EPA proposes new CAFO reporting rules

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The EPA has proposed two significantly different options for how confined animal feeding operations will report information under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. Industry input during a 60-day comment period will be vital, as the proposals could dramatically alter reporting requirements for some cattle feeders.

The proposed rules, according to EPA, are intended to reporting rules intended to collect facility-specific information, improving the agency’s ability to implement the NPDES program and to ensure appropriate practices are implemented by CAFOs. The ultimate outcome, EPA says, is improved protection of water quality.

EPA’s regulation of discharges from CAFOs dates to the 1970s. The agency does not have facility-specific information for all CAFOs in the United States, which it says is contrary to many other regulated industries. “Facility location and basic operational characteristics that relate to how and why a facility may discharge is essential information needed to carry out NPDES programmatic functions,” the EPA notes in background information for the proposals.

As part of the proposal, the EPA offers two regulatory options regarding which CAFOs would be required to submit information.

Option 1.

All CAFOs would be required to report to the EPA regardless of the size of a CAFO and the permit status of a CAFO. The EPA estimates that the universe of CAFOs subject to this option is approximately 20,000 out of the approximate 212,000 animal feeding operations (AFOs) in the United States.

As part of this option, the EPA proposes to allow states with approved NPDES programs to

submit the information on behalf of CAFOs within the state. If a state chooses to provide the

information on behalf of its CAFOs, then those CAFOs would not be required to submit

information to the EPA.

Option 2

Only CAFOs in focus watersheds that have water quality concerns associated with CAFOs would be required to report information to the EPA. Additional criteria for identifying focus watersheds include high densities of animals, patterns of vulnerable soils, and other relevant information, such as proximity to environmental justice communities.

The agency would determine on a case-by-case basis which areas meet the proposed criteria. States

would not be allowed to report information on behalf of CAFOs under this option.

Defining AFOs and CAFOs

Here is how EPA defines a CAFO. An operation must first meet the AFO definition before it can be considered a CAFO. An AFO is a lot or a facility where animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period and where vegetation is not sustained in the confinement area during the normal growing season.

A CAFO is an AFO that is either defined or designated as a CAFO. An AFO is defined as a Large CAFO on the basis of the number of animals confined. An AFO is defined as a Medium CAFO based on the number of animals confined and whether pollutants are discharged either through a man-made device or into waters that come into direct contact with confined animals.

A medium-sized AFO that does not meet those two discharge criteria or an AFO that contains fewer animals than a medium-sized operation can only become a CAFO if the EPA or the state permitting authority designates the facility as a CAFO.

For cattle, EPA defines a large CAFO as having 1,000 or more cattle or cow-calf pairs. A medium CAFO holds 300 to 999 cattle while operations with less than 300 cattle or pairs are small CAFOS.

EPA specifies that large range or pasture-based operations are not AFOs and, therefore, cannot be CAFOs, as long as its animals are not maintained in confinement. Such operations would not be subject to the proposed rule requirements.

During the 60-day public comment period, EPA plans to hold several webcasts to provide an overview of the proposed rule requirements and answer questions about the proposed rule. The agency plans to take final action regarding the proposed rule by July 2012.

Read more about the proposed rules, including information on how to submit comments.

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E G Johnson    
Parma, ID  |  October, 31, 2011 at 09:50 AM

Would intensly grazed cow-calf pasture operations be considered a AFO where 150 or more cow-calf pairs are rotated on a 24 to 48 hour basis accross the pasture?

Colorado  |  October, 31, 2011 at 11:06 AM

No. Rotational grazing requires maintenance of solid vegetative cover, which precludes consideration of this type operation from being an AFO.

Iowa  |  November, 01, 2011 at 07:11 AM

Not as long as the criteria is met that vegetation is sustained in the pastures. If the pairs grub it down to dirt, the answer would be yes.

Texas  |  October, 31, 2011 at 12:13 PM

If we don't tell them No; then it is only a matter of time before EPA can simply pull a water permit and shut down a CAFO just as they shut down the Arch open pit mine. Even CAFOs over underground water are also vulnerable. There was a push to include underground water in the Clean Water Act. If you are not hauling or piping water into your facility, you will be included. It's called by some environmental justice. http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/article_e07f328c-1f3a-11e0-8bcd-00127992bc8b.html

Maxine Jones    
Midland, SD  |  October, 31, 2011 at 01:25 PM

It seems unreasonable that EPA officials continue to over-regulate agriculture, and are overly zealous in 'planning' our need to build extremely costly facilities, while 'forgiving' cities that spew raw sewage directly into rivers and streams during floods. Or, have I missed the news stories of forgiving farmers caught in similar emergencies? I don't want gross pollution by feedlots, but there always seems to be more pressure on the smaller population than on towns and cities by EPA.

Idaho  |  October, 31, 2011 at 05:31 PM

This is nothing more than a power grab by EPA. They were specifically told that CAFOs which do not have the potential to discharge are not required to apply for or report under the Clean water act. Therefore CAFOs are not part of a "regulated comunity". Yet EPA continues to bow to tree hugger enviros to attack CAFOs. And the American people wonder why our industries are going overseas.

Tony N    
Wickenburg AZ  |  October, 31, 2011 at 05:54 PM

this will make sense of the issue ; http://vodpod.com/watch/5167709-tainted-realities-of-the-green-movement-van-jones-admits-left-is-pretending-need-for-regulations-in-green-movement

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