New Rules Guide Livestock to a Greener Future

WASHINGTON, D.C., US - The United States has issued tough new pollution rules on livestock farmers representing a major boost for environmental protection.
calendar icon 14 April 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Photo: StockXchange

Severe penalties will now be imposed on any farmer who continues to allow their manure to pollute rivers and streams.

The National Pork Producers Council have shown support for these new rules. They say that these changes represent a monumental shift in the federal policy and regulations that govern animal feeding operations. NPPC President Bryan Black, said “they represent substantial improvements in water quality protection, and there is no question that as an entire sector, livestock and poultry agriculture will improve their water quality performance as a result.”

CAFO regulations issued in 2003 imposed a policy of zero discharges from large livestock and poultry farms. Covering approximately 5,000 large hog-feeding operations, they required producers to draw up detailed plans for managing manure and to obtain federal Clean Water Act (CWA) permits.

But a federal court decided in a 2005 case that EPA only had the authority under the CWA to require a permit for a CAFO to discharges not to operate. Since most swine CAFOs are designed, constructed, maintained and operated to meet a zero-discharge standard, few need – or would want – a CWA permit.

In its comments, NPPC cited data showing that, in eight key pork producing states, the average rate of hog-producing facilities discharging is less than 1 percent. “The rarity of these discharges...shows that a presumption that swine CAFOs are commonly discharging … is unwarranted,” said the organization.

EPA’s new rules propose that all CAFOs meet a zero-discharge standard. CAFOs that do not discharge or are not designed to discharge would not be required to obtain CWA permits. Such operations can voluntarily notify EPA that they meet the zero-discharge standard, which will protect them from enforcement actions.

A CAFO that fails to obtain a CWA permit or to notify EPA that it meets the zero-discharge standard and subsequently has a discharge is subject to fines of up to $32,500 a day. These stiff penalties will provide a significant incentive to pork producers to protect water quality, even without a federal permit. Also, most producers without federal permits will still need state water quality permits. State standards generally meet or exceed federal standards.

NPPC took exception to a few points in the final draft of the EPA regulation. For example, it requested several changes to reduce the administrative burden on hog farmers trying to comply with the voluntary certification process. In addition, NPPC joined with other livestock organizations in arguing strongly that, under the Clean Water Act, EPA can fine a CAFO for discharging but has no authority to levy additional fines on it for not obtaining a CWA permit in the first place.

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