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Senate | March 19, 2013 | Committee Room | Agriculture

Full MP3 Audio File

...We'll get started here. I'd like to recognize our Sargent of Arms. We have: Charles Harper. Charles, where you at? There you are, ok. And we've got Leslie Wright. And we've got Ernie Sherrill with his mouth full. Glad to have y'all with us and our pages this morning is: Addison Starnes from Morgantan, Senator Daniel, glad to have you with us, Addison; Anisa Zach from Fuqua-Varina, Senator Rucho, glad to have you with us also. Thank you. At this time we only have one bill before us. Senator Walters would you like to come and present please? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Senate Bill 205 is a very simple bill. It is an act to eliminate unnecessary soil testing requirements in the animal waste management plans and basically what it does is it strikes out at least the word annually and once every three years. I would be glad to ask..answer any questions, Mr. Chair. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Mr. Senator Cook. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I move for a favorable report on the bill. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Alright, hold that just this moment. Senator Bryant. Yes ma'am. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I have questions. I was just able to get some information about this article. Is this testing at any cost to the farmer? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Walters. [SPEAKER CHANGES] At this point in time we are assessing it annually and what it would need to take it out and do it on a three year time frame. And what we found out ??? and the Department of Agriculture they recommended this ok as we move forward in global positioning in farming, new techniques in farming, we have a back log as you heard this committee sometimes as much as 6 to 9 weeks for soil sampling so this preemptive on the part of the Department of Agriculture ??? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow-up. I was just wanting to clarify whether it was any costs involved? Is it cost involved to the state? To the agriculture operation? How is this paid? How is this testing paid for? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Go ahead, Senator Walters. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Bryant, what this would do is actually eliminate some costs to the farmers. The Department of Agriculture has...I can let the staff address that. This soil testing is provided by the Department of Agriculture. It would eliminate some costs to farmers. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Ok. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Kinnaird. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Is anyone from the environmental groups here to comment on this, and have you worked with them on this? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Go ahead, Senator Walters. And I will ask: is there anyone in the audience who would like to speak? If you would, let us know. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Kinnaird, I vetted this with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of ??? I haven't heard from anybody from the environmental community. [SPEAKER CHANGES] OK. Follow-up? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes, Mr. Chair, if there is somebody here I would like them to talk, comment on this. Would be willing to comment. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Anyone here who wants to speak on that? If not, Senator Austin. Allran. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, sir, this bill sounds good, it sounds good to me. My question is: it was one year so now we are switching it to three. I would just like to know the scientific background of this to make sure that we're safe. You don't just pull these out of the air, I don't think, so it used to be one and now it is three. How do we arrive at what makes things safe? Scientifically. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Walters. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I have some emails, Senator Allran, from folks at ??? in the state. Once the Ph levels high, these animal wastes spray fields. It's not gonna change. And I'd be glad to share that with anyone with the committee that would like to read those. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Follow-up. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'm from a small town...not...from a small city, not from an agriculture background so I don't really understand all that. I just want somebody to give some type of assurance that going from one year to three years is scientifically safe. If that's what the Department of Agriculture says I'll accept that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Walters, can I jump in here? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Please. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Allran, typically, in past history, everybody soil samples once every three years. Due to the livestock waste they changed it from one year many years back, but now they've realized that once every three years is sufficient to have this done. Senator Bryant. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I just wanted to follow-up a little bit on ...

With Senator Allran. Just because of the area that I represent, and I've talked to some of the, like from the Tar River, the Tar-Penlico River keeper, just before this meeting, and they had just found out about this. And we're trying to them, if sales to determine if 1 year to 3 years is going to make a big difference. The concern is going to 1 year, because of the phosphorous levels, I think, and some of the levels that have been found in our soils, and I'm just concerned, and like Senator Allran, I'm happy to support it, if we can get some sense that there's zinc and copper won't damage going to our streams in 3 years, if for some reason it was higher. If we don't catch it in 3 years, if it got high in 1 and a half years, and we don't catch it till 1 and a half years later. as long as somebody can say who does this. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Let me inject this. And I'm going to sort of turn this back around on Senator Allran and Senator Bryant. What kind of information would you want, and who would you want to present? We've got Deaner, that says we don't have a problem with this, and we have the Department of Ags who? Whom do we need to hear from? [SPEAKER CHANGES]I'm sorry, I didn't know it. Did Deaner and the Department of Ag, maybe some of them, somebody out in the audience can answer the question. [SPEAKER CHANGES]We have Joy Hicks, from the Department of Ag. Joy, would you like to take a stab at this? [SPEAKER CHANGES]Hi, I'm Joy Hicks from Legislative Liaison for the Department of Agriculture. We did work with both our soil and water division, and our agronomist in our agronomic's division, and posed this question to them about how would it affect not just our soil testing lab and the numbers coming in there, which the question was asked earlier, How do you pay for it? We pay for it. Soil samples are not charged, but lime tax and fertilizer tax in your general fund goes to that. But jumping back, we do have Pat Harris here, from our soil and water division, who was there whenever the bill was negotiated that required this 1 year soil sample to take place. Even at that point in time, we tried to negotiate a different rate. Now granted, soil and water was Ed Deaner at that time, but everybody we talked to from our agronomists, who a lot of them are soil scientists, to our soil and water division have said that this is not necessary. It doesn't change that much every year, from year to year, and so we'd be happy to have, you might want to hear from our division director, Ms. Harris, but we've submitted information from our agronomists to Senator Walters. Again, the agronomists are the guys who go out, and they work with farmers to look at what the full situation is, to figure out what additives need to happen. If they have a crop issue, they go out and try to help them determine what's going on. So, our folks really care about the soil, and they really care about the land, so they would not make a recommendation to Senator Walters that they didn't fully believe. And so with that, Mr. Chairman, that is the overall answer, but you may want to. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Okay, that's fine, Joy. Thank you very much. Senator Wade. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator Walters, would it be safe to say that since it's been in place, and they've been testing every year, that the agriculture department now believes it's not necessary because they've been looking at the soil samples, so they should know whether it's necessary or not. and my other question would be, is there a safe guard in place, like a complaint driven issue, if you think there might be a problem, there's still that site safeguard in place, right? Where someone can phone in. I mean, you might just mention that, and that would probably take care of our discussion. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Senator Walters? [SPEAKER CHANGES]Thank you, Senator Wade. I think that is correct. You know the historical data shows that it's not necessary to soil sample annually, and there are some safeguards in place. If there is a complaint, we'd be able to address that. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Senator, 1 second. I've just been informed by staff that Deaner was told about this bill many times, and had been requested to be here. Apparently they have no issue with it, or they would be here. Senator Kinnaird? [SPEAKER CHANGES]Thank you. As I recall in this issue, the problem, and I'd like to further find out about whether it does affect steams and ground water, as I understand it, the build up of zinc and copper leads to sterile soils, that you just simply can't grow anything on it. So it would be more of a soil than a water issue. But that, I'd like clarification on that. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Senator Walter, do you want to

Senator Kinnaird, I think we're losing our focus here. Farmers who own these farms and these spray fields have a vested financial obligation to make sure they take care of their property and their joint properties, and there's been historical data with the, with agriculture department as well as DENR that no one has a problem with taking this one or three years. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. There's no other questions at this time, we have a favorable report from Senator Cook. All those in favor, let me know by saying aye. All opposed light the sign. The ayes have it. This meeting is adjourned. Thank you.