Producers, wait and see about CAFO ruling

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – There’s little doubt that some livestock producers will be affected by a Feb. 28 federal appeals court ruling about regulations governing discharges from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO).
Just how and when is yet to be determined.
Waiting for EPA. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the case as a result of decisions in livestock industry and environmental group lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency and its interpretation of the Clean Water Act.
Exactly what it means for livestock producers won’t be known until the EPA says how it will apply the ruling.
In limbo. Purdue University experts are advising farmers who thought they were going to have to apply for a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permit to wait until more information is available.
Producers should get their information organized but not put it on file, said Don Jones, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering.
“I don’t think anybody can take anything too seriously until the EPA has decided how they’re going to handle this,” Jones said.
“There are speculations as to what could happen, but no one really knows for sure at this stage.”
Lots of confusion. For now, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding how the EPA will interpret the ruling, Jones said.
“Everybody was surprised by the timing and scope of this ruling,” he said. “It looks as if farmers who’ve already applied for the permit are out of luck for the time being. The ruling doesn’t mention them, refunding their money or canceling the permitting process.”
Public scrutiny. It is in a farmer’s best interest not to have to apply for this permit because of the costs involved, Jones added, and because the ruling does say that operations that have a permit are required to have a public comment period.
“Having neighbors control when manure is applied will not be popular in a lot of states,” he said.
“We don’t know how this is going to land,” Jones said.
“But this has really stopped things in their tracks, in terms of producers going ahead with their permits. We’re waiting for the EPA to make some sort of a ruling.”

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