IN a 2010 settlement agreement to a lawsuit brought by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and partners, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed, among other things, to promulgate a new national concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) rule to address pollution discharges from livestock and poultry farms.
According to the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn. (USPOULTRY), the foundation and EPA announced the details of a new agreement June 6 that arises from the 2010 settlement.
The National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and USPOULTRY issued a joint statement supporting EPA's agreement to collect more data "to verify the efficacy of the current regulatory program rather than developing further regulations that are not needed. This will help to assure that no false assumptions are made about the potential contribution of livestock and production to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
"The poultry industry recognizes that there are indeed challenges within this and other watersheds to reduce the level of nutrients in surface waters," the groups said. "All animal agriculture has been working together to minimize its impact on these watersheds. By EPA's own admission, the agricultural industry has made tremendous progress in reducing potential runoff and improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and other watersheds throughout the country."
According to the agreement distributed by USPOULTRY, new EPA commitments related to animal agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed include:
1. CAFO program assessment. By June 27, 2015, EPA will assess the CAFO programs of each bay watershed jurisdiction to determine whether they are consistent with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements of the Clean Water Act and are implemented effectively to achieve the jurisdiction's animal agriculture watershed implementation plan (WIP) commitments to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. EPA will complete at least three assessments by the end of 2014.
2. Animal feeding operation (AFO) reviews. EPA will undertake AFO reviews in four bay sub-watersheds with significant manure generation: one sub-watershed per year from 2013 to 2016. At least three of the sub-watersheds will be in different jurisdictions. EPA will assess no fewer than four AFOs in each sub-watershed to determine whether they are in compliance with applicable legal requirements for reducing nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment.
As it undertakes these assessments, EPA will evaluate whether any assessed AFOs in the sub-watershed should be designated as CAFOs.
As they are completed and following consultation with the jurisdictions, EPA will make each assessment publicly available no later than 60 days after the assessment is completed.
3. CAFO permit reviews. The Chesapeake Bay's total maximum daily load (TMDL) and associated bay watershed jurisdiction WIPs establish the pollution reductions needed to meet applicable water quality standards in the bay and its tidal rivers. By the end of 2016, EPA will review no fewer than four CAFO permits and their associated nutrient management plans within each jurisdiction and assess whether those permits and plans are enforceable and consistent with applicable legal requirements.
4. CAFO regulation assessment. Based upon the results of the activities and assessments undertaken pursuant to commitments 1, 2 and 3 and the progress the bay jurisdictions make in meeting their two-year milestone commitments, EPA will assess, by no later than June 30, 2018, whether revisions to its CAFO regulations under the Clean Water Act are necessary to achieve the objectives of the animal agriculture commitments in the WIPs as part of the overall Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
The poultry industry statement noted that "a recent study by the University of Delaware not only found that the amount of nutrient runoff in the Chesapeake Bay supposedly caused by chicken litter is much less than EPA's outdated and overstated estimates but that the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous in the litter are far lower, too. The study concluded that new management practices, better growing environments, feed technology and genetics have improved efficiencies over the last 30 years."