Cattle producer-members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are concerned with misinterpretations regarding the regulation of rural livestock manure, the subject of Wednesday's U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials hearing titled "Superfund Laws and Animal Agriculture."
"Manure is natural, and it's downright absurd to suggest this organic fertilizer should suddenly be regulated under Superfund Laws," says NCBA Director of Environmental Issues Tamara McCann Thies. "Manure management is already well-regulated under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and countless state laws."
Over the past few years, some have suggested Superfund Laws [Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 and Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986] should be applied to manure from animal feeding, farming and ranching operations.
"America's cattle producers are leading exemplary, long-term stewardship practices on their land, actively working to protect and improve the environment every day," says NCBA President and Texas cattle producer Jim McAdams. "I'm actually quite offended that someone would attempt to label our well-cared for open spaces as Superfund sites. It's just plain anti-beef activist hogwash. Cattle operations do not fall under Superfund Laws, manure is not a Superfund waste, and fields using manure as a natural fertilizer are not Superfund sites either."
The Superfund Laws were created to provide for cleanup of toxic waste dumps and hazardous chemical spills, to force reporting of releases of hazardous chemicals and to enable emergency response. Both CERCLA and EPCRA contain provisions exempting fertilizer and other substances used in agricultural operations from regulation under them.
"Manure is a natural, organic material beneficially recycled as a fertilizer, and it actually replaces the need for commercial fertilizer," explains Thies, "clearly not a Superfund concern. It is generally produced near the area where it is needed, spread quickly and efficiently, and used in place of man-made fertilizers transported by trucks across the country."
"Manure contains many nutrients that are important to plant and grass growth and is an important source of organic matter on our ranch," says McAdams. "The claim that manure use on farms and ranches somehow falls under Superfund Laws is not supported either by the science or legislative history. We ask Congress to confirm that it never intended to regulate manure under CERCLA or EPCRA."
Without such clarification, every livestock or poultry operation, or agricultural field or organic farming operation on which manure or manure compost is spread for fertilizer in this country could be subject to comprehensive and highly regulated cleanup under Superfund law. NCBA supports Congressional legislation to clarify manure's exemption from Superfund.
"It certainly was not Congress' intent, and indeed it would be incongruous, to apply CERCLA or EPCRA to manure which contains naturally occurring organic compounds such as orthopho-sphate, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide which occur naturally in the environment in the same form as they appear in manure, but exempt the application of chemical fertilizers," says Thies.