In recent years, the increased size and consolidation of agricultural operations including poultry, swine and dairy operations have been the focus of an increasing number of citizen complaints and concern about possible health impacts. A 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences called on EPA to improve its method for estimating emissions from animal feeding operations, also known as AFOs â€“ a key step in mitigating air pollution from those operations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an air quality compliance agreement to address emissions from certain AFOs. In cooperation with swine, poultry and dairy operations, EPA hopes to use a monitoring program to estimate acceptable levels of emissions from different types and sizes of farms.
According to Dave Roper, chairman of the National Pork Producers Councilâ€™s Environment Committee and a member of the USDA's federal advisory committee on agricultural air emissions, before these policy changes can happen both farmers and regulators need to know how the air laws apply to farms of different size, design and location.
"EPA officials in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations and scientists of the National Academy of Sciences agreed that sound scientific data was missing to enforce the current air laws," says Roper, a pork producer from Kimberly, Idaho. "Many believe that federal and state air regulators currently lack the information needed to correctly interpret current laws for animal production. Climate, animal numbers and age, and farm management are all key variables that affect emissions. Until science interprets these factors, livestock producers are at a loss to know if the laws apply to their farms."
A second part of this agreement provides legal protections for past emissions if participating pork producers meet all the requirements of the agreement and fully comply with the subsequent regulatory policies for applicable requirements. Only producers who sign the consent agreement with EPA and pay a nominal penalty are released from potential liability for past violations that may have occurred prior to the new air policies.
AFO operators participating in the agreement will pay a civil penalty of between $200 and $100,000, based on the size and number of farms in their operation, and also will contribute to a fund that will cover the cost of the two-year emissions monitoring program. Qualifying AFOs may sign up to participate within 90 days following publication of the agreement in the Federal Register.
"All producers, whether they signed the agreement or not, will be subject to applicable permitting, emissions reporting and other compliance requirements once the data are analyzed and EPA publishes new national livestock air emissions standards," Roper says.
NPPC will follow-up this announcement in coming days by hosting four regional meetings for pork producers on Thursday, February 10th in Raleigh, N.C.; Friday, February 11th in Indianapolis, Ind.; Tuesday February 15th in Des Moines, Iowa and Wednesday, February 16th in Kansas City, Mo.
EPA will accept public comment on the agreement for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register. For information on how to submit comments, go to www.epa.gov/compliance/agreements/afo