The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under pressure from environmental activist groups in Iowa, has released a draft work plan in which the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) would agree to undertake the inspection of about 8,000 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) over the next five years.

If EPA and Iowa DNR enter into the agreement to inspect all CAFO-sized operations in the state, it would cover hog producers in operations with over 2,500 head, and eventually could include those with over 750 head, says Eldon McAfee, attorney for Beving, Swanson & Forrest, PC, in Des Moines, who represents the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) in such matters.

Environmental factions in Iowa have hammered the EPA for what it claims is the failure of Iowa DNR to adequately monitor and require discharge permits of the state’s livestock operations for manure spills that pollute the state’s waterways.

The Iowa DNR and livestock interests have argued that CAFOs do not need federal permits for discharges because state law already prohibits any discharges into waterways. DNR has the authority and has taken action for any violations of state law.

McAfee says, “We believe this action by EPA is devoting state resources and hiring people to inspect confinement operations as to whether they discharge and need a discharge permit is a waste of state resources when those CAFOs cannot by law discharge.”

The legal counsel says the approach EPA is taking with the Iowa DNR is to inspect livestock facilities to ensure they are not discharging. Most hog facilities contain manure in covered deep pits, thus minimizing the chance of a discharge. If an accidental discharge occurs, those conditions that caused the discharge can be corrected and by federal law do not require producers to get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, McAfee stresses.

“I think what the environmentalist petitioners are wanting is something that the law doesn’t give them. They are asking that the law be enforced like they wish it was written, not like it really is written,” he explains.

McAfee says the IPPA believes that the money used for these unjustified inspections of confinement operations could be better spent on programs to improve environmental protection.

In his talk on Jan. 23 at the Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines, McAfee will provide further details to producers on the expected agreement by DNR to inspect CAFOs over the next five years.