In early 2009, the groups filed a federal lawsuit in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans claiming the E.P.A. gave too much discretion to farm operators in determining which farms needed permits to discharge waste into waterways. The settlement requires the E.P.A. to gather information about farms that do not have discharge permits and then asses whether they should be regulated. E.P.A. said it would propose a rule to collect information from the farms and take final action on the proposed rule within two years.
E.P.A. has agreed to gather more information about C.A.F.O.s and will examine the number of animals, how much waste they produce and how waste is stored and disposed of — whether it is applied to farm land as fertilizer, shipped to another location or used for other purposes.