The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will collect information about farms to determine if more should be regulated as part of a settlement with environmental groups concerned about water pollution.

The EPA settlement was reached Tuesday with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Those groups filed a federal court appeal in 2009, claiming the EPA provided certain farms too much discretion regarding discharging waste into waterways.

The settlement forces EPA to review farms that don’t have discharge permits and determine if they should be regulated.

EPA said it would propose a rule to collect information from farms and take final action on the proposed rule within two years. It will seek public comment as part of that process.

Under the settlement, EPA would collect more information on confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs including the number of animals raised, manure produced, how it is handled and whether it is used as fertilizer or shipped to another location.

CAFOs include 2,500 swine weighing more than 55 lb. or 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 lb.

NPPC’s Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel, criticized the deal because farmers were not consulted.

He says the settlement conflicts with a number of court rulings, and if implemented, would lead to larger livestock operations as farmers expand to offset the costs of manure management systems the EPA could require.

Formica notes the pork industry has taken steps over the last 15 years to control manure runoff, while beef and poultry operations don’t have the same procedures in place.