Ag Groups Pleased with EPA CAFO Ruling

New rule appears the Environmental Protection Agency is complying with previous court's interpretation of the Clean Water Act. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jul 6, 2006

A new Environmental Protection Agency rule regulating concentrated animal feeding operations received positive feedback from the agriculture community. The proposed regulation, published in the July 5 Federal Register, revises several parts of EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System  and Effluent Limitation Guidelines for CAFOs.

It is a revision of a rule issued in February 2003 that required CAFOs over a certain size to obtain National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits and to develop and implement nutrient management plans. Livestock and commodity groups challenged the 2003 CAFO rule in federal court, arguing that the Clean Water Act requires NPDES permits only for producers who discharge.

In 2005, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled EPA only had the authority to regulate actual discharges, not the potential to discharge in the event of a rare, heavy storm. The Court confirmed a provision in the 2003 rule that classified "discharges" of manure applied to land as agricultural runoff, not as stormwater discharges subject to Clean Water Act regulation. CAFOs that apply manure, litter or processed wastewater would not need to apply for NPDES permits if the only discharge from those facilities is agricultural storm water. EPA will require only CAFOs that discharge or propose to discharge to apply for a permit. 

It also ruled that CAFOs with NPDES permits must submit detailed nutrient management plan for review by their state environmental regulatory agency and for comments by the public. The court ordered EPA to revise the 2003 rule.

Randy Spronk, chairman of the National Pork Producers Council's Environment Committee and a hog producer from Minnesota, says the initial review of the rule indicates that EPA has proposed an effective regulatory program that maintains clean water while keeping regulatory costs for producers low.

"We're happy with the EPA's release of the proposed rule," adds Bill Chase, National Corn Growers Association's Production and Stewardship Action Team chairman. "It appears EPA is complying with the court's interpretation of the Clean Water Act."

Comments on the proposed rule are due by Aug. 14, 2006. A copy of the rule is available on EPA's Web site at www.epa.gov/npdes/regulations/cafo_revisedrule.pdf. Five public meetings are scheduled for:

  • July 24, Fayetteville, N.C.
  • July 25, Ames, Iowa
  • Aug. 1, Golden, Colo.
  • Aug. 2, Dallas
  • Aug. 3 Sacramento, Calif.