The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has registered their frustration and anger over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) seemingly ongoing efforts to develop costly agricultural regulations that provide few if any additional environmental benefits.

Concerns arose over EPA’s settlement deal 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 of $37,500/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 without penalty, as long as they do not have discharges. This approach was strongly affirmed in 2005 by a federal appeals court.

In the 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 to submit detailed information that would normally be included in a Clean Water Act CAFO permit.
  • Make 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 and hurt rural economies, but do nothing to improve water quality. NPPC also noted 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.