Environmental challenges for agriculture

EPA proposes a rule requiring CAFOs to submit information to EPA to more effectively carryout permitting on a national level

Sally Shaver, consultant at Shaver Consulting, Inc. and former Associate Counselor for Agriculture Policy, in the Office of the Administrator  at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  will discuss environmental challenges for agriculture at an educational expo, held at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich. on Jan. 26, 2012. Shaver will be joined by MSU Economists Jim Hilker and Chris Wolf with agricultural market outlooks, talks on Bioenergy and oil and gas leasing and a video update from Senator Debbie Stabenow during the daylong event that addresses agriculture’s future.

EPA is proposing a rule that would require Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to submit basic operational information to EPA so the Agency can carry out its CAFO permitting programs on a national level and ensure that CAFOs are implementing practices to protect water quality and human health. This proposed rule is open for public comment until December 20, 2011. The proposed rule is part of a settlement agreement and does not commit EPA to the substance of any final action. The owners or operators of Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) that have not been designated as CAFOs and that do not confine the required number of animals to meet the definition of a Large or Medium CAFO are not required to submit information under this proposed rulemaking.

The information items listed in the settlement agreement to be addressed in the proposal include the following:

1. Name and address of the owner and operator

2. If contract operation, name and address of the integrator

3. Location (longitude and latitude) of the operation

4. Type of facility

5. Number and type(s) of animals

6. Type and capacity of manure storage

7. Quantity of manure, process wastewater  and litter generated annually by the CAFO

8. Whether the CAFO land-applies manure, litter or wastewater

9. Available acreage for land application

10. If the CAFO land-applies, whether it implements a nutrient management plan for land application

11. If the CAFO land-applies, whether it employs nutrient management practices and keeps records on site consistent with 40 CFR 122.23(e)

12. If the CAFO does not land apply, alternative uses of manure, litter and/or wastewater

13. Whether the CAFO transfers manure off site, and if so, quantity transferred to recipient(s) of transferred manure and

14. Whether the CAFO has applied for an NPDES permit

EPA has provided an example survey to collect the data (provided here as proposed within the rule). An example electronic survey can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/npdes/afo/cafofinalrule/308form/CAFO_Home.htm

While the above lists information that EPA proposes to collect, there were items  identified in the settlement agreement that EPA is not proposing to:

• Name and address of owner/operator (if the name and address of an authorized representative is provided instead of the name and address of an owner or operator of the CAFO);

• The survey would allow the CAFO’s a choice in providing location data of the production area either by the longitude and latitude or the street address of the production area, instead of requiring both;

• If contract operation, name and address of the integrator;

• Type and capacity of manure storage;

• Quantity of manure, process wastewater, and litter generated annually by the CAFO;

• If the CAFO land-applies, whether it implements a nutrient management plan for land application;

• If the CAFO land-applies, whether it employs nutrient management practices and keeps records on site consistent with 40 CFR 122.23(e);

• If the CAFO does not land apply, alternative uses of manure, litter and/or wastewater; and

• Whether the CAFO transfers manure off site, and if so, quantity transferred to recipient(s) of transferred manure.

Two options are proposed by which the Agency plans to achieve the rule objectives. Under Option 1, CAFOs would be required to respond to the request as issued in the Federal Register unless a state chooses to provide the information on behalf of a CAFO. Under Option 2, CAFOs in a focus watershed would be required to respond. This request would be accomplished through a locally applicable notice in the Federal Register.

EPA proposes that under Option 2, EPA would first identify focus watersheds with water quality problems likely attributable to CAFOs, and then potentially identify CAFOs in a focus watershed to respond to a survey request. EPA would identify focus watersheds based on water quality concerns associated with CAFOs, including but not limited to nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), pathogens (bacteria, viruses, protozoa), total suspended solids (turbidity), and organic enrichment (low dissolved oxygen). States are already required to assess their waters and list as impaired those that do not meet water quality standards. These lists (303(d) lists) would be one source of data for identifying a focus watershed based on water quality concerns. However, this won’t be the only source of data because many waterbodies have not been assessed or the impairment cause has not been identified. EPA may use other data indicating water quality concerns relating to CAFOs, such as nutrient monitoring data from state or Federal agencies. EPA also could rely on existing partnerships to identify waterbodies with impacts associated with CAFOs. In addition to being areas where water quality issues of concern are likely to exist due to CAFOs, a focus watershed would be identified based on one or more of the additional following proposed criteria:

a. High priority watershed due to other factors such as vulnerable ecosystems, drinking water source supply, watersheds with high recreational value, or outstanding natural resources waters (Tier 3 waters);

b. Vulnerable soil types

c. High density of animal agriculture in the area
and/or

d. Other relevant information (such as an area with minority, indigenous, or low-income populations).

As part of the public comment process, EPA requests input on whether minimum standards for selection of a focus watershed should be adopted and what such standards might be, what sources of data might be used to identify focus watersheds, whether the results of a focus watershed assessment, including decisions to focus or not to focus on an area, should be made available to the public, and how frequently EPA should review and/or revise its identification of focus watersheds. EPA proposes to define the targeted areas geographically by either Zip Codes, counties, HUC codes, or watersheds.

For more info visit: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/afo/aforule.cfm#reportingrule. Comments are due to EPA no later than December 20, 2011.

More information on this and other environmental topics will be presented by Sally Shaver during Michigan Ag Commodity Educational Expo (MACEE). The expo will gather speakers from multiple agriculture sectors and will be held at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich. on Jan. 26, 2012.

The Michigan Ag Commodity Educational Expo takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The registration fee is $75. You can register electronically by visiting http://bit.ly/MACEE, or you can register by contacting Megghan Honke at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 517-353-3175, ext. 229.

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