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EPA Enacts New Livestock Reporting Rule

posted on January 23, 2009

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. On an extraordinary day in the life of America, more than one million people gathered in Washington this week to witness history in the making.

At the stroke of noon, Barack Obama officially became the nation's first black president, calling on the people to unite in hope against the "gathering clouds and raging storms" of war and economic hardship.

Amid his 18-minute inaugural address, President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda for his administration, Congress and the American people.

The centerpiece of the plan, an $825 billion measure to stimulate the economy with spending and tax cuts, is already being hammered out on Capitol Hill. But his proposals also include increased regulation of financial markets, legislation to create new public works projects, government policy reforms, and alternative energy initiatives.

Change, of course, has been a recurring theme in many Obama speeches, and change is never easy. That was evident this week in rural America, as new reporting guidelines on gas emissions raised a stink in farm country.

EPA Enacts New Livestock Reporting Rule

A rule easing reporting requirements for farmers and ranchers went into effect this week. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has exempted livestock operators from reporting emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide to federal officials under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA. Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, above a certain size still must report air pollution to state and local authorities.

The new rules also consider the size and scope of livestock operations. Large-scale facilities are required to report discharges of 100 pounds of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in a 24-hour period to state and local authorities. However, the new rules exempt smaller operations from the reporting mandate.

Wayne Gieselman, Iowa Department of Natural Resources: "It specifically exempts livestock facilities that raise less than 1,000 animal units and 1,000 animal units is 700 head of dairy cattle 2,500 head of finishing hogs, 1,000 head of beef cattle... It does require reporting yet for any livestock facility that is more than 1,000 animal units. It only requires it one time, verbal report to the state department of natural resources and they also have to report to their local emergency management office in their county. They have to follow that up within 30-days with a written report that is a good faith best estimate of what their emissions are. And then those same operations, one year later, another report in case anything has changed and that's the extent of the reporting."

The EPA will, however, continue to investigate citizen complaints of hazardous releases from livestock operations.

The National Pork Producers Council, or NPPC, filed a lawsuit against EPA seeking an injunction to delay the rule from being enacted. NPPC officials claim livestock producers have always been exempted from reporting high levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide.

Mike Formica, National Pork Producers Council: "What we would like to see EPA do is, one, come out with a guidance documentthat clearly explains to producers what their requiremnts are, what do you need to worry about reporting, and how do you make that calculation. Two, we want EPA to tell us who we need to make the report to and the information they provide is needs to be accurate."

The suit further alleges "EPA violated the due process rights of farmers by failing to develop an adequate system to accept the reports, making compliance with the law impossible...because we know in Henderson County Illinois, just across the river, right across the Mississippi River from Iowa, producers there were being told 'You don't need to worry about making this report. It's nothing but an internt hoax.' "

NPPC is willing to comply with the new guidelines but is calling on EPA to finish a two-year odor study begun in 2007. Once the data are sorted out, NPPC believes a system can be created allowing all producers to easily comply with the new regulations.

EPA officials are reviewing the NPPC lawsuit and declined Market to Market's request for an interview. However they did say attempts were made to make the transition as easy as possible through information on their Web site.

There is no word on when the case will be heard in court.


Tags: agriculture Environmental Protection Agency farmers livestock news pollution