May 11, 2000 | By: Aimee D. Heald

With May being water awareness month in the Commonwealth, it's a good time for producers to get serious about water quality plans. Those who farm or harvest trees on 10 or more acres are required to implement an agriculture water quality plan by October 2001.

The Kentucky legislature passed the Agriculture Water Quality Act in 1994. This act requires landowners to develop a plan documenting best management practices they are following to protect water resources.

"Best management practices could include planned grazing systems for livestock, filter or buffer strips around crop fields, animal waste storage structures and nutrient management plans," Jennifer Cocanougher, Extension associate for water quality at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, said.

Landowners are encouraged, but not required, to file their certification forms to verify they have developed their water quality plan. More than 8,000 certification forms have been filed with Conservation Service district offices throughout Kentucky. But, with an estimated 88,000 farms in the state, that number indicates a majority of landowners have not completed a water quality plan.

Cocanougher emphasized that the Oct. 2001 deadline is for implementation of a plan. She said producers should realize best management practices sometimes take a lot of time to put in place so they should get started now. Getting the plans written early may benefit landowners in a monetary way as well.

"If producers want to apply for cost-share dollars to offset the costs of implementing best management practices, they should go ahead and write a water quality plan," she said. "Some cost-share programs require the producer to submit a plan with their application. For federal cost- share programs, extra points are given for producers who have a written plan."

In Kentucky, producers who apply for state cost-share dollars after July 1, 2000 must have a written water quality plan to obtain those dollars.

Cocanougher said a written water quality plan also is required to obtain dollars set aside for best management practices in the recent tobacco settlement.

To develop a water quality plan, landowners need to look at the activities in their operation. It may help to use a tool like the Producer's Workbook to identify the appropriate best management practices and then document the practices being used and properly maintained. By implementing a water quality plan, landowners are helping protect water resources in Kentucky.

County Cooperative Extension offices have a series of publications known as KY*A*Syst, the Producer's Workbook, and a wealth of knowledge to assist landowners in preparing a water quality plan.


Jennifer Cocanougher 859-257-6094