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EPA and Agriculture Working Together to Improve America's Waters

Release Date: 12/16/2002
Contact Information:


Contact: Joe Martyak, 202-564-9828

(12/16/02) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman today announced that the agency is working with the agricultural community to control water pollution from the nation’s largest livestock operations while keeping American agriculture viable. In a news conference, Whitman, joined by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, announced a final rule that will require all large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to obtain permits that will ensure they protect America’s waters from wastewater and manure. The rule will control runoff from agricultural feeding operations, preventing billions of pounds of pollutants from entering America’s waters.

“This new rule is an historic step forward in our efforts to make America’s waters cleaner and purer,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “It will help reduce what has been a growing problem– the fact that animal waste generated by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations poses an increasing threat to the health of America’s waters. EPA looks forward to continuing to work with USDA and with the agricultural community to ensure that the goal we all share -- cleaner, purer water -- is being advanced by our efforts.”

"The new rule is unique in that it comes after unprecedented cooperation between EPA and USDA to find a way to help producers meet their own and society's goals for environmental quality and profitability," said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "USDA stands ready to provide assistance in an incentive-based approach combining information and education, research and technology transfer, direct technical assistance and financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other farm bill programs."

Today’s announcement finalizes a rule that will replace 25-year old technology requirements and permitting regulations that did not address today’s environmental needs and did not keep pace with growth in the industry. Effective manure management practices required by this rule will maximize the use of manure as a resource for agriculture while reducing adverse impacts on the environment.

The new rule applies to about 15,500 livestock operations across the country. Under the new rule all large CAFOs will be required to apply for a permit, submit an annual report, and develop and follow a plan for handling manure and wastewater. In addition, the rule moves efforts to protect the environment forward by: placing controls on land application of manure and wastewater, covering all major animal agriculture sectors, and increasing public access to information through CAFO annual reports. The rule also eliminates current permitting exemptions and expands coverage over types of animals in three important ways: the rule eliminates the exemption that excuses CAFOs from applying for permits if they only discharge during large storms; second, the rule eliminates the exemption for operations that raise chickens with dry manure handling systems; and third, the rule extends coverage to immature swine and immature dairy cows.

Currently about 4,500 operations are covered by permits. Because of the new rule, EPA expects that up to 11,000 additional facilities will be required to apply for permits by 2006.

This rule will enhance protection of the nation’s waters from nutrient over-enrichment and eutrophication which causes algal blooms, fish kills and the expansion of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. The rule will also reduce pathogens in drinking water and improve coastal water quality. The amount of phosphorus released into the environment will be reduced by 56 million pounds, while nitrogen releases will be slashed by more than 100 million pounds. In addition, over two billion pounds of sediments and nearly one million pounds of metals will not be released.

The new rule will affect large livestock operations including those with hundreds of thousands of hogs, cattle and poultry. Large CAFOs are defined in the rule as operations raising more than 1,000 cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2,500 swine, 10,000 sheep, 125,000 chickens, 82,000 laying hens, and 55,000 turkeys in confinement. Approximately 500 million tons of manure are generated annually by an estimated 238,000 livestock operations. From 1982 to 1997 these large livestock operations have grown by 51 percent, with some of the largest facilities having capacities exceeding a million animals.

Since 1978 the number of animals per confined animal operation has increased significantly. The largest per operation increases have been: layers (176%), broilers (148%), swine (134%), turkeys (129%), dairy (93%), and beef cattle (56%).

To help these livestock operations meet the rule’s requirements, Congress increased funding for land and water conservation programs in the 2002Farm 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; 60 percent of those funds must go to livestock operations. New technology is also being perfected to aid farmers in meeting this new rule.

States are being given significant flexibility to find geographically appropriate means of 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.

For more information visit: www.epa.gov/npdes/caforule.



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