Senator wants agency to ramp up support for farmers and ranchers
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase assistance for Montana farmers and ranchers working to meet new rules designed to prevent and prepare for possible spills from fuel storage tanks.
Tester wants the USDA to expand a pilot initiative to Montana that helped producers prepare spill prevention and control plans and build structures to contain spills. The USDA previously operated the initiative in eight states, but not Montana.
Tester’s request comes as the deadline for the EPA’s new rules on fuel storage tanks draws closer. Under the new rules, Montana producers who store more than 1,320 gallons of fuel on their property would have to list all oil containers, outline steps to prevent a spill, and demonstrate measures to keep spills from reaching water.
“Demand for assistance already has exceeded the funding provided,” Tester wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I ask that you make resources available to assist producers in complying with the rules.”
Montana farmers and ranchers received limited assistance through the state’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, but the state was not chosen to participate in USDA’s pilot initiative.
Tester, the Senate’s only active farmer, previously told the EPA that it needed to hold off on the new fuel tank regulations until the agency did a better job notifying Montana farmers and ranchers about the impact of the new rules.
“As a farmer, I must remind you that ordinary producers in Montana are too busy with everyday work to follow every posting in the Federal Register, and most don’t have time to check the EPA’s website,” Tester told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
The USDA funds multiple initiatives that help farmers and ranchers meet environmental rules.
Tester’s letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is available below and online HERE.
March 20, 2012
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U. S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In 2010, the Department of Agriculture implemented a pilot initiative within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to assist farmers and ranchers in complying with new Clean Water Act rules on spill prevention, control and countermeasures (SPCC). That initiative covered eight states and was, by all accounts, a successful initiative in helping prevent fuel discharges to water and assisting producers in complying with the rules.
I am writing to request that this pilot initiative be expanded to Montana. The Montana office of Natural Resources Conservation Service has already begun using program funds to help producers prepare SPCC plans and build containment structures where necessary. However, demand for assistance through this program already has exceeded the funding provided by EQIP. As the EPA’s deadlines for compliance draw closer, additional federal assistance is needed. As Montana did not receive any additional assistance through the initial pilot, I ask that you make resources available to assist producers who are unable to be served by funding through the initial efforts of the Montana office.
Thank you very much for your assistance in this matter, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to help Montana farmers protect our clean water.
United States Senator
Contact: Andrea Helling or Dan Malessa – (202) 228-0371