NCBA Wins Flexibility in Clean Water Act CAFO Rule
WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final Clean Water Act rule for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) on Friday, October 31, 2008. The rule has been in development since June of 2006, during which time the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has worked tirelessly to ensure that the regulations are accommodating for cattle producers.
We’re pleased that EPA has put out this final rule,” said Tamara Thies, NCBA’s Chief Environmental Counsel. “The regulations are very strict and comprehensive, but they provide much-needed certainty for our cattle producers on what they must do to be in compliance.”
Thies worked extensively with EPA to ensure that the final rule would allow flexibility for cattle producers to ensure their ability to comply. “Cattle producers make their living off the land, and because of that they have a vested interest in being good environmental stewards,” Thies explains. “They’re also business people, and need the flexibility to make decisions based on current conditions, not long-range government planning.”
Thanks to NCBA’s efforts, under the final rule cattle producers can apply manure and wastewater to their lands based on nutrient values in up-to-date soil and manure tests, rather than a predetermined rate developed five years in advance as was originally proposed. Similarly, the final rule permits cattle producers to apply manure and waste water to their land based on an assessment of phosphorus transport.
“This kind of flexibility is critical to enabling producer compliance and does a much better job of ensuring environmental protection than did the original proposal,” said Thies.
Thies explained other important changes that impact cattle producers, including a new requirement to submit nutrient management plans (NMPs) to the public for review, comment, and hearing. “NCBA will be developing a thorough analysis of the final rule so producers know what needs to be done to comply,” Thies says. “In the meantime, we strongly encourage CAFO’s that have discharges into surface waters to fix the source of the discharge, or seek National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage. Ensuring CAFO compliance with this rule is a priority for the EPA.”