U.S. EPA finalizes livestock waste rule


WASHINGTON – After developing the proposal for two years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a new rule covering large livestock operations – also known as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs – Dec. 16.

Permits required. Implementation of this rule means that all large operations must apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage.

EPA expects that approximately 11,000 facilities will apply by 2006. Currently, about 4,500 facilities are permitted.

The new rules replace the prior technology requirements and permitting regulations that are over 25 years old.

For the first time, all of the nation’s large CAFOs, including beef, dairy, swine, and poultry operations, are required to get Clean Water Act permits from the states or federal EPA, regardless of whether they discharge only during large storms.

Manure plans. This rule will require large livestock operations to develop nutrient management plans. These plans will ensure that manure is properly managed and that manure nutrients are utilized by crops, rather than entering surface waters.

The EPA estimates the rule will lead to an estimated annual reduction of over 56 million pounds of phosphorus released from CAFOs into the environment, over 110 million pounds of nitrogen, over 2.1 billion pounds of sediment, over 911,000 pounds of metals, and significant percentage reductions in pathogens.

All CAFOs will be required to submit annual reports to the permitting authority with information on nutrient management plan implementation.

Partnership. EPA and USDA will work with state environmental and agriculture agencies to develop cooperative regulatory and voluntary efforts.

EPA is promoting watershed-based efforts including national watershed pilot efforts, water quality trading, watershed-based permitting and other approaches that provide state and local communities with the tools and abilities to target their efforts to improve water quality. EPA and USDA will also continue providing financial support from Clean Water Act programs and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to support efforts by livestock producers.

Funding. To help these livestock operations meet the rule’s requirements, Congress increased funding for land and water conservation programs in the 2002 farm bill by $20.9 billion, bringing total funding for these programs to $51 billion over the next decade.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was authorized at $200 million in 2002 and will ultimately go up to $1.3 billion in 2007. Sixty percent of those funds must go to livestock operations.

Smaller operations. EPA has retained the existing structure of when medium and small operations may be subject to the regulations.

States are expected to use voluntary and incentive programs to help small and medium operations avoid water pollution problems that would make them subject to these new regulations.

State flexibility. States are being given flexibility for implementing the CAFO rule. For example, states retain the authority to determine the type of permit – general or individual – to be issued to a given operation.

This enables states to develop permits that take into account the size, location, and environmental risks that may be posed by an operation. States will also have substantial flexibility to tailor nutrient management plans for CAFOs, and may authorize alternative performance standards for existing and new CAFOs that will help promote the use of innovative technologies.

The NPDES permitting authority contact in Ohio is Cathy Alexander, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, 614-644-2021; in Pennsylvania, Cedric Karper, Pa. Department of Environmental protection, 717-783-7577.

Producers can also call the U.S. EPA’s CAFO phone line at 202-564-0766, or visit www.epa.gov/npdes/caforule or www.epa.gov/agriculture.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture regulates state permitting of large-scale livestock operations and is in the process of seeking a transfer of the permitting responsibilities from the Ohio EPA to the ag department.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!