The U.S. EPA has developed guidance for when livestock and poultry farmers have a "duty" to obtain discharge permits under the year-old Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Rule, which sets a zero-discharge standard for manure getting into waterways. The problem is a federal court ruled in 2005 that only operations that actually discharge must get permits.
The guidance, which is expected to be approved by the White House this week, was developed "quietly," accordig to Inside EPA, between EPA and environmental groups and without input from the agriculture community. In fact, when asked, EPA claimed it couldn't discuss the guidance with those to whom it will apply! (The U.S. pork industry is understandably disappointed since it worked with EPA for more than 10 years to craft a workable CAFO Rule.)
In a related matter, after reaching a settlement May 11, EPA will set stringent pollution rules for the Chesapeake Bay that could restrict manure use in the 64,000-square-mile watershed, which covers parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. The agency will establish for nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals Total Maximum Daily Limits that can go into waters that end up in the 200-mile-long bay. The rules and TMDLs are expected to serve as models for other waterways, including the Mississippi River.
The new TMDLs, coupled with the CAFO Rule guidance, could be used to limit the size of farms and restrict the application of manure to cropland.