About 120 cattle industry professionals gathered on July 2 to hear the Environmental Protection Agency explain its use of small planes to take photos of feedlots and livestock operations.
EPA officials from the Region 7 office in Kansas City, Kan., held the meeting Monday night in Lexington, Neb., to explain the cost-benefit and efficiency of taking aerial photos of a farm as an initial inspection. The EPA has taken aerial photos in Iowa since 2010 and started in Nebraska a year later.
According to the Omaha World Herald, the EPA assures the flyovers are constitutional and cost-effective. Steve Pollard, a livestock waste expert for the EPA, showed meeting attendants a map of central Nebraska with a high concentration of livestock feed yards and elevated level of polluted streams and rivers. Although Pollard did not blame feedlots for the pollution, he said the area needs to be monitored according to provisions of the Clean Water Act.
Some cattle producers worry the aerial surveillance is an unnecessary practice.
“Big Brother sure as hell is watching me,” Al Svajgr told the Omaha World Herald. Svajgr owns a 45,000-head cattle feedlot near Cozad, Neb.
Pollard told the audience the aerial photos of multiple farms cost the EPA about $1,500 while a single personal visit to the operation costs about $10,000. The aerial surveillance allows the agency to find potential violations, but citations aren’t issued until an on-the-ground visit is conducted.
A similar meeting is scheduled for Iowa cattle producers on Aug. 30 in Carroll County, Iowa.