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EPA Proposes New Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Regulations

Farm Business Management Update, February 2001

By Jim Pease

On January 12, 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new proposed regulations governing certain animal feeding operations (AFOs). EPA estimates that 26,000 - 36,000 AFOs would be fall under this regulatory framework at a compliance cost of $850 - $940 million. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are defined by the Clean Water Act as point source dischargers, as are municipal wastewater treatment plants and factories. AFOs with more than 1,000 animal units (an animal unit is roughly 1,000 lbs live weight) are CAFOs by definition. Point source dischargers must obtain a permit under the Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) program. Currently in Virginia, no animal feeding operations are designated as point source dischargers, that is as CAFOs. Under the EPA proposals, the statutory and regulatory framework for the VPDES program would have to undergo substantial revision.

Under two alternative EPA proposals, the definition of a CAFO is clarified and broadened to include more animal feeding operations. One proposal is to define any AFO with more than 500 animal units as a CAFO. This proposal would apply to a livestock confinement operation with average inventory of 500 beef cattle and heifers; 350 mature dairy cattle; 1,250 pigs over 55 lbs; 27,500 turkeys or 50,000 broilers. Under an alternative proposal, AFOs over 1,000 animal units are CAFOs and are required to have a permit; AFOs between 300-1,000 animal units must demonstrate that they do not meet criteria to be designated a CAFO and hence subject to a permit requirement; and AFOs below 300 animal units could only be required to obtain a permit if they were a significant source of water pollution. AFOs would no longer be exempt from permitting requirements because they only discharge in the event of a 25-year/24-hour storm. Poultry operations would no longer be exempt under most conditions from permitting requirements as in current regulations.

Other major changes or alternatives proposed by EPA include

In addition, some AFOs would be required to show whether discharges to surface water occur from their production area or manure storage through a "hydrologic link" (such as karst regions) between ground water and surface water. CAFO operators would not be permitted to apply manure in quantities exceeding land application rates as calculated by three alternative measures which assess the potential for field phosphorus losses, and no manure applications would be allowed within 100 feet of surface water. CAFO operators would be required to maintain records of manure transfers off the site.

In Virginia, EPA estimates that roughly 550-750 AFOs would have to be permitted under these proposals. A summary of the proposed regulations can be found at Public comments must be submitted by May 2, 2001, and the address to submit such comments is found in the web summary.

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