The National Pork Producers Council submitted extensive comments to the Environmental Protection Agency in response to the Notice of Data Availability for proposed changes to regulations governing concentrated animal feeding operations. The draft rules for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Regulations and Effluent Limitation Guidelines and Standards for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations cover all species of livestock and poultry and are scheduled to become final in December 2002.

NPPC's comments highlighted many key improvements proposed in the NODA that will help pork operations make major and continual improvements in their environmental performance. NPPC President Barb Determan made special note of the emphasis EPA placed on comprehensive nutrient management plans and the use of environmental management systems.

"NPPC is pleased that EPA has embraced much of our broad vision for how the Clean Water Act should work for pork producers," says Determan. “In particular, we are pleased to see continued support for the wide-scale adoption and implementation of CNMPs by all producers, the appropriate use of EMSs and efforts to ensure the responsible application of manure under all circumstances.

"Our concern is that EPA’s final rule be based on sound science and is affordable, achievable and sustainable for pork producers of all sizes and geographical locations," she adds.

NPPC continues to insist that cost effective and workable alternatives befound for mandates in the proposed rule that are either technically or financially impossible to achieve. Determan points to the 'zero-discharge standard' as one example.

"EPA's 'zero-discharge' standard is prohibitively expensive and impractical and will likely lead to further concentration by forcing family pork operations out of business,” says Determan. “We think this is bad public policy because it closes the door on other practical, cost effective, and environmentally sound technologies.

"The proposed 'zero-discharge' standard is impractical because there is no livestock manure management system that can have zero-discharge under all conceivable rainfall conditions,” continues Determan. “Producers will be forced by this policy to risk permit violations due to the vagaries ofweather, even when they are properly managing systems designed to provide great environmental protection.”

Independent economic analysis done by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute shows that the 'zero-discharge' standard in the proposed regulations would dramatically increase the probability that significant numbers of hog operations of all sizes in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions would be driven out of business.

"EPA estimates that it will cost $281,328 over 10 years for a midwestern pork operation with 1,460 hogs to comply with its proposed CAFO rule," says Determan. "For a 3,444 head farrow-to-finish swine operation in the Midwest, capital costs alone would total $332,000."

The NODA comments point out the numerous instances where EPA has responded to NPPC’s concerns that were raised this summer with the proposed rule.These include: 1) greater use of site-specific determinations; 2) better cost estimates, data, and economic modeling techniques; 3) better groundwater discharge standards; and 4) other matters. Determan notes that in those instances when NPPC believes EPA overstepped its legal authority, alternatives were offered that would allow the goals of the rule to be achieved.