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Georgia agriculture officials seeking comment on controversial soil amendment rules
State agriculture officials are seeking public comment on new regulations to handle controversial soil amendments.
The amendments, or fertilizer alternatives, have some Georgians upset about nuisance farmers. That's because some farmers use the amendments as an inexpensive and nitrogen-rich way to enhance their soil.
But neighbors and environmental advocates consider the cheap additives, which include sludge from chicken processing, to be smelly and polluting industrial waste.
University of Georgia soil scientist Jason Lessl said the issue goes back a few years to when the Georgia Department of Agriculture redefined industrial waste.
“It probably was knee-jerk reaction and they were probably like 'Oh, this is no big deal, it's just organic material, it's going to decompose in the soil, what could possibly go wrong?'” he said. “While the material could be used in a safe manner, it’s currently not.”
The new rules require farmer record-keeping and agency oversight that some worry won't be effective.
Lessl echoed those concerns, using the example of a rule that requires the amendments to be injected below the soil surface “at a rate which leaves no significant amount of material on the surface within one hour following injection.”
In most rural areas, getting to an injection site within an hour is impossible — and “significant amount” is vague.
“If the Department of Agriculture and the Georgia [Environmental Protection Division] cannot appropriately monitor it, then it doesn’t really matter how many rules you put into place,” he said.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture did not respond to a request for comment.
The public can review the proposed rules and submit comments to the agency at this website through Thursday, Dec. 1.