The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a major consent agreement with agriculture to study air emissions from livestock, poultry and egg production operations across the country.

The two-year benchmark study will be used to set national air policies, identify farm emission thresholds and then regulate excessive levels.

“National restrictions on air emissions will lower air emissions from livestock and poultry farms across the country,” says National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Keith Berry, Greencastle, IN, producer.

Before these policy changes can occur, both farmers and regulators need to understand how the air laws apply to farms of different sizes, design and location, according to Dave Roper, chairman of NPPC's Environment Committee.

“EPA officials in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations and scientists of the National Academy of Sciences agreed that sound scientific data was missing to enforce the current air laws,” adds Roper, Kimberly, ID, pork producer.

“We believe pretty firmly that there are a lot of areas in the country where there isn't an issue of air emissions at all,” he says. “With this study, these areas will be identified once and for all.” The second part of the agreement provides legal protection for past emissions if participating producers meet all the requirements of the agreement and fully comply with regulations that become established.

But Roper stresses this only applies to producers who sign the consent agreement and pay a small “penalty” fee that starts at $200, based on size and type of operation.

“All producers, whether they sign the agreement or not, will be subject to applicable permitting, emissions reporting and other compliance requirements once the data are analyzed and EPA publishes new national livestock air emissions standards,” says Roper.

University experts will conduct the EPA study. Purdue University will manage the study, oversee quality assurance, financial accounting and provide status reports to EPA, industry and the general public.

Pork producers interested in signing up should go to the EPA Web site to obtain a copy of the agreement: www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/agreements/caa/cafo-agr-050121.odf.