WASHINGTON — Deep frustration and anger was expressed May 27 by the National Pork Producers Council (N.P.P.C.) over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (E.P.A.) continuing efforts to develop what N.P.P.C. is calling “costly agricultural regulations that provide few if any additional environmental benefits.”
On May 25, E.P.A. reached a settlement with several environmental groups on a lawsuit that challenges Clean Water Act permitting regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (C.A.F.O.s). N.P.P.C. is part of that ongoing litigation. The C.A.F.O. Rule, which was issued Oct. 31, 2008, sets a zero-discharge standard for manure from C.A.F.O.s getting into waterways and imposes penalties — $37,500 a day — on operations that do have discharges.
Before the 2008 rule, C.A.F.O.s were less likely to be held liable for discharges, and land application of manure for crop production was unregulated under the Clean Water Act. Although the C.A.F.O. 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, according to N.P.P.C.
“With this one-sided settlement, E.P.A. yanked the rug out from under America’s livestock farmers,” said Michael Formica, N.P.P.C.’s chief environmental counsel. “N.P.P.C. is looking at all appropriate legal responses to E.P.A.’s disappointing course of action.”
In the settlement deal, E.P.A. agreed to:
? Issue guidance by May 28, 2010, for what constitutes a “proposal to discharge” by a C.A.F.O. Operations presumed to be discharging would need to get permits.
? Issue regulations requiring all C.A.F.O.s — 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 C.A.F.O. permit.
? Make available to the public all the information that C.A.F.O.s are required to submit.
“This agreement sets the stage for new Clean Water Act permitting measures that will add to producers’ costs, drive more farmers out of business, increase concentration in livestock production to comply and hurt rural economies,” said Randy Spronk, a Minnesota pork producer who heads N.P.P.C.’s environmental committee. “And the measures will do nothing really to improve water quality.
“Additionally, the settlement was negotiated in private and without consultation or input from the regulated farming community,” Mr. Spronk said. “This flies in the face of the Obama administration’s pledges to operate government more transparently. And, in this economy, the administration should be enacting measures that create jobs, not implementing regulations that put American farmers out of business.”