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House | March 17, 2015 | Committee Room | Agriculture

Full MP3 Audio File

[xx] here we go ladies and gentlemen in the back and if you are not here for this meeting if you could kind of step outside. Any of those conversations and if you would like to stick around you are more than welcome, we are delighted to have you here members and guests my name is Bob Stinburd and I'm one of the fortunate tour who is sharing and co-chairing the department, co-chairing the agriculture [xx] this is my first go this is operating in this capacity, but I must say that they have given me a fairly is Evan here to day to kind of get my people out so I appreciate that but we are certainly delighted to have you all with us and I would like to introduce if I can a few folks, one of them is the page where one page, that we will be working in this and today helping us out, and that's [xx] from Gaston and she's here courtesy of Speaker Team Horwad, and the Sergeant at Arms today are Charles Gadwin, Dean [xx] and Lee Clock, and we are thrilled to have those folks with us as well. Thank you very much. Today we will have the conducting a whole lot of business, we may not be conducting any business but we are going to [xx] the privilege of hearing from someone who's in authority in his field, and I think someone who's going to provide us with information would be very [xx] continued through this Legislative session. And that is Dr. William Showers who received his Bachelors Degree from the University of California Senator Barbara, with Masters Degree from The University of California Davis, and his Ph. Degree at the University of Hawaii, well those were three great [xx] there that's for sure. He is married with four children. He's a professor in the Department of The Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences of North Carolina State University, and he's Vice Chairman of the North Carolina Water Quality Workgroup, and has served at that capacity from 1999 until The President I was just speaking with Doctor  shawn a moment ago when I saw that  he was at the university of California Davis for a while, I shared with him that my son was to coach men's basketball out there and that is a beautiful spot and no question about that so without further ado Dr. William Shon would you please take the floor on the podium. I would like to thank the coach Chasper for inviting me to come out today thank you very much, and the members for giving me a couple of minutes of your time I know it's a very busy session and I'd just like to add a very brief presentation and then play time discussion and questions what I have to tell you today will be a bit of game changer in terms of how we handle sustainability in our water shades, so I don't have to tell you how important North Carolina agriculture is it's a major economic drive in our state but there is concerns about water quality this issues keep coming up and there is no really dinner resolution studies have been done they contradict each other but North Carolina Agriculture is extremely important not only in North Carolina but to the future of our country and our way of life as climate change, changes and gives us an new challenges the climate of Arizona will actually at some point move up into Mid West North, Carolina on other hand it's forecast that it will get a little bit warmer and a little bit wetter and so the South Eastern United State will become the production the country will become a primary agriculture center. Now we can't forecast when exactly when that will occur but it will be important for our children and our children's children in future that we get this right that we have sustainable watersheds and that protect the environment for our future generations. So I have had the privilege I being the director of the Rivernet Program since 2001, what the Rivernet Program does if you are not familiar with that is that we monitor Nitrate flux in the news and now the [xx] bearable basins. What we found is that there is waste monitored

that appropriate and ways to monitor that aren't appropriate. I know some people don't like the term monitoring, but monitoring is important to document that the changes that we make are effective and are protecting our environment and agricultural operations, and what we found is that there're tremendous main line on the bottom graph shows the nitric variations, the blue line on the bottom graph shows the discharge variations. Basically these are measured at stations that are attached to bridges, we attach them to bridges so when hurricanes come we don't lose as long as we don't lose the bridge, we're good to go. And, basically there's a lot of variation on a hourly and daily basis so if you go out and monitor with just one sample, once a week, you're missing most of the information this is an example of a recent study and you can see the green dots and the red triangles against the discharge curves can see that they're not capturing the variation at all. The problem with this type of monitoring is that it can give you random results, you're not really understanding if there is a problem and what type of problem there is and the truth of the matter is when I first started this program, the legislature asked me, where [xx] are the bad years, why are there [xx] in estuary and yet the next year everything is fine. And the reason is because climate oscillations affect our water quality and availability, now the red dots when Elnino warm periods occur, the blue dots are when the Elnino cold periods occurs, and the green bottom bars is the flax at [xx] which is the bottom of the [xx] base, and you can see that these isolations occur on about five to seven years time frame which is longer than the re-election circle of the House in the senate, but so if you didn't have this long term but you really know whether the legislation that has passed has been effective this is the concentration Vs the flax, and we had in 1996, a section laws I suggest a 30% reduction would improve use river quality, and nutrients strategy was adopted in 98 but overview was not fully implemented until 2003 and what you can see This climate oscillation, the concentration dropped in 2005 they came up in plato in 2008 turned the corner in 2010 and actually water quality is improving. Now, I did want to make one aside here when I look at this data, I have given talks that Purdue University in Ohio state and they look at our river water quality data and they're envious west we are looking at 10 times the concentration of nitrate. So, the water quality in North Carolina is good, and we need to keep it that way, and we're ery fortunate and that we have abundant wet lands and hybrid soils that allow us the opportunity to protect our water quality that other states don't have. So what we did to try and understand these trends is that we took about 50 or 60 thousand dollars worth of optical of instruments and put them in a kayak until a couple of graduate students entered a kayak and peddled down rivers to make measurements, every two to three feet of water quality. It turned out in some places to be more like kay-hiking instead of kayaking because they had to go over dead Edson and Watson things, but they amassed an amazing amount of data on the changes of nutrient quality in our rivers and this was one of my students thesis. This is Anthro kahari and you can see how the water quality is at stored up the top, cool and then it changes and gets a little bit more concentrated then it's diluted again and then it changes and get a little bit more concentrated again. Again, good water quality but we didn't expect to see this rapid changes as we went two and half miles down a river incidentally up here, you can see that there's a couple

of swine farms where the water quality is the best on the entire ridge, so we were looking for problems and we didn't quite understand this, we looked at the traditional land cover, land use, soil distributions and it didn't quite makes sense. What was unusual about this data was the rapid changes, but you couldn't measure any other way unless you had some students that were willing to peddle down the rivers and then we started to look at what we call the critical buffer intersection zones and this are zones in the river buffer where there's cultivated land that are underline by non wetlands soils which the soil scientists call non-hydric pre-pressure hydric soils so we call these the critical intersection zones. And then our reve reach data made sense, where we don't have critical buffer zones, intersection zones, the water quality improves. But where we have tributaries where we have that intersection of cultivated land in the buffer, with the non-wet man soils, the water quality increases. So, we think of this as this is where the landscape can leak into the river systems. Now, this is really important because what we can do then, with spatial analysis is we can turn this around and we can do the entire county. We can do the entire coastal plain. We can identify these critical areas, and then we can concentrate the resources that we have on where mediation are improving, stopping the lakes, and thereby protecting water quality. There isn't one type of agriculture that's associated with this it's not corn fields, it's not soya bean fields, it's not potry farms, it's all types of agriculture. And we're not looking at the field approach, we're looking at the Water shed approach So by turning us around we can identify areas where our money can be well spent to protect and improve water quality So, here is Duplin County, we can zoom in and we can see that the there are some areas where we don't need to protect it, buffers in other areas, where the buffers can be improved Now how effective are these buffers? This is a study we did up in Virginia, where we looked at a waste application field and we put wells in the field and out into the buffers and you can see within 10 feet the Nitrate is gone, and so my students like to say that's because actually around the world, but they're talking more about the Fermenter and not the Denitrifiers So there's a study that a number of you have been concerned about, this USGS Caple Study well they have identified 54 basins across the coastal plain of the North Carolina and divided them to background swine only and swine poultry basis what the idea of trying to identify whether the presences or absence of animals affect the water quantity and several limitations to the study which am sure is due to financial consraids they have small numbers they have captured the [xx] and they had no down string with [xx] council but given those limitation lets what the data reveals so here is the animal distribution that we got from that state that offers and from the NCDNER permit, data file, and when we look at the number of animals in the basin, versus the average Nitrate concentration measured by USGS there is no correlation. So the number of animals is not controlling water quality, and in fact when we look at the size of these basins we see that there's a relationship between the size and water quality. So, that made us focus on the buffers, we started to look at the type and quality of [xx] in these basins. We did a typical spatial analysis there has been a revolution in these spatial analytical techniques that can be employed, and we found the usual type of relationship that the amount of cultivated crops in a basin related to but did not control Nitrate concentrations, the amount of wetlands in a basin limited export when wetlands got about 60% but what appeared to be

the controlling chapter was this critical buffer in a section zone of cultivated land with non-wetland soils and so here we have an independent dataset that seems to agree with this controlling factor So we can define these areas and we can look at different ways to improve the the mediator protect, there's no safe port each watershed is going to be different, each land is going to be different, there are many ways to approach this it's not an exact science, I don't want indicate here that we have all the answers. So, what I am proposing is that this is the way forward. This is the way forward for agriculture, this is the way forward to protect water quality and we have partnership between the university NC State, this is a good time for this to occur because we've some funding from the Chancellors office, hydrologist across [xx] [xx] joined together in a research nertwork, NCDA has water shed programmes and water shed approch NCDA soil and water conservation, it has non lavatory volunteer across the programmes were actually rubber meets the ground, and we can focus on there resources we've had questions when Secretary [xx] And with commissioner [xx] and everybody agrees this is good idea. Why wouldn't be? To combine the resource, the university and the said agent that are charged with improving, g and protecting the agriculture and water quality So, North Carolina agriculture can be sustainable. This is a very important process that we are involved in. We can monitor effectively if we understand this climate isolation to document improvements that the public's money is being well spent. This water quality measurements are chronicle sample and this has led to problems and understanding how to re-mediate, how to protect and what the data need actually means makes available with water shade mappings, special analysis. If we combine the resources of the university and state agencies we can work together to move forward. So that's what I'm suggesting, with your support we can make this happen as Cameron Cook says, yes. Doctor Shawn thank you very much. I'm sure you caught the attention just about everyone here in this room. Some of those things I heard were real eye openers for me and kind of refuted a lot of what we hear from the other side as it relates to the environment and so forth and in particular our watersheds so thank you. I'm going to now over to two question from, first we'll entertain any questions from the body, legislative body, do you have any questions that you would like to address to the director? Yes Representative Daughtry. You mention at the very beginning that Arizona was going to become, I don't recall the words you said but North Carolina would be the place for agriculture, and obviously there is a climate change taking you didn't know how long it can take. Why is the climate changing? Is there any reason you can tell us that you know what's causing it well there's a combination of factors, natural and anthropogenic. We're in an active phase of the sun right now, greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere, ocean circulation is changing. I know climate change can be a controversial topic I think that most people agree that there would be climate change, I think the argument is the rate of climate change. But if you look at the climate forecast basically the center of continents are drying out. In Russia the Aral Sea is drying up, in Africa the Sahara is expanding there is a pattern that does not build well for the mid west. North Carolina because, will stick

out on the we're in the American climate, and so we will get a little bit warmer and a little bit wetter. We will not have the same fate that the mid west will have. Whether that happens in 50 years, or 100 years, I think nobody can tell you that. Representative [xx] follow up. One follow up. The climate's changing. Does that denote more storms or more unusual rather than we've been accustomed to. That's exactly correct. We'll have more extreme droughts and more extreme floods. What's happening right now, unfortunately for California, is that there is this high pressure zone that's sitting over the Pacific, because of the warm water, that's changed the jet streams. So the jet streams instead of coming down and bringing water and storms to the Pacific North West, Seattle Washington, Oregon it's coming down over Colorado, that's where we're heading. Flooding right now is the snow mountains in Mississippi River Valley and Missouri River Valley because of this extreme snowfall there. That's why we've had a cold winter here, because the jet stream normally would come up over the upper lations or to the west of us but now the other care can push down. So we had these no providence in North Carolina it means that we'll all have more variations, you're exactly right. Yes sir. That was Mr. Cleveland or Representative Cleveland. You mentioned that the aerial[sp?] when the sea's dried up because of climate change. I thought it dried up because of agriculture decisions made by the Soviet Union that actually almost pumped the thing dry and that it caused it to dry up. It wasn't really climate change. Am I wrong? You're right. There has been more intense agriculture and as we know, agriculture's one of the main users of water resources, but there hasn't been a constructors hasn't done an average often make up for better increase and extraction the more efficient of distributing a water that different area agriculture areas but also have been drying out the climate in the central part apartments Park lands being one of them chairman, Dicken this chair has a couple of questions and one very comment how many millions of years since the climate been changing. The climate has been changing since there's a little  out of the hot so, there's been glaciations in less than one period people look at climate change like is something no but it's actually even one being a aproache that you are say we are taking now with the university, with university, with dinah and with the North Carolina department of agriculture culture to you knowledge has this type of targeted science based approach to improve in our water sheds and the manner in which we look at how we're using our water and how we're attempting to keep the rivers and the water sheds clean. Is this a new approach for North Carolina? we have always in the university worked with NC dinah and with department of agriculture after all a number of their people are so we've had this personal, one or one, or group type associations, but the university now is formalizing this research network of hydrologist which is distributed in chaos and in the college of science and in engineering, there has been this loose kind of association where people have worked together, but we realize to tackle big problems we have to be organised and so the chances of this is given the [**] a small amount of funding to do just that and this is a perfect type of project to attack because it is a big problem. So we've had this informal associations we work very with the different the agencies but this large scale kind of formalized agreement is easement Senator Jackson A comment Mr. Chair. Yes sir.

Thank you so much Dr. Shahaward[sp] and we're there is no more important issue to agriculture or anybody else other than water and quality of water and it's refreshing to me to see this type of collaborative effort and we've realised that it not a purpose as you say but its certainly a deviation from the political science dominated discussion that we've heard in the past and I thank you for that. Thank you, Any other questions or comments yes representative [xx]. Thank you Mr. Chair Dr. Sharev[sp] I was wondering, I grew up some happiest days of my life fishing and swimming and [xx] river trent and the creeks around there I remember it is probably around 28 and we had 1995 up their earliest it's probably not long ago there was a big problem with hysteria in the water down there in the news, and apparently the water quality is getting better but you know over the years have noticed a lot of alerts and warnings about not eating the fish, one type of fish or another that sort of thing improving that much, are we getting away from threat from things like dysteria and is the fish safe to eat? I mean they just maybe beyond what you are talking about but I'm just wondering generally is a low quality improving in those areas too. Well what our monitoring data indicates is that we have sort of turned the corner and we are going in that right direction in 2010. So the legislation and the rules that we've adopted took about 7 years to take effect. The problem with most monitoring programs is they don't take into account these climate isolations so I'm not saying we're not going to have any problems in the future, we could get a very El Nino event in the Pacific, a huge flushing at the basin and bunch of nutrients go down into estuary and, we could have another spesfical[sp?] care which will be bad for tourism. But the nature of the synal bacteria, the toxic allergy has changed from being in the upper part of the estuary to moving down to the lower part of the estuary. I think we're headed in the right direction, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to be vigilant and apply the latest information and scientific methods to try to make things better. But what you all did in the late 90s in the early 2000s has made a difference, and I think that we need to continue to do that and university should be involved formally with the state agencies that are charged with taking care of these problems. There's lots of new techniques and science that's coming out. This critical buffer intersection zone is just one of the advances we can expect or the next several years and I think North Carolina needs to be proactive in terms of water quality and so like the newslaws[sp?] in 1998. I think this is a proactive step that will lead us in the right direction would solve all our problems, no. But I think it's a way to go where we can have a good chance of maintaining our environmental stability along with productive agriculture Are there any other questions from the legislature, yes Sir, Representative Yarborough. You keep mentioning that there are [xx] has gotten better and you showed that graph, but that graph appeared to be very flat to me. Can you show us and explain to us the actual improvement that are showing on that graph There are two graphs and this has been in our annual reports at the bottom are the green bars is the flux of nitrogen measured every 15 minutes. This represents half million analysis over this time period from 001 to 015 and that frequency captures the hydro-graphic variations where lower frequency sampling wouldn't and the surprising thing that came right out of this project was that we have these oscillations in nutrient flux and we related

that now to climate oscillation in fact there is a number of studies in the South Eastern United State, South Carolina and Georgia where they're recognizing now that these climate oscillations controlled discharge in water quality, this is kind of an emerging thing. Now up in the pacific, North West in Washington the salmon and the river water quality up there are controlled by the pacific decay oscillation another kind of oscillation, so every part of the world is affected by these different oscillations, Europe is affected by the North Atlantic oscillation and so on and so forth, so I guess our is water quality deciphering the trends is to understand what climate oscillations are important to us, and then we can some might predict what to expect. So super bowl is on top of this variation. What I'm showing here is the flax at the bottom line and then we have the monthly averages and then the three month running average as the line the monthly averages are the diamonds, and this side of things we're getting a little bit better in 03, 04, and then I think the concentration plateaued from 05 to 010, it took a jump up on 010 and 011, but since that time, the concentration has been dropping, now, understand that this represents hundreds of thousands of analysis that are averaged together but that trend is irrespective of the climate oscillation trend underneath it, and I think that has to do with improved waste water treatment plants conservation of water especially after the 07, 08 drought, but it does appear to me that things are getting better. Now we still going to suffer that  climate isolation in terms of receding water to new estuary experience. But I'm encouraged by this, I think we can make a difference. It looks pretty flat to me. What we have is the isolation there but I think you can agree that 2015 is lower in concentration than 2010 the end of the graph is lower than that large spiking, 2010 But it's still higher than 25 It still is, the fourth news which in strategy rolls over applied in 2003. Just remembered I was asked for a follow up I had [xx] That's fine though. Any other questions from the legislature? I think we got a few minutes here and I want to see if there's anyone out in the audience who would like to either comment or ask a question Mr. Speaker, but I'm going to do, I guess it's kind of a rhetorical question but it seems to me Doctor, that with some of the actions that were taken here over the last 10, 12, 13, 14 years that, North Carolina is certainly in a very good position moving forward as it relates to agriculture especially in light of some of those concerns that I heard that other parts of the nation and the world they're experiencing is that a correct assumption?   I think that we are blessed with much better water quality than other parts of the country especially, in mid-west my colleagues in Ohio and Indian, a but I think we need to be proactive to protect the water quality at the same time making intelligent cost effective decisions to promote agriculture which is an important business driver in the state. So, we are not starting at a point like in the Mississippi river valley, where the water quality is bordering on the drinking water standard. In North Carolina, we have a good water quality. Not to say that aren't some problems that need to be addressed like the algae blooms and the News River, the News river is somewhat unusual and the unlike the [xx] its has a dog like endorse into a sound and isn't as flash much as the has done [xx] I think that if we

are proactive, we can maintain and improve our situation Thank you [xx] are their any questions from any of our guests that they will like to bring forward at this time. Yes I I have representative [xx] as well Tthis is a question that only vaguely resembles what we're doing here today but I've just been. I wanted to wait to be offered a chance to ask a question This is the question having dad ask honest to go the scientists for many years and if I had an opportunity because of climate change but I'm not a scientist but I've been always an avid reader, and I grew up in 1960's and 1970's and colds there, the terror there is that we were entering ice age. I remember seeing documentaries about scientists trying to cede cloud to get that evaporation back to condensation and run out huge black tops on the ice sheets Greenland to absorb sand drive to twilight and certainly freeze to death and all kind of stuff, and obviously that have changed since that time, and I don't know what suggest casual reading of ice course that's in all that. We've been through this process of heating and cooling and heating and cooling, probably a dozen I don't know the exact number many many times is the past. So, does anybody have any ideas as in, to me in the popular scientific press we make the same mistake people do in my field is finances. We always project what is going on right now instantly in to the future. So, that the market is going down, that's a terrible time grown up for five years. It's a great time to invest which causes the opposite of the train. Do we do the same thing in science or is it, or does anyone have any idea this part of the cycle will continue before we go back to the other part of the cycle. I'm worried about [xx], I'm worried about going to the next ice age and all that time Well, actually I have done a bit of work on that with my [xx] of drug bond of Columbia  University and we looked at climate in the North Atlantic with ice wrapped debris and sediment rock and basically the Red Rock Sea cooled down 4000 years ago. The last ice age 125, 128 thousand years ago right before the moment of ice age the Labrador Sea cooled down 4000 years ago. So basically I think most people agree given the normal climate forcing functions which is the sun and the orbital, operations itself we should be going into an ice age right now. So you're right. If there were no people on earth just the natural forcing functions things would be getting cooler. But when we invented agriculture and domesticated animals, [xx] thousand years ago, we actually started remising CO2 in to the atmosphere so our present interglacial warm climate that's lasted over the last 10, 000 years which is extremely unusual if you look at the previous ice ages warm cold periods which only lasted about 3 or 4, 000 years is probably due to the release of CO2 by human agricultural domestication of animal activities so in a way we've emularated climate and prevented that isolation. I think in the future we're going to be using fossil fuel energy resources, there's nothing colatorates[sp?] on the ocean and I'm sorry, this is going off kind of a topic, but to answer your question, right now in the oil drawing fields were able to inject CO2 into oil fields for enhanced recovery. As you can tell I'm not one of these people that run around and say the sky is falling I think and do we figure out this solution and I think in the future we'll be able to control atmospheric CO2 and control climate by like Co2 sequestration in geological [xx] just like we're doing in the oil fields right now. So we may generate power by variety of means, solar power, wind power, total power in Australia right now they're running a diesel organization plant with wave power. But [xx] fuels will always be one of our staples. But it doesn't mean that we'll be running around with cars with exhaust pipes. Our cars will be electric, we'll produce that power, and [xx] those and inject that into geological reservoirs and control atmospheric Co2, I can see that happening in the future. If that answers your the question. Thank you Representative Collin, thank you Dr. Showers, and seeing there're no other questions this meeting The House of Agriculture Committee is adjourned.