Farmers advised on EPA fuel tank rules

Schultz Bruce, Webster, Eric P., Saichuk, John K., Linscombe, Steven D., Harrell, Dustin L., Stout, Michael J.

News Release Distributed 01/23/13

RAYVILLE, La. – Louisiana rice farmers heard Tuesday, Jan. 22, that federal regulations for large fuel storage tanks on farms and ranches will go into effect May 15 unless Congress can be convinced to delay the measures for another year.

Speaking at a meeting for northeast Louisiana rice farmers called by the LSU AgCenter to prepare for the upcoming crop, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had considered allowing states to enforce the rules, but the EPA has decided not to delegate enforcement. Seven EPA inspectors are being assigned to 22 states.

Strain said he will go to Washington, D.C., to try to convince federal lawmakers to enact a one-year delay on the rules.

The rules include a requirement that most fuel tanks will need to be encircled by a levee system to prevent spills from spreading. Strain said it was previously believed that tanks that were mobile would be exempt, but the rule apparently has been revised to include those vessels.

On another note, the LSU AgCenter cannot weather additional budget cuts, Strain said. Reducing the AgCenter budget has a long-term detrimental effect.

Cuts to the LSU AgCenter and the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry have weakened Louisiana ‘s agricultural economy, said State Sen. Francis Thompson.

“We can’t take any more cuts, or we’re going to lose entomologists; we’re going to lose agronomists; we’re going to lose extension people,” Thompson said.

Other states realize the value of agriculture research and extension, he added. “When I look at other states, they are not doing that (cutting agriculture budgets).”

A plan to replace state income taxes with increased sales taxes may include the elimination of tax exemptions for agriculture, Thompson said. “We have no assurance we’ll get any exemptions.”

The EPA also wants states to write nutrient management plans to reduce the amount of fertilizers in waterways, said Carrie Castille, associate commissioner for public policy and governmental affairs in the Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

State farmers have made progress at reducing runoff with programs such as the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, Castille said. She said Strain has formed a nutrient management task force.

“We are probably the envy of most states,” she said. “We want to control our own destiny in agriculture. This is our way of telling other groups what we are doing.”

Several LSU AgCenter rice experts told farmers what they should consider for the 2013 crop.

Milling quality has become more of a concern, said LSU AgCenter rice breeder Steve Linscombe. A group from Costa Rica that visited the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station recently expressed their concerns about quality.

The LSU AgCenter has released many varieties with high quality, including CL152, Mermentau and Caffey, Linscombe said. The Kellogg Co. will be testing Caffey, a medium-grain variety, for use in its products.

The hybrid program at the Rice Research Station is progressing, he said. “Perhaps even next year, I can talk about something that has potential commercial value.”

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Johnny Saichuk said the variety CL151 suffered from a severe blast disease outbreak along with lower quality last year, and many farmers will be planting CL152 this year.

A fourth of nitrogen fertilizer applied to rice can be lost to volatilization if a field is not flooded after the nutrient is applied, said LSU AgCenter agronomist Dustin Harrell. Several products are available to prevent the nitrogen loss.

LSU AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster said farmers preparing to kill weeds before planting have several options, including the herbicides dicamba, glyphosate and 2-4,D.

The combination of seed treatments Dermacor and Nipsit Inside offer protection against rice water weevils and colaspis insects, said LSU AgCenter entomologist Mike Stout. New guidelines for controlling stem borers and stink bugs will be released in June.

Bruce Schultz
1/23/2013 11:14:12 PM
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