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Water Quality

Regulation 85

Protect Water Quality

Conservation programs and practices are not new to Colorado’s farmers. The corn producers in this state work every year to improve their soil health and the impact of their farm on the land they are using.

Regulation 85, Nutrients Management Control Regulation, authorized the Water Quality Control Commission in 2012 to “promulgate control regulations to describe prohibitions, standards, concentrations, and effluent limitations on the extent of specifically identified pollutants that any person may discharge into any specific class of state waters.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) established Reg 85 specifically related to surface waters, and the nutrient discharge that can happen into those waters.

They established two different categories for this: point source and nonpoint source.

Point source entities include places such as wastewater treatment plants, and nonpoint sources include agriculture.  Point sources are subject to stringent regulations, while nonpoint sources can adhere to the rules on a voluntary basis.

“I think we need to have some appreciation for the early folks who stepped up and allowed someone to monitor their farm, the people who helped craft the language in the bill, and the people who pushed the bill through. This includes people within the Colorado Corn Promotion Council, the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Livestock Association specifically,” said Erik Wardle, Director of the AWQP, Soil and Crop Sciences Department at Colorado State University.

This monitoring allowed the university to do research on the nutrients that are making it back to surface water. “We can do research at the university on our own, without ag input, as the fact is every field in the state is being modeled by researchers somewhere. However, what is most important is to have real-world data on what is actually happening on farms, and we need producers to be involved,” stated Wardle.

He has seen that people want to be involved. “At least 50 percent of the fields we do research on were people reaching out to us. Ag has been proactive in this process and shown that ag is engaged. Even if there is an issue, it’s much easier to be proactive,” he explained.

Wardle continued, “There is value in participating, and being a part of the conversation. You can help provide real-world data back to the modelers, so they can adjust to reflect real-world farms. Be involved and do not be afraid to show what you are doing.”

Reg 85 is currently funded through the expansion of legislation, but the base funding is from taxes on fertilizer sales and chemical certification. “I think it’s a cool story. Chemical users are saying here is our money. We think we are doing a good job to make sure we are taking care of the water in the state,” he said.

Some of the voluntary compliance includes following best management practices. BMPs are adopted by the vast majority of corn producers in this state. This includes, but is not limited to minimizing erosion, reducing runoff, the management of fertilizer, and establishing buffer areas.

The CCPC’s past Executive Director, Mark Sponsler, was one of the driving forces behind making sure that agriculture was considered as a nonpoint source, and therefore participation in the regulation stayed voluntary, instead of mandatory.  “A lot of people feel disconnected and feel like the government just makes regulations. While it may seem that way, getting involved in the rule-making process and doing it early can have a huge impact later on,” said Ryan Taylor, CCPC Director of Sustainability, Research and Industry Relationships.

He continued “If producers are not engaging at the meaningful level, then the government will come up with a rule that’s not feasible.”

At the end of the day, Taylor believes this is about soil health, and that is what he is focused on. “We are focused on creating a resilient farmer and keeping ag as a nonpoint source regulation.”

To learn more, visit the Colorado Ag Water Quality page.

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