Last year the Environmental Protection Agency inspected a feedlot in St. Francis, Kan. That inspection disclosed some violations of the feedlot operator's permit. The inspector discussed the findings with the operator, Mike Callicrate, and prepared a notice of violation indicating changes that needed to be made. This carries no monetary penalties, it's just an effort to make sure that the operator understands the changes he needs to make to stay consistent with his permit. Shortly after that Callicrate began attacking EPA online, claiming they said hay was a water pollutant. EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks says it's important to stick to the facts and they felt like they needed to set the record straight.
"The violation was on the basis of uncontrolled, unmanaged feedstocks that included things like distillers grain and other feeds, it did not include hay," Brooks said. "Nothing in the notice of violation, nothing in our communications with Callicrate, and nothing in release of the announcement of the violation said he was being notified because he had hay improperly stored. It was distillers grain, silage and other feeds that leech water pollutant."
Brooks says that while everyone is entitled to their own opinion whether it's about EPA or anything else, you are not entitled to your own facts.
"We wanted to be sure that we shared with farmers and ranchers the facts about our inspection of the Callicrate feedyard, the facts about the conversations we had with management, the facts about the notice of violation," Brooks said. "And especially to take on this myth that Mr. Callicrate is promoting that EPA noticed him for violations because of hay. That is not factual, it is wrong, it is incorrect and really it's kind of inflammatory."
Brooks says responsible agriculture media and agricultural organizations did the right thing by contacting EPA and asking for the facts when Callicrate began spinning this story. He says by sharing the true facts with them, their perceptions and conclusions about the situation have been very good.
"While EPA is not exactly the most popular federal agency out on the farm and ranch, in this case EPA was doing what the law required us to do," Brooks said. "And Mr. Callicrate was engaging in unnecessary and inflammatory misstatements."
According to Brooks, Callicrate's legal team recognized immediately that changes needed to be made at the feedlot, contacted EPA and told them that the inspector had found violations that warranted the notice, and that their client would make those changes. He says that was very important to EPA as all they are trying to do is make sure that a permitted operation complies with the permit.
"At a time when it's even more important for everyone involved in environmental protection, farming and ranching to deal on the basis of facts and law and have our disagreements in a civil, respectful way," Brooks said. "This was one that we just needed to try to push back on from the start because it was not based on fact, it was argumentative and in a lot of ways incorrect."
If you would like to read a column Brooks authored on the situation, click HERE.