15.20.11.04

.04 Certification Process — Agricultural Certainty.

A. A person who applies for certification for an operation shall submit to the Department the following:

(1) An application on a Department form that includes a farm parcel in its entirety but need not include all farm parcels under the applicant’s management;

(2) Documentation from the local soil conservation district that the current SCWQP for the operation is fully implemented to address all soil conservation and water quality issues;

(3) A map identifying the location and boundaries of the operation showing field identification numbers and location of BMPs;

(4) A current NMP that is fully implemented and is developed for the operation in accordance with regulations adopted by the Department; and

(5) A report from a certified verifier engaged by the applicant that contains the information specified in §B of this regulation.

B. A certified verifier who complies with §C of this regulation and is engaged by the owner or operator of an operation to prepare a certified report in support of an application under §A of this regulation shall:

(1) Inspect the operation before making the report;

(2) Review all relevant records, including but not limited to those provided in §A of this regulation; and

(3) Prepare a report on a Department form, supplemented by the verifier, that confirms the following:

(a) The SCWQP provided by the applicant for the operation is being fully implemented and addresses all nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff issues on the operation;

(b) The NMP provided by the applicant for the operation is being implemented in accordance with applicable Department regulations COMAR 15.20.07 and 15.20.08;

(c) The agricultural management and BMPs implemented on the operation which enable that operation to meet the approved local or Chesapeake Bay TMDL baseline requirements as determined by an analysis using the MNTT; and

(d) No deficiencies exist and no corrective measures are needed on the operation.

C. A person who holds an interest in an operation may not act as a certified verifier for that operation.

D. Prior to approving an application for certification under the Program, the Department:

(1) Shall review the application and information submitted to assure that it is complete, true, and accurate and notify the applicant of any deficiencies;

(2) Shall notify MDE by providing a copy of the application or any portion of the application as requested by MDE, after receipt of which MDE shall advise the Department if:

(a) The operation holds or has applied for a permit from MDE;

(b) MDE will participate in an inspection of the operation, with the verifier if requested by MDE; and

(c) Either:

(i) MDE approves the operation, if the operation holds or has applied for a permit from MDE, for participation in the Program; or

(ii) Any conditions are required to be satisfied by the operation, if the operation holds or has applied for a permit from MDE, before MDE would approve the operation for participation in the Program;

(3) Shall determine the compliance status of the operation and applicant with all the Department’s laws, regulations, and permit conditions applicable to nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment;

(4) Shall review information submitted by the certified verifier to assure that it meets the requirements set forth in this chapter;

(5) May inspect the operation, with the verifier if requested by the Department, and request records pertaining to the SCWQP, NMP or management otherwise related to addressing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment issues on the operation in order to verify the application; and

(6) Shall retain as required by law the application, information, and records in a manner that protects its confidentiality prior to certification and retain all records and information in a manner that protects the identity of the person applying in perpetuity.

E. A certification may be approved if the Department determines that an operation:

(1) Meets the laws, regulations, rules, and permit conditions applicable to the operation at the time of certification;

(2) Has no outstanding conditions resulting in movement of nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment that impacts water quality;

(3) Receives approval from MDE if the operation is permitted or has an application submitted to be permitted by MDE;

(4) Is managed under a current SCWQP that fully implements BMPs to address all nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment runoff on the operation;

(5) Manages fertility using a current NMP fully implemented in accordance with COMAR 15.20.07 and 15.20.08;

(6) Is in compliance with all State and federal laws, regulations, and permit conditions related to agricultural sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment on the operation;

(7) Meets the agricultural nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reduction thresholds required for achieving the local and Chesapeake Bay TMDLs approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the time of certification as determined by MNTT; and

(8) Enters into the Certainty agreement required under §F of this regulation.

F. The person responsible for the management of an operation approved for the Program shall enter into a Certainty agreement with the Department identifying requirements for maintaining the certification including:

(1) Continued compliance with applicable local, State, and federal laws, regulations, and permit requirements pertaining to nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment control;

(2) Maintenance and full implementation of a current NMP;

(3) Maintenance of BMPs that address nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment control, and are part of the SCWQP and any other BMPs necessary to achieve certification;

(4) Meeting record-keeping and annual reporting requirements;

(5) Agreeing to site reviews and inspection of records at least once every 3 years to verify current conditions on the operation and compliance with certification requirements and recognizing that the Department reserves the right to inspect more frequently if it determines a need;

(6) Agreeing to notify the Department no later than 60 days prior to any change in the owner or operator;

(7) Agreeing to notify the Department as soon as practicable, but in any case no later than 60 days after the occurrence of any condition or event which would impact the certification under the Program, including but not limited to property title transfers or changes in the operation, pursuant to Regulation .05A(2) of this chapter, that result in or increase nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment runoff or change adherence to TMDL baseload; and

(8) Agreeing to address within a time frame established by the Department, after concurrence by MDE, any nitrogen, phosphorus, or sediment runoff problem arising on a certified operation during the certification period through no fault of the operator.