The Department of Agriculture has announced a pilot initiative in eight states to help agricultural producers comply with revised regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intended to prevent and mitigate fuel and oil spills on their operations.

States participating in the NRCS pilot are: Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and the Caribbean area. Dave White, Chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), made the announcement on behalf of the Department at a farm outside of Pembina, N.D.

"An important part of our mission at USDA is helping farmers and ranchers develop plans to protect human health and the environment, including assistance complying (with) new regulations," said Dave White, NRCS Chief. "This new pilot program will help agricultural producers meet a new regulatory requirement designed to reduce the dangers of on-farm oil spills."

The pilot program will be administered by NRCS, which will provide up to $3 million to help farmers and ranchers comply with EPA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Program (SPCC). The agency will help develop or update existing spill prevention plans that avoid and mitigate on-farm oil spillage. SPCC plans must be in place no later than November 10, 2011.

Due to the small amount of stored fuel and oil on most operations, up to 84 percent of farmers and ranchers are able to "self certify" by completing an online template. Operators with above ground storage capacity of 10,000 gallons or more are required to have a plan prepared by a registered Professional Engineer.

interim standards

NRCS developed an interim conservation practice standard for secondary oil and fuel containment. Technical Service Providers can use this interim practice to help them design oil/fuel containment facilities conforming to EPA regulation. Funding from NRCS is available to assist in developing SPCC plans and implementing the secondary oil and fuel containment conservation practices.

Earlier this year NRCS partnered with the National Milk Producers Federation to develop a template for dairy producers to help them determine if they needed an SPCC plan and whether or not they could self certify their plans. The SPCC template can be utilized by the 84 percent of farms meeting the self-certification criteria, meeting the EPA revised rules. This template is available at: http://nmpf.org/files/file/SPCC-Plan-Template-Final-Sept-20-2010-FORM.pdf

Farmers and ranchers in the participating states who need assistance should contact NRCS at their nearest USDA Service Center. For more information online: NRCS assistance with SPCC Plans: www.nrcs.usda.gov  SPCC rule and additional resources: www.epa.gov/emergencies/spcc