By MATTHEW WEAVER
The directors of three Washington agencies have decided not to pursue legislation regulating the use of manure in farm operations.
In a letter and report to departing Gov. Chris Gregoire, the directors of the state departments of Agriculture and Ecology and the State Conservation Commission instead recommend administrative actions. Gregoire had asked them to develop legislation for manure management.
Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association, said the letter eases concerns about new manure laws during the current legislative session, but said the industry will remain vigilant.
"The letter doesn't mean the issue's dead forever; it just means the agencies are not recommending any legislation go forward this session," he said.
The directors' recommended implementing a voluntary stewardship program, using a stakeholder forum to address issues and focus any future legislation and work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify gaps in state clean water laws.
The directors recommend the funds originally intended to support the legislation be used to provide clean water inspections, investigations and enforcement.
A team tasked to define "substantial potential to pollute" should finish its work by June 30, the directors say.
"We'll definitely be watching that," Field said. He said he'd like to see a focus on actual pollution instead of potential pollution.
The group will also consult with stakeholders. Field said the discussions had been occurring in a vacuum, but open and transparent talks could mean more "logical, linear" steps ahead.
"This way, we can make sure the regulated community -- the livestock producers -- will have an opportunity to be at the table," he said. "We need to make sure long-term our concerns are understood and we can do everything possible to address the concerns from the regulatory agencies."