B&G Farms in Grant County fined $20,000 by state

BY THE HERALD STAFFJanuary 25, 2013 

ROYAL CITY -- B&G Farms and owner Mike Brown are being fined $20,000 by the state for what it calls extreme soil erosion on Brown's farmland in Grant County.

The land north of Royal City is on what's called Smyrna Bench, a flat area between two steep hills above and below it, on the north side of the Saddle Mountains.

A heavy storm July 20 sent a large amount of soil down the hill and into Lower Crab Creek, covering the road, smothering fish habitat and polluting the creek with mud, according to the Washington state Department of Ecology.

An investigation found B&G Farms' measures were inadequate to avoid erosion on the Smyrna Bench, even though Brown signed a settlement agreement in 2004 requiring the use of best management farming practices to avoid erosion, according to Ecology.

Prior erosion problems on the property led to the Washington Department of Agriculture settlement agreement reached with Brown.

It directed B&G Farms to establish a formal farm plan and to use tillage and cultivation practices that maintain or improve the condition of the soil to minimize soil erosion. The local conservation district developed the farm plan based on U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service standards that prescribed practices that would have lessened the heavy runoff in July, according to Ecology.

In addition, Ecology issued a legal order in 2008, with a penalty of $9,000, to compel B&G Farms to improve the condition of the soil and incorporate anti-erosion farming practices after another erosion event occurred at the same place.

In July, Ecology inspectors found that B&G Farms farming methods had not changed since Ecology's 2009 enforcement action.

Ecology has ordered B&G Farms to develop a new farm plan that will aggressively address erosion issues on the Smyrna Bench property. The plan is to be submitted to Ecology by March 30. Regular inspections are planned to ensure compliance.

Lower Crab Creek is identified by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as habitat for chinook and steelhead trout.

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