In a news release this week, R-CALF USA says the Environmental Protection Agency has, in effect, declared hay a pollutant, potentially requiring farmers and ranchers to store it in pollution containment zones.

The issue stems from a compliance order from EPA’s Region 7 charging Callicrate Feeding Company with environmental violations. The Region 7 office outlined the alleged violations in an August 22 news release. Following is the information provided regarding the Callicrate operation in the release:

“A.J. Jones, d/b/a Callicrate Feeding Company, St. Francis, Kan. - An inspection in February 2011 identified significant NPDES permit violations, including failure to maintain adequate wastewater storage capacity, failure to meet Nutrient Management Plan requirements, failure to conduct operations within areas that are controlled in a manner capable of preventing pollution, and failure to maintain adequate records. The order requires the operation to comply with all terms of the Clean Water Act and its NPDES permit, and to coordinate with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on its compliance. The order requires the operation to comply with the terms of its Nutrient Management Plan, including sampling and recordkeeping requirements. The feedlot has a permitted capacity of 12,000 cattle and was confining approximately 3,219 cattle at the time of the inspection.”

According to the R-CALF release, Mike Callicrate, after presenting information on country of origin labeling at R-CALF’s annual convention last week, was asked whether the EPA has declared hay a pollutant.  He indicated that in his case at least, they have. “Now that EPA has declared hay a pollutant, every farmer and rancher that stores hay, or that leaves a broken hay bale in the field is potentially violating EPA rules and subject to an EPA enforcement action,” Callicrate said. “How far are we going to let this agency go before we stand up and do something about it?” 

Much of release moves from the hay issue to broader complaints against concentration in the packing and feeding sectors, including implications that packers are conspiring to drive small feeders out of business. The title of the release, “EPA declares hay a pollutant in effort to antagonize small and mid-sized U.S. cattle feeders,” and additional statements in the release, suggest EPA is singling out certain feeding operations for enforcement actions.  “I believe the EPA’s enforcement action is a premeditated effort by EPA to partner with the beef packers to finish the job the beef packer’s couldn’t do alone,” says Callicrate. “Along with my feedlot, the EPA has filed enforcement actions against five other smaller feedlots, including one with only 400 cattle.”

The idea that the EPA has joined a conspiracy with packers against small cattle feeders seems a bit of a stretch, but the hay-storage issue certainly raises concerns. The information provided in the EPA news release uses a fairly broad accusation of “significant NPDES permit violations,” but does not mention anything about hay storage. Drovers/CattleNetwork has contacted EPA’s Region 7 for more information on specific charges in the case. We’ll let you know what we find out.