The National Pork Producers Council has expressed frustration and anger over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s continuing efforts to develop costly agricultural regulations that provide few if any additional environmental benefits.
EPA Tuesday reached a settlement with several environmental groups on a lawsuit that challenges Clean Water Act permitting regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations. NPPC is part of that ongoing litigation. The CAFO Rule, which was issued Oct. 31, 2008, sets a zero-discharge standard for manure from CAFOs getting into waterways and imposes penalties – $37,500 per day – on operations that do have discharges.
Prior to the 2008 rule, CAFOs were less likely to be held liable for discharges, and land application of manure for crop production was unregulated under the Clean Water Act. While the CAFO Rule brought large livestock operations fully under the Clean Water Act, it allows them to operate without a federal permit – and not be penalized – as long as they do not have discharges. This approach was strongly affirmed in 2005 by a federal appeals court.
“With this one-sided settlement, EPA yanked the rug out from under America’s livestock farmers,” said Michael Formica, NPPC’s chief environmental counsel. “NPPC is looking at all appropriate legal responses to EPA’s disappointing course of action.”
In the settlement deal, EPA agreed to:
• Issue guidance by May 28, 2010, for what constitutes a “proposal to discharge” by a CAFO. Operations presumed
to be discharging would need to get permits.
• Issue regulations requiring all CAFOs – even if there is no evidence they are not properly managing their manure –
to submit the kind of detailed information that would normally be included in a Clean Water Act CAFO permit.
• Make available to the public all the information that CAFOs are required to submit.
“This agreement sets the stage for new Clean Water Act permitting measures that will add to producers’ costs, drive more farmers out of business, increase concentration in livestock production to comply and hurt rural economies,” said Randy Spronk, a Minnesota pork producer who heads NPPC’s environmental committee. “And the measures will do nothing really to improve water quality.”
“Additionally, the settlement was negotiated in private and without consultation or input from the regulated farming community,” Spronk said. “This flies in the face of the Obama administration’s pledges to operate government more transparently. And, in this economy, the administration should be enacting measures that create jobs, not implementing regulations that put American farmers out of business.”