental organizations, nutrient source sectors identified in the Bay TMDL, and private sector interests experienced in nutrient credits and trading.
SB1441 (Obenshain)/ HB2486 (J. Cox) -- Impaired waters; requires plan developed and implemented to restore waters be controlling
* Requires that the plan developed and implemented to restore impaired waters be controlling unless it is amended or withdrawn by the State Water Control Boar