The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is expressing deep frustration and anger over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) continuing efforts to develop potentially costly agricultural regulations that may provide few if any additional environmental benefits. At the end of May, EPA reached a settlement with several environmental groups on a lawsuit that challenges Clean Water Act permitting regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). 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 a 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.) In the new 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.
NPPC said the settlement sets the stage for new Clean Water Act measures that will add to producers’ costs, drive more farmers out of business, increase concentration in livestock production to comply and hurt rural economies, and that it will do nothing to improve water quality. The organization also pointed out that the settlement was negotiated in private and without consultation or input from the regulated farming community, which is contrary to the Obama administration’s pledge to operate government more transparently.

“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.”

Read more about this issue on the EPA website at cfpub.epa.gov/ or on the NPPC website at www.nppc.org/News/ or www.hogsonthehill.org/.