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DRAFT USDA/EPA UNIFIED JOINT STRATEGY
FOR ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATION
James R. Lyons
Douglas A. Goodlander
Doctor Hugh Archer
800 East Park Drive
SARGENT'S COURT REPORTING SERVICE, INC.
P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. HERNANDEZ: Why don't we go ahead and get started here. First of all, good afternoon to all of you. Certainly glad to see the turnout that we're having today.
This is the second of 11 meetings that are being held across the country. And I personally would like to thank the folks at EPA as well as our folks with USDA for holding this meeting on the draft strategy for the Clean Water Action Plan Animal Feeding Operations. This draft unified strategy was identified as one of the key actions in the Clean Water Action Plan which was announced this past February by our president.
The proposed strategy is one of more than a hundred actions that were directly --- that were directed by the president as part of the Clean Water Action Plan. Dramatic changes in the animal feeding industry for over the last 20 --- for over the last 20 years have promoted public concern and demonstrated the need for a national consistent approach for protecting the environment and the public health.
This strategy proposes establishment of a national performance expectations for all animal feeding operations.
We recognize that all parties must work together to preserve our health, our environment and a sustainable economical, viable, animal feeding industry.
The purpose of this meeting is two-fold. First of all, we want to tell you a little bit about this strategy to help you be better informed. We also want to hear from you. We want to hear about your issues and concerns. Your comments will be used by both USDA and EPA to take this draft strategy and develop a final strategy.
While we will be taking detailed notes today, we ask you to insure that you submit your comments in written form or through E-mail and our moderator will tell you more about how to do that.
The first thing that I would like to do is introduce the folks that will be with you today to listen to your comments. I am Humberto Hernandez. I serve as the regional conservationist for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. And I welcome you as we proceed with this listening session. Also with us will be a listening panel which will include myself, the Honorable James R. Lyons, USDA Under Secretary for the Natural Resources and the Environment. He will be speaking to you in just a moment.
We also have J. Charles Fox. Mr. Fox is not maybe here yet. Okay. We do have Joe Piotrowski. Joe, where are you at?
MR. PIOTROWSKI: Right here.
MR. HERNANDEZ: Okay. Joe Piotrowski, EPA Associate Director with the Office of Watersheds in the Region Three. We have Janet Oertly. Janet is the State Conservationist for USDA, NRCS here in Pennsylvania.
We have Abigail Ladd, Legislative Assistant for Senator Rick Santorum here in Pennsylvania. And we also have Jennifer Saraceno, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Tim Holden here of Pennsylvania.
We will also have two technical presenters they are Joe DelVecchio, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist in New York. And he will get a more formal introduction later. Along with him we have Jeff Lape with EPA. He's branch chief of Water Quality Industries, Water Quality and Industries Permits Office of Water and Co-leader of the National USDA/EPA AFO strategy team.
We also have a group of technical people who will serve on a technical panel to help answer questions that you may have. They include Tim Murphy, Conservation Engineer with NRCS in Pennsylvania. We have Douglas A. Goodlander, Director of Nutrient Management and Technical Services, Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission. We have Doctor Huge Archer, Deputy Secretary for Water Management, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. We have Hank Zygmunt, Assistant Associate Director, Office of Watersheds, EPA.
We also have some visitors from some of the surrounding states within RCS. And the ones that I can recognize at this point that are here are, first of all, Rick Swenson, State Conservationist, USDA and NRCS. And we have David Doss, State Conservationist, USDA and NRCS Maryland. Before we introduce the moderator, I would like to give Mr. Jim Lyons an opportunity to address the group for two or three minutes. Jim.
MR. LYONS: Thank you very much, Humberto. I appreciate the opportunity to address all of you. And I certainly appreciate the opportunity to join you today.
First of all, on behalf of my colleague, Chuck Fox, who is co-lead with me on behalf of the equipment administration in drafting and guiding implementation of the Clean Water Action Plan, his apologies. I know Chuck is in Chicago. I'm sure he'd much rather be in Harrisburg today but is working on other business and couldn't join us for this session.
You can see from the agenda which we have that we have a rather full afternoon planned. But what I want to emphasize beyond the overview that will be provided by Joe and Jeff and some of the other technical advice and responses to questions that will be offered by other panelists that this session is really dedicated to providing you an opportunity to offer your comments and concerns with regard to the draft and unified strategy that we have developed in the Department of Agriculture, working with the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the many components in the President's Clean Water Action Plan.
As you all know and I'm sure your participation today is evidence of this, there's a great deal of interest and concern throughout the agriculture and environmental community with regard to the operations of animal feeding operations and their impacts on the environment. It's an issue that we are wrestling with at the federal level. It's an issue which many states are attempting to address through legislative strategies. It's clearly an issue of national significance and, therefore, a reason that we have made it one of our initial areas of focus under the Clean Water Action Plan.
We have laid out a strategy for discussion which has both elements that I would characterize as carrots and those that are sticks.
It's a strategy that seeks to capitalize on the expertise and the experiences of the two agencies who will be responsible for its implementation. The Natural Resources Conservation Service in the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency. And it seeks to move forward in an aggressive and informed way to capitalize both on the interest and the desires of many in the animal industry to involuntary ways bring their operations and their programs into compliance with clean water needs, while at the same time recognizing that in some instances a stronger regulatory role needs to be played and, in fact, is required under Statute.
Therefore, the strategy includes a mix of elements all designed to get us towards our ultimate goal which is to minimize the impact that AFOs have on water quality and water should help ultimately on public safety and health.
We are just in the process of beginning our listening sessions. This is the second we're going to stay in Michigan. And we will continue this dialogue across the country capitalizing on your own individual expertise and your experiences here in Pennsylvania as well as in other parts of the country to use that information to make provisions in the strategy towards the completion of a final approach towards dealing with AFO's.
I want to thank the other panelists who are joining me today for this discussion. Janet Oertly, the State Conservationist here, who has played a very important and lead role in dealing with this and other important conservation issues with me in Pennsylvania. Joe Piotrowski from the Environmental Protection Agency who is actually Chuck Fox today, representing EPA's Washington office as well as the regional office in Pennsylvania. Certainly Humberto for his role as regional conservationist. I also want to thank Jennifer with Congressman Holden's office and Senator Santorum's office for their continuing interest in this issue and for their participation today.
Our goal really is to open up the dialogue, to hopefully reach an informed consensus on having to deal with this issue. And most importantly, put in place a strategy that is going to make a difference in terms of addressing the issues and the impacts that AFOs are having on water and most especially to protect the water resources of Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation as we deal with this challenging issue.
So we look forward to this discussion today. And, again, I want to thank all of you for your willingness to take time out today to share your views with us. One last note, I want to apologize in advance for leaving at 4:30 instead of five o'clock which is the time the meeting actually closes since I have to go back to Washington for a 7:00 p.m. meeting this evening. But I do look forward to your time today and the opportunity to hear what you have to say. Thank you.
MR. HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Jim. To help us kickstart this and guide us through this process, we have Mary Bender who will moderate this session. Mary is Director of Public Office; --- of the Public Office of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, a position that she's held since July of 1995, after previously serving as the Pennsylvania Department of --- for the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce for ten years as a policy analyst and as Director of the Bureau of Economic Policy and Analyses.
Mary has a Bachelor's degree in Political Sciences from Arabian College and a Master's degree in Political Science from Villa Nova University.
Help me welcome Mary Bender, please.
MS. BENDER: I'm going to work from over here and on my feet if that's okay with everyone.
It's my pleasure this afternoon to be the gate keeper and the moderator and the grounds rulesman for the afternoon. Because of the number of folks we have who called in to sign up to speak as well as those who signed up when they came in, we're going to allow your comments for a four-minute period. And the folks who arranged the meeting have this very fancy light system where, when it's green you can talk, when it's yellow it tells you your time is running out and when it's red it means your time is up. So we've figured out how much time we have. We need to be very prompt at five o'clock. This room is being used for another meeting later this evening. So we need to be out of here by five o'clock. So our time is limited.
So if you can, please, try and stay as close to that time limit as possible. Everyone who is here who wants to speak will be able to speak.
The meeting is being recorded, transcripts are being made. But if you want your remarks to be included as part of the official federal register process, you need to submit them in writing. There are envelopes at the back of the room where you can do that. Please do not leave your written comments here. They need to be mailed in, either in those envelopes or via the address that's in the Federal Register Notice or through E-mail. But don't leave your comments here. They want to make sure that they get mailed in or sent in through E-mail.
The other thing is the person who's doing the transcripts this afternoon has been notified that once your time is up, your transcript stops. So a little incentive to stick to your time this afternoon so that we get everyone in.
Make sure --- we will be taking a break at about 3:45. I understand there will be some coffee set up in the back of the room, but please be very brief about that so that we have enough time to get everyone in this afternoon.
We will hear from the folks who will give the overview of the strategy in just a minute. And we're going to have some time briefly after their remarks to ask some clarification or technical questions, but I'd appreciate it if you have some very detailed or more complex questions that would take a good deal of time. I think some cards have been passed out or if you have a piece of paper, I'll make sure they get around, but if you have a detailed question, to write it down, put your name and address on the card, and there's some cards at the back as well. So that we don't take an awful lot of your time. This is time for folks to make their presentations, that a lot of the technical --- the very technical answers might be better given through writing. Someone will get an answer back to you if you leave your question with your name and address on it. So we will --- and if we have any time at the end and there are still some technical questions you need to ask of the panel, we'll --- if we have time at the end we'll take more questions, again, at the end.
I think I've covered everything. The important thing was to make sure that you submit your comments in writing even though there is a transcript being made. And I am told that the transcript will be posted on EPA and USDA's Web page so you can see the transcript of this meeting from there.
And now I will turn it over to the folks --- I'm not sure who goes first. Does it matter? Joe?
MR. DELVECCHIO: We'll both go.
MS. BENDER: You'll both go at the same time. Thank you. We'll give the overview of the strategy.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. We're going to try to do this by projecting our voices. Does it sound like it's going to be okay? We're going to do a sound check on Jeff now.
I think that's going to work then because all everybody wants to hear about is the USDA side of this issue; right?
Folks, we're not sure what your level of understanding is in regard to the draft strategy so what we're going to do today is provide about a 20-minute briefing. Normally we provide a little more than that but we're going to try to run through this very quickly.
I guess the first thing we may as well do right now is cut the lights so you can see what's up here on the screen. What we're going to do in this presentation actually mirrors the strategy itself. We don't actually have section numbers up here but if you have the strategy, you can relate it to the section we're talking about.
And I'd like to apologize to the panel here at the front because you're going to be looking at our ---.
MR. LAPE: Our best sides.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Yes, one of the sides anyway. Folks a lot has happened in regard to water quality over the last 25 years. There has been improvement based on environmental programs and our conservation programs, but there's still a great deal yet to be done. And that's the reason why as part of the Clean Water Action Plan this strategy was developed.
The strategy itself and we have to work this out here as far as managing the buttons down here. The strategy itself is based on some general guiding principles. I think there's actually eight of them in the strategy but we've kind of highlighted the top five here on the slide.
Basically, as Jim mentioned we want to make sure we minimize the impact of water quality and public health from animal feeding operations. At the same time we want to make sure that the one thing we're looking at to prevent the greatest risks. We want to make sure we're looking at those that are causing the greatest problems. But at the same time as we're doing this we don't want to have a negative impact on the sustainability and the viability of the livestock industry. Some people may see that as conflicting issues, but we want to try to do our best to make sure that we don't have a tremendous impact on this long-term sustainability.
We're going to do this in the strategy itself and I think Jim already mentioned that we're going to establish a national goal and a national performance expectation. And one of the things that we need to be assured of doing and the Clean Water Action Plan really brings this out, is that we need to get our act together. And when I say we, I'm talking about the environmental community, the agricultural community, I'm talking about the federal level, the state level, the local levels, all sides need to get their act together in regards to this whole issue. And we need to work together and coordinate what we're doing.
Okay. So the main question is as we start out this, what is an AFO or an animal feeding operation?
Well, this is a subset of the entire livestock industry. We're not talking about the animals that are out on range land in the west or out on ranches, we're talking about where animals are confined and fed and where feed is brought to them.
The 1992 ag census indicated there were about 450,000 of those nationwide, but one of the reasons that we're here today is the fact that we realize that that 450,000 is smaller now and the reason that it's smaller, is that each AFO has gotten larger. So there's been a consolidation of the industry itself, so we have fewer of them but larger ones.
MR. LAPE: Both Jim and Humberto mentioned that this strategy is one of the products of the president's Clean Water Action Plan. In that plan he list --- we listed out over 100 actions. The plan recognizes in the last 25 years, we as a nation have made tremendous progress in improving the quality of our nation's water resources, but there are still problems out there. This strategy is just one of the actions we're taking. This is not an effort to single out one group of individuals, but rather part of a broad agency, federal plan to try to deal with some remaining issues.
When you look at the strategy, you'll see that it's very much a water quality and public health focus strategy. It is intended to deal with problems that can be caused when animal waste, animal manures and by-products are not properly managed. Some of the problems that we're trying to get at is over-enrichment of surface waters that can occur from too many nutrients on the ground, pathogens and pathogenic contamination particularly where that might relate to a public drinking water supply. But first and foremost it is a strategy dealing with water quality issues. So those of you who have particular issues related to animal feeding operations may be related to sighting and odor. Those are issues that this strategy largely relies on local government to deal with.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. So what this strategy does and I think we're probably in section three now, I guess is what it is, Jeff, but what we've done, we've established --- I went the wrong way. What we've done is we've established a national goal and a national performance expectation. We want to see actions taken. To make something change you need to take action, so our goal is that all actions should be taken by animal feeding operation owners and operators to minimize the amount of pollutants that leave their operations. It's a lofty goal but we want to try to do that. How can people do that? Well, we feel that the way that people can achieve the goal is through a national performance expectation, by making performance --- by performing on their animal feeding operations in accordance with a comprehensive nutrient management plan which leads to the question of, what is a comprehensive nutrient management plan?
Now, many of you may have heard of nutrient management plans, many of you may have heard of waste management plans or waste utilization plans. I think possibly even here in Pennsylvania, the --- you know, you have a term for your nutrient management plan in accordance with your nutrient management law. I'm not sure if it's comprehensive or not, but we try to use the terminology comprehensive nutrient management plan and explain what it is in this strategy itself. We say comprehensive, Jeff mentioned earlier that we want to make sure that these also address things like pathogenic things, pathogens.
My introduction said that I was from New York and we're dealing with a very large issue in regard to pathogens in the New York City water supply system. So we're hoping by making this comprehensive, even though we're calling it comprehensive nutrient management plan, really we want to look at all the potential water quality and public health impact.
So what do we do in the comprehensive nutrient management plan? Well, we want to make sure we look at the whole spectrum from the beginning to end of this whole issue. And the input of the system or the feed that animals are fed, we want to see if there is any way that you can manage feed in order to reduce the amount of pollutants in the animal manure at the other end of the animal. There's a lot of research going on now in regards to certain types of enzymes, in regards to low processed corn, in regard to the competition of nutrients and supplements that are fed to animals.
So is there a way that you can, in your comprehensive nutrient management plan, take a look at the way animals are being fed and try to minimize the amount of nutrients that are in the manure that's being produced.
Well, obviously if you get to the other end of the animal that you deal with manure, so handling and storage of manure in a proper manner. There are right ways and wrong ways to do all of these things. And by having a comprehensive nutrient management plan we want to insure people do things in the proper and do it the right way which brings us to land application. We'll hear a little bit more about this later. We actually have a whole subsection that deals with land application, but it is going to be considered as part of the comprehensive nutrient management plan as will be land management. And these are the types of things that many of you may refer to as just conservation practices, erosion control practices, water management control practices. The types of things that can make sure that nutrients that are placed on the land stay in place or if they do move, that there may be some buffers between the land itself and the stream. So conservation buffers are ultimately part of land management.
Record keeping would be part of the plan. A lot of people say if it's not documented it's not done. We want to make sure that as part of the plan people keep track of the type of waste products that are being produced, their disposition, just making sure that everybody understands what's happening. And so you can go back and track what was done in the plan itself.
Now, we also realize that there's going to be a point in nutrient management planning where people are going to find out that the animals are actually producing more nutrients than can be utilized on the farm itself. So what we want to do is, we want to look at other options for utilizing excess manures or excess nutrients. This is come --- some of the kind of things that we're looking for feedback on, but some of the ideas that we have so far, looking at treating the manure, looking at composting of manure, using it as a soil amendment outside of the agricultural communities, looking at brokering manure, sending manure to farms that don't have access to this valuable nutrient and organic matter that can be used as a soil amendment. So other options can be used other than just spreading it on the land at rates that exceed the agronomic requirements.
MR. LAPE: For those of you following along in the strategy, excuse me, in section four, you'll see that we begin to lay out, a description of the existing program, the tools that we have available. As Jim referred to, a description of the carrots and sticks. The programs at the federal level, both voluntary and regulatory that are available to us that help promote and instill this national performance expectation. So one of the major themes that we'd like your thoughts on is the best way to use these carrots and sticks, to help animal feeding operators develop and implement good, comprehensive nutrient management plans.
What we do in section four is we lay out our thoughts for how to use voluntary programs and the regulatory program to achieve implementation of nutrient management plans. As a basic construct, we think that building on the good stewardship role of the farmer, that most operations are going to achieve the performance expectation in the voluntary arena.
We think the vast majority, 95 percent of the operations are going to move forward in a voluntary way and that the existing regulatory program, the permitting program that exists, would be used in a very strategic way for certain operations. And we'll talk a little bit about the kinds of facilities we think should be addressed in the permit program.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. This section is, again, the relationship between voluntary and regulatory programs and so in order to establish what the relationship is we need to know what each one of those is to begin with.
So there's a brief discussion in the strategy in regard to what the voluntary side of this whole issue has and what it can offer.
And this whole issue is built on what Jeff just mentioned, that stewardship ethics that farmers have in regard to the land and in regard to the environment and the concern over sustainability of a viable livestock industry.
Some of the voluntary issues that we deal with in the strategy are locally led conservation. We all realize since the '95 farm bill that locally led is the way that USDA would like to see programs delivered, having the local people that know their resources the best, have input into the way federal programs are delivered.
We also realize that environmental education is a key crucial issue, and without that, some people may continue doing things improperly because they just are not educated to the proper way of doing it. So it's very crucial as a part of a voluntary program that there's good outreach and good education.
And finally, technical and financial assistance to relieve some of the burden that animal feeding operators that don't have the resources to do it themselves, so that they can still remain economically viable.
We all realize what a crisis is going on right now in the agricultural industry and we want to maintain a viable livestock industry but we also want to improve the environment. So this will be a way through technical and financial assistance programs that we can relieve that or reduce that burden.
We mentioned in the strategy a number of voluntary programs that are available and they're not only available from USDA but they're also available from EPA and states. I can't --- and we probably should have highlighted this a little bit more at the top of the program here. But we may concentrate on the federal programs, but we realize that the state programs now probably far out shadow any federal programs that are currently available as far as number of dollars go. And I'm not sure if anyone's done an analysis of this and added up the value of all the state programs, but again from a personal perspective in the State of New York our state programs are far in excess of the 319 and EPA program put together. So state programs are extremely crucial in addressing this issue. But one thing I have to adhere at the end of this slide is, that on the voluntary side of this entire issue, you know, we're going to strongly encourage that all animal feeding operators have comprehensive nutrient management plans. But, again, it is voluntary. We can't require that. So they're going to be encouraged but they can't be required.
MR. LAPE: In section 4.3 of the strategy we review the existing regulatory program that does exist that can address CAFO issues. Let me provide just a brief reminder of what that program is and how important a role the states play in that program.
The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 establishes the basic framework for water pollution control. In 1972, several things happened. One, a permitting program was established largely run by the states to address point sources of pollution. Section 502 of the Clean Water Act defines what a point source is and includes concentrated animal feeding operations.
Later in the '70s, EPA established regulations which specifically defines what a CAFO is and therefore who needs a permit. At the same time in the early '70s, EPA established what is called an effluent guideline. It establishes the technology-based requirement for feed lots.
Well, a couple of things. One, as Joe said, states have a very important role. Of the states across the country, 42 have responsibility for implementing the Clean Water Act permitting program. So when we talk about CAFO's being issued permits, that's a role that is going to be taken by 42 of the states. EPA issues permits in only about seven of the states. So in many cases these are important decisions to be made by the state agency.
We'll talk a little bit later about some of the priorities that we lay out in this draft strategy for how that permitting program will be used. We also mention the coastal zone program that does promote controls on non-point sources in the coastal zone area. But clearly the principle vehicle that we're going to be discussing is the permitting program under the Clean Water Act.
MR. DELVECCHIO: We're probably going to have to pick the pace up here a little bit. We're running a little bit short of time. But in section 4.3 of the strategy I mentioned this earlier, we felt land application of manure was going to be a lightening rod in regard to this whole draft strategy with regard to this strategy when it becomes final. So we decided to dedicate an entire section to land application of manure. It's fairly simplistic what we put in here, but it's really pretty basic. There's a right way to do things and there's a wrong way to do things. We feel that people that are applying manure to the land in accordance with comprehensive nutrient management plan will, in fact, qualify for the Clean Water Act --- agricultural storm water retention. That's the right way of doing things. And as I said earlier, there are important agricultural benefits to manure. There's a wrong way of doing things. Up here we call them proper and improper. But essentially if manure is being disposed on land and not being applied in accordance with comprehensive nutrient management plan, in all likelihood there's going to be some negative impact on the environment and essentially, impact on public health and safety.
MR. LAPE: As I mentioned early on we envisioned that the regulatory part of the program, the permitting program would be used in a very limited strategic way. And I just want to quickly give you a sense as to the priorities that we have laid out as our ideas for how the permitting program would be used.
First priority for permitting would be particularly large facilities, those with significant manure production and that basically correlates to the existing regulatory definition of facilities with more than a thousand animal units.
So our basic view is if you're a CAFO with more than a thousand animal units, you probably ought to have an NPDS permit in your state.
The second category of priority are those facilities with current unacceptable conditions, real problems causing real impacts. Those people with a discharge that right now is causing a problem ought to be a priority for permitting.
And third we talk about a category of facilities that either individually or singly or together as a group may be causing real environmental impact. So a state may have the ability and discretion to decide. I have a watershed or I have a group of facilities that are causing a significant impact on the watershed. Maybe I ought to bring those into the regulatory arena. But, again, the basic principle behind the regulatory program in our priority setting is that most people will do the right thing under the voluntary program and, again, the regulatory permitting program will be focused on those strategic priorities. Big facilities, one's with unacceptable conditions, and those because of the nature of their aggregate effects or singular effects are causing problems in the watershed. One of the --- do I? Go ahead?
MR. DELVECCHIO: Yes, go ahead.
MR. LAPE: One of the questions that is frequently asked is this comprehensive nutrient management plan, what happens if I'm required under a regulatory program to have a permit? What happens to that nutrient management plan? We basically lay out the idea that the comprehensive nutrient management plan becomes a condition of the permit. So if the facility falls into one of these priorities the big, what we call the big, the bad and the many, if you're a priority in the regulatory program and need a permit, the requirement for the comprehensive nutrient management plan is a requirement of your permit.
The permit would lay out what goes in the plan, certain conditions that would need to be met, that Joe laid out, such as record keeping or reporting, and those would be enforceable conditions of that NPDS permit issued by the state or through EPA.
In developing the nutrient management plan the permit would rely on NRCS's standards to define what the appropriate level of implementation is.
We also want to stress a concept that comprehensive nutrient management plans would be developed by a certified party. So while the responsibility of developing and implementing a plan is on the owner/operator they may seek assistance from a federal agency or from a certified party.
MR. DELVECCHIO: I just want to clarify just one thing here on this particular slide in regard to the regulatory program. There may be some opportunities where USDA agencies are involved in the development of comprehensive nutrient management plans that are going to be required as part of a regulatory permit. And I think it was best stated at the heart in summit in May by Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman in that USDA is going to maintain a fire wall between voluntary programs on the USDA side and the regulatory programs on the EPA or state regulatory authority side but that does not preclude USDA from developing comprehensive nutrient management plans. What will happen though, is we will work with the producer in our traditional way. If the producer then needs to take that plan and take it to a regulatory agency as part of a permit process then they will do that. They will have that responsibility of delivering the plan. But our operation from the USDA perspective will work only with the producer themselves.
Now, what we built into this strategy is a couple of the, we'll call them incentives at this point. A couple of opportunities for people both on a regulated side and the non-regulated side.
On the regulatory side we've provided an opportunity called a --- CAFOs connected regulatory program. What this indicates is that there is an animal feeding operation that's under the regulatory program of CAFO, but there are less than a thousand animal units and they're also not on a repaired watershed. If they implement their comprehensive nutrient management plan for a five-year term which will give you the term of an NRCS permit they're going to be allowed to get out of the regulatory program. They're no longer going to be a CAFO. If they have addressed the issues that caused them to be a CAFO to begin with they're going to be a regular program. So that's going to be one incentive for those already in the regulatory program.
Another incentive for those that are not in the regulatory program that are working on the voluntary side of the issue will be an opportunity that if they, in fact, take this early action, voluntary action, develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan or in the process of implementing that plan and they have some type of a discharge. Matter of fact the discharge would actually cause them to be regulated, if they didn't have this plan and this could be an accident or it could be a number of things, somebody turned the wrong dial or whatever, they're going to be --- we're going to promote in this strategy having --- to give them a one-time opportunity, a good faith incentive for them to fix the problem that caused the discharge without the threat of regulations being imposed upon them.
So, again, this is an opportunity for those people that are in good faith, implementing a comprehensive nutrient management plan, they have a mistake, a one-time mistake, they're going to be given a chance to fix it, before the regulatory authority is going to impose regulations.
MR. LAPE: Joe, we're getting the push to move along.
MR. DELVECCHIO: The push. Okay.
MR. LAPE: And we'll speed up. We've laid out seven strategic issues in this strategy that are probably good ways of thinking of major themes that we'd like your thoughts and comments on.
The first one is building capacity for nutrient management plans. We're putting a lot of emphasis on the need to have good nutrient management plans. This issue, this strategic issue would lay out a series of actions and ideas that we think are necessary to provide the tools, the information and the resources for these plans to be developed.
The bottom line goal is that we'd like to see all nutrient management plans for all AFOs developed by appropriate certified specialists, so when you look at this section it sort of drives it how are we going to get that in place? So take a look at those actions, see if they're the ones that you think make sense.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. We want to accelerate the voluntary program, these incentive-based programs. We'd like to see and establish a goal that all AFO's regulatory or non-regulatory have comprehensive nutrient management plans in ten years. We said 2008. Maybe by the time the final strategy comes out it will be 2009. But we want to make sure we're going to maximize the environmental benefits that are produced by the dollars that are spent going into these plans. We want to make sure that all producers have an equal opportunity for the voluntary program across the country. We also want to make sure that we spend our efforts making sure the national standards are appropriate, are practical and are in accordance with the latest science that's available. And we have a process set up in the strategy, first of all, to look at guidance in preparing plans and also looking at ways that we can modify our national standards. And also we want to look at some other options for financial assistance, again, to relieve the burden on the people that are voluntarily taking this action and are looking at the good stewardship and sustainability issue.
MR. LAPE: The third strategic issue area deals with the regulatory program. And it basically focuses on two themes. How do we better implement the regulatory program that's on the books today, that currently exists, and the second major theme is, what do we do in the longer term to basically improve that regulatory program?
So what you're going to see in this section are our ideas in working with the states implementing, permitting requirements under the existing rules. Remember the priorities I talked about, the big --- the ones with unacceptable conditions and those selected watershed approaches that would be the focus for permitting that we would work with the states.
We would be issuing permitting guidance to help states model permits that they could use to lay out what we think is an appropriate expectation. We want to work with the state agencies both environmental and ag to make sure that our expectations for who needs to do nutrient management plans by what date actually somewhat match the delivery systems.
The second theme is we've laid out our ideas of how we might proceed in revising the existing regulatory program. We've set some goals. The existing regs have been on the books since the mid 1970s. A lot has happened. There's been a lot of consolidation in the industry, technologies have changed, permitting approaches have gotten better.
So we want to try to relook at those regs. And we've set a time frame of 2001 of revising those regs and we're starting the process. And that will be a very open and public process, it's far from complete. We're just beginning to build the pieces now.
Another component you'll see in the strategy is improved compliance and enforcement. There are real situations today that need to be addressed and the strategy talks about how state and EPA compliance and enforcement folks will better focus on those problem situations.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. We have four more strategic issues we're going to try to run through these fairly quickly. Coordination, I've mentioned this earlier. We need to make sure that at all levels we're coordinating our research, our technology, technology transfer, innovation and also compliance assistance. And we plan on doing that through a number of ways and these again are ideas. We're looking for feedback. What we're talking about obviously, a research plan is coordinated not only at the national level from federal agencies but also that good research is taking place out here at land grant universities and other educational institutions at the state level.
We want to make sure we all know what's happening and have access to that and we plan on doing that through some --- what we're going to call a virtual center which is really just a Web site, computer access area where all this information will be posted and people will have access to it.
MR. LAPE: The livestock industry plays a major role in this. And we want to take steps in the strategy to encourage their leadership and responsibility. So you'll see some ideas in the strategy. We want to continue to promote leadership as has been demonstrated by the pork industry in having a pork dialogue.
Those are the kinds of things where we want to take steps to encourage that kind of activity and results in the later date.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. Strategic issue six deals with data coordination and data is crucial to this whole issue in regard to not only what are the problems in regard to water quality but what problems are coming from animal feeding operations, what data has been collected in order to do planning on animal feeding operations. Again, one thing that's crucial in the strategy and is recognized in this particular section is the fact that a lot of data has been provided to USDA in some of our conservation districts in the development of comprehensive --- in the development of conservation plans. And the administrator of EPA recognizes the importance of a trust relationship between USDA and the producers and, in fact, has made a commitment that that information will remain confidential in the case files that are held by the soil and water conservation districts and EPA will not or regulatory agencies should not violate that trust relationship. But we also have to look at some other things. So we're going to sit down with EPA, we're going to develop some joint policy statements and also at the same time in regard to coordination, we're going to take a look at just how is all this implementation of comprehensive nutrient management plans, what kind of environmental benefits are we getting for the costs. We'll take a look at a good cost benefit technology.
MR. LAPE: The last strategic issue that we're interested in your thoughts on relates to performance measurement. As we look at your comments and develop a final strategy we want to be developing performance measures that help us gauge whether or not we're being successful. Those are measures that address programmatic activities like how many permits have we issued, how much technical assistances we've provided as well as measuring environmental success. Remember none of this means a hill of beans if we can't see the water quality improvements in the real world and demonstrate the value of the expenditure.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. The final section of the strategy deals with roles. This strategy when it's finalized won't be able to be implemented unless we get a lot of people involved in it. This is not something that the federal government's going to be able to implement. It's not something that state government's going to be able to implement. It's going to require an across the board a number of people and a number of people in society to be involved in the implementation of this. So we've listed nine groups in this strategy. I'm sure it's not a comprehensive list. I'm sure there's other groups that will be able to be involved in the implementation. But we've put about a paragraph in under each one where they can become involved and have an impact on the successful implementation of the strategy.
MR. LAPE: By now hopefully everyone has a copy of the strategy. If not there are some in the back of the room. Let me just mention that the Web site addresses for those of you who use computers, to sort of stay in touch, the Web sites will provide continuous information on these meetings, the results of these meetings and probably at the end of the public comment period there will be summaries of the public comments available. So feel free to stay tuned that way as well.
MR. DELVECCHIO: And finally, this is a draft strategy and it is a strategy. We need your feedback. The comment period will end on January 19th, 1999. That was 120-day comment period from when we first issued the strategy in the federal register.
As we mentioned earlier the address that the comments can be sent to both hard copy and E-mail are right here on the screen. And if you need any additional information in regard to that, envelopes to submit your comments in, I think are on the back table.
And after we get all your comments, then comes the hard part is how do we address what your comments said. And at that point, EPA and USDA will be getting back together, analyzing all the comments that have come in, looking at the good comments and opportunities to influence the final version of strategy in developing a final strategy hopefully, in the spring of 1999.
MS. BENDER: To help catch up a little bit on the time we're going to hold questions for the folks who did the presentations as well as some of the technical folks who are here. Hopefully, we'll have some time at the end or maybe some of those questions are going to be addressed as individuals come up to make their remarks, so we can get a little bit back on schedule.
I'd like to start calling on the people who called NRCS to present remarks. I will call the person who is up and then let you know who is next because these are taken in the order in which they either called in or signed up and that will give the next speaker enough time to prepare a little, so you know that you're on deck.
The first person is Karl Novak. And we'll have the timer going for you so you can judge your time. And we've figured out we've got four minutes for every speaker. Mr. Novak.
MR. NOVAK: Do you start now or wait for the ---.
MR. LYONS: Go right ahead.
MS. BENDER: Go right ahead. Who's next?
MR. NOVAK: Okay. My name is Karl Novak. I live in Bedford County close to Clearfield, Pennsylvania. And I'd like to say a few words this afternoon. I've been told that with regard to the pollution of the air and water, Pennsylvania is not like North Carolina. That may be true today, but based on my personal experience in Bedford County I have monumental reservations for what might develop in the future.
Here's the background for my concerns. A resident of Maryland has purchased hundreds of acres of land in my county with the objective of raising hundreds of thousands of hogs. This acreage will not grow the feed required to nourish the hogs produced by the proposed factories. There have been numerous meetings during the past two years to discuss proposed factories. The owner/promoter has never appeared at any of the public meetings. A personal letter sent to the owner/promoter asked him about the weights of feed trucks with their potential of damaging rural roads and measures planned to preclude contamination and dewatering of neighbor's wells. Neither of these questions were answered in his reply. The letter also asked plans for future expansion, finishing houses and additional farrowing facilities. Again, no response.
Now, you should understand why the lack of openess and the one-way dialogue is cause for great concern and foreboding about the future of living in rural Pennsylvania. I submit to you that Pennsylvania could well become the next environmental catastrophe because with the passing of Act Six, our governor of legislators have set the stage for unbridled expansion of industrial hog operations.
Act Six precludes any local governmental body from passing laws that would be more strict than those in the act. And Act Six lacks essential provisions to fully protect the air, water and land of people who have the misfortune of living next to a hog factory.
In the paper entitled USDA EPA draft unified national strategy for animal feeding operations I note the words voluntary and plans. Voluntary and plans, which frightens me and gives me chills as these words offer no positive force when put in the context of the corporate world.
Corporate --- corporations, externalize costs which means cutting corners and doing only what is required and monitored and passing on the costs of cleanup and pollution to all the taxpayers in this room.
In other words, doing and spending the very least, in order to maximize profits with total disregard to those person's who are unfortunate enough to live next to the corporate hog factories.
Let's get one thing straight, these hog factories are not farms. They are not farms. They are producers of massive quantities of toxic gases and massive quantities of waste laden with heavy metals, viruses and pathogens.
Hog factories demonstrate little regard to their neighbor's water supply, quality of water and quality of the air they breathe. Hog factories are a blight on the environment and a massive threat to both the family farmer and the quality of life in the rural America. We must have federal regulations, federal regulations that protect all the citizens of this nation because the State of Pennsylvania and other states have been negligent in promoting and promulgating comprehensive and effective regulations. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you, Mr. Novak. I said I would do it and then I forgot. David Brubaker is next. And on deck is Lamont Garber.
MR. BRUBAKER: Hi, my name is David Brubaker. I'm with the Factory Farm Project of the Global Resource Action Center for the environment in New York City.
I think the proposed draft strategy is a good step forward. You're at least raising the issue. But I think it's important to realize that animal factories are industries. They're engaged in manufacturing, just like General Motors makes cars, somebody made this. And it's interesting to me that on one hand we would come down on General Motors in a minute if they were causing the kind of pollution that animal factories cause. And yet somehow we say animal factories are agriculture so we can ignore them. And I would just argue that animal factories are not agriculture. I think the draft strategy is somewhat vague. It's a bit weak in the sense that you're phasing in changes over a ten-year period and you're ignoring a major segment of the industry and allowing them to escape.
I think if you look at the track record of factory farms I think you're going to find that voluntary compliance isn't going to do it. If voluntary compliance worked, we wouldn't be in the position we're in now.
A couple of specific items I'd like to ask you to consider, one would be a moratorium on clean water permits. Clean Water Act permits. To take some time out to see where we are, let's not allow any new facilities until we get ahold of the situation that we're in already.
Another point is that local citizens should be involved in every aspect of siting factory farms. They're the ones that are going to have to suffer the consequences. And I think that each individual site has its own geography, its own population. And I think it has to be site, specific in terms of the permitting.
I think that another point is tough enforcement against Clean Water Act violators. I don't think that anyone should be allowed to poison the water of Pennsylvania or anywhere else. And I think that you send the wrong message when you say, okay, we'll tolerate it up to a point but since it's ag, quote, unquote, we'll give you a little more time. We'll let this slide. I don't think that's the right message. I don't think that's what the people want. I think if you look at the last election, nationally and look at the moratorium and the factory farms around the country, I think you'll see that the people are sending a message and I hope that you heed that.
I think things like open air cesspools you can go not that far from here and you can see football field-sized cesspools that are out in the open. We wouldn't allow this in any other field. Why should we allow it here.
I think that there are lots of techniques that can be used to help to clean up the problem. I've looked at York, there are lots of things that have already been done, lots of technologies that can be used. And I think that we should use the carrot and the stick and I'm out of time so I thank you very much.
MS. BENDER: Thank you, Mr. Brubaker. Lamont Garber is next and on deck is Seri Kern.
MR. GARBER: Good afternoon. My name is Lamont Garber and I'm the agricultural specialist for the Pennsylvania Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
I'd like to address nutrient management. This strategy contains very few details about the standards that are going to be required for the comprehensive nutrient management plans.
Instead it identifies very broad categories of farm management that will be addressed in the plans and relies very heavily on NRCS guidance to fill in the blanks, but NRCS guidance alone is definitely inadequate. It varies from region to region and was not developed for the purpose of this type of water quality regulation.
USDA and EPA should develop new guidance identifying specific performance measures that must be achieved by these plans for AFOs. Strategies should also make clear on how comprehensive nutrient management plans will meet consistent with the effluent guidelines to be revised by EPA.
Minimum standards for nutrient management that are set by USDA and EPA should take precedence where they're stronger than state nutrient management standards. Here in Pennsylvania our nutrient management regulations are not adequate for CAFOs. Our regulations do not address phosphorous. Our regulations do not --- our regulations allow for winter spreading of manure. They do not require nutrient management plans for farms that import manure from CAFOs. And I can give many other examples. Pennsylvania's nutrient management regulations were not designed to investigate those and I'm sure this is the case in other states where standards have been developed to address a wide range of farm operations including smaller farms that have a small practice of manure application than those found in CAFO.
Public assistance in the form of technical assistance and financial assistance should not be available for large CAFOs. The environmental problems that are inherent and operations of import feed and concentrated animal waste should be addressed by the industry not through the expenditure of public funds.
In the case of contract production, responsibility for compliance should rest with those that own the animals and the feed.
Individual permits, we do not believe that general permits or watershed permits are appropriate for CAFOs. General permits do not give the public adequate notice or opportunity for comment. Nor is this approach worth well to prevent effluent runoff.
Individual permits are also essential to ensure that the site's specific aspects of each operation are adequately addressed.
Pennsylvania's proposed program correctly requires such operations to obtain individual permits and this strategy should no way undercut our or other state permitting efforts.
Similarly, the strategy should clearly establish an inspection requirement for all CAFOs. In our opinion the chief weakness of most existing regulatory programs for agriculture is the lack of enforcement. Complaint based programs is those we have had to place here in Pennsylvania for many years have been in complete failure, except in fixing a few problems after the fact and in a scatter shot approach.
The strategy should clearly require state water quality agencies to establish fair, consistent and universal inspection programs for all large CAFOs, both new and existing. These programs would not be designed to punish operators but to encourage compliance and flag management problems before they become serious environmental problems. The responsibility for inspections and compliance assistance for AFOs should be the water quality agencies not NRCS or conservation history. Thank you very much.
MS. BENDER: Thank you. Ms. Kern.
MS. KERN: Thank you. USDA and the EPA. This is the time when the USDA and EPA inspector general has said we should maximize existing regulations and strengthen the definition of a CAFO. This is the time with an accumulation of evidence that CAFO's animals discharge of the lagoon was within 24 hours when we met. It is why we are in this room right now.
In contrast to the inspector general's report and the Clean Water Act the AFO's strategy weakens the CAFO definition. The Clean Water Act presumes there are two categories of operations that are automatically CAFOs, if an operation meets certain specific conditions. The strategy, however, confirm this automatic designation only on one of those two groups, a thousand animal units. It includes the 301 to a thousand animal unit groups. From the Clean Water Act automatic designation based on meeting certain physical criteria. Since the strategy allows an operation of this group to address the cause of the discharge in order to preclude its destination as a CAFO, then the strategy's definition of that which is automatically a CAFO is less stringent than that of the Clean Water Act.
Many operations in the second category have had discharges and have already demonstrated they have a potential to discharge. In my opinion, the strategy adds insult to injury by first ignoring the Clean Water Act presumption of a CAFO criteria. And then second, by allowing such facilities to address the cause of a discharge and exit the CAFO program.
The criteria is specific. It says that if a stream runs over, across or through a facility in this group, that a potential to discharge is presumed to be met. And the operation is a CAFO. I quote, a facility where such a conveyance exists is subject to NPDES permitting. You may have heard of the dairy CAFO in Nevada that was filling a tanker to spread on fields the next morning and forgot to shut off a valve before leaving for --- leaving work that evening. The spill flowed for 17 miles across state lines and eight miles of desert. The lagoon emptied itself.
Wouldn't you say this is not an uncommon situation a stream would indicate a potential to discharge?
Here in Pennsylvania, my county we have a 500 cow dairy farm that has trouble with a manure pit. It has a stream. We have a 1,200 hog operation that had a discharge to an exceptional value watershed. It has a stream.
In Cumberland County a fish kill to a premier trout stream. In Huntingdon County a 1,200 hog operation where a neighbor says I can almost count on having to drive through manure to get out of my driveway at least once every year. It has a stream.
The AFO strategy itself says, and I quote, there is insufficient data on which to base an estimate of number of AFOs that have unacceptable conditions.
This statement coming from the AFO strategy itself is a red flag. I urge you to review your definition of automatic CAFO according to current law. And I urge you to institute a moratorium while you uphold current law. Existing facilities are operating unlawfully without NPDS permit and that will continue as this draft is written. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you. Craig Kern, followed by Bob Mikesell.
MR. KERN: Hello, I'm Craig Kern from Bedford County, Pennsylvania. I would like to thank USDA and EPA for the opportunity to comment on the unified strategy for AFOs.
When I first received a copy of the strategy I noticed that the USDA was listed first and after studying the strategy I realized why. It appears to have been written by the Department of Agriculture and EPA was allowed to submit a few comments. This is why I'm asking EPA to declare a moratorium on any new or expanded CAFOs until the EPA gets their act together and decides it's their job to protect the environment and not the interest of corporate agri business.
It is my opinion that this strategy to protect our water quality should be recycled by EPA to help preserve a tree since it does almost nothing to protect our health, water quality or any part of the environment.
I would like to thank you and I will be sending in detailed comments at a later date.
MS. BENDER: Thank you, sir. Bob Mikesell and after Bob, Sandy Smith.
MR. MIKESELL: Good afternoon. My name's Bob Mikesell. I was hired by Penn State University to work on environmental issues in the swine industry.
My salary is funded in part by the National and Pennsylvania Pork Producers. Today, I'm representing the Pennsylvania Pork Producers.
I'm one of the thin line of folks that that's out there in the field dealing with producers one on one trying to help them become better environmental stores.
The draft unified strategy for animal feeding operations provides a solid basis for recommending that all livestock producers handle manure in a responsible manner.
However, there are currently several educational programs sponsored by the National Pork Producers Council which are already accomplishing many of the same goals and objectives found in the draft strategy and obviously submitting this environmental draft resource guide which details several of those efforts.
For example, the pollution prevention strategies program helps recognize producers who strive for environmental excellence. More importantly through this program we can show producers firsthand specific strategies for improving their environmental storage shed.
In the past three years we have conducted more than 130 environmental audits of Pennsylvania swine producers through this program. A second program just underway in this state is the On-farm Odor and Environmental Assessment Program. This effort provides a more intensive, evaluation of a producers environmental efforts and deliveries detailed documentation of the producer's strengths and challenges in regard to odor control and nutrient management.
As you may know the National Pork Producers Council completed the environmental dialogue on pork production in 1997 which was the culmination of eight months of discussion among pork producers and regulators to provide guidelines for environmentally sustainable pork production.
Here in Pennsylvania we have recently completed a similar effort to provide recommendations that are specific to Pennsylvania. Our document which will be published before the end of this year is entitled environmental standards of production for larger pork producers in Pennsylvania.
The document which includes many recommendations that exceed current regulations provides standards under which we believe Pennsylvania pork producers should operate.
Finally, we have in Pennsylvania the Nutrient Management Act which requires operators of intensive livestock operations to develop nutrient management plans. Since the enforcement of this regulation commenced in October 1997, Penn State and other professionals have provided dozens of training and certification workshops to help producers come into compliance. All of these programs and efforts which I have briefly summarized support the same concepts that are outlined in the draft unified strategy.
While we are not opposed to regulations that protect our environment we believe that regulations must be based on sound science. Decisions and assumptions made based only on a farm size rather than its environmental track record have no place in regulations of any kind. While Pennsylvania's pork producers generally support the goals of the unified strategy, we oppose any and all instances where the draft strategy allows social policy and unfounded public hysteria to supplant sound science. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you. Sandy Smith is next, followed by Sam Stone or another representative from the Dairy Farmers of America. Thank you. Sandy.
MS. SMITH: My name is Sandy Smith and I hail from York County, Pennsylvania. I would like to take this time to thank you for the opportunity to speak out with my following suggestions on the subject of animal feeding operations that is soon to or will be affecting every corner of America. The following six are some main points of concern.
One, a moratorium on Clean Water Act permits for new and expanding factory farms to be instituted. This moratorium should stand until the EPA upgrades its standards and only then should existing facilities receive permits. Only after the EPA has upgraded its standard should new or proposed expanding operations be considered for permits.
Upgraded EPA permits should take into account what effects on the water quality and environment tease existing CAFOs or new operations will have.
Two, local citizens should be notified before a factory farm moves in and allowed to participate in the decisions as to whether said farm is allowed to locate in their community. The community should be able to decide what pollution controls are needed for protection. Each permit should be on site specific following strict monitoring for enforcement against Clean Water Act violators. Factory farms should have to pay a county deregulated person or persons to monitor their ground and surface water.
This delegate paid for by the farm fermenting costs and fines incurred thus reports the results to the EPA or state deregulated office making sure water quality standards are met.
The EPA should also make surprise visits on these farming operations. If water pollution is found fines should be implemented and the citizens be given the right to sue for damage.
Three, open air manure cesspools for factory farms and the spraying of manure and urine into the air should be banned along with liquid waste into lagoons as they have proven to be environmentally risky. Technologies that do not rely upon storage of liquid manure or that store manure in a drier form such as composting and pasture systems should replace them. EPA and USDA draft strategy barely mentions more sustainable approaches.
Actually, EPA and USDA draft strategy fails to embrace a comprehensive approach to addressing all elements of environmental degradation. Water should be just one concern along with airborne and soil problems.
Four, a factory farm should not be permitted to operate without first having a place of comprehensive nutrient and management plan that meets every high level of environmental standards. Manure should not be allowed to run off the land. One of the best features of the EPA/USDA draft strategy would require factory farms to allow plans aimed at protecting soil and water from pollution through the application of too much manure as fertilizer.
Finally, although the comprehensive nutrient management plans are a poor feature of factory farms. Clean Water Act permits the public is given no say on its terms since the plans are only available to the public after they have been approved by the USDA and EPA. The public should be allowed to implement to these plans and all aspects of the plans should be enforceable.
Five, the nation's water must be protected from poultry manure. Chicken and turkey factories should be regulated under the Clean Water Acts.
Most states fail to impose any kind of water pollution permits for either of which would mandate pollution prevention steps. EPA/USDA draft strategy should issue clean water permits for operations of 40,000 birds or more regardless of whether or not the manure generated is dry or wet.
And finally six, if corporations own livestock animals the need to be responsible for paying the cost of waste disposal and cleanup and possible fines should certainly be taken into accountability.
I am also handing you some copies of local newspaper articles with outcries from helpless citizens in York County as we watched Representative John Barley's family-owned farms try to strong arm their way into our community with an AFO hog factory. This should not be allowed to happen. Unless the EPA and USDA draft better strategies our Constitutional Rights will be eroded, with our land being devaluated, higher taxes to pay for increased traffic on country roads and the taking of our land without just compensation.
If I could say just one word it would be responsibility, responsibility to the community, to its people and to the environment. Isn't this the responsibility we as taxpayers pay the EPA and the USDA for?
Finally, not all areas in the United States are good places for these AFO factories. Let's take the greed factory out and stop trashing America's future for such a few and for the greedy. Thank you.
MR. LYONS: Thank you. Did you do that I was all in one breath? The Stenographer's fingers are still smoking.
MS. SMITH: Five minutes.
MR. LYONS: Thank you very much.
MS. BENDER: Is the representative from the Dairy Farmers of America here or Sam Stone? Next is Pat Hooker followed by Doug Goodlander.
MR. HOOKER: My name is Patrick Hooker. I'm in the Governmental Regulations Department of the New York Farm Bureau. After reflecting on the strategy as presented today and my review of it in advance of this and then on the first few speakers, one thing comes to mind immediately and that is that it was mentioned before that 42 states are fully delegated. The responsibility EPA delegates to the states for enforcement of the Federal laws.
It's clear to me that we're in a fully delegated state also, that we've been working with EPA to implement our permit process which we had hoped to have on-line as a state this coming spring.
We've been working with the approval in our plan of work of the EPA and what I heard from virtually everyone so far today is that if all of these instances are true, if they're violations of the Clean Water Act, I think that you should back up from this strategy and you should look at enforcing the current law. The lady that spoke earlier said, the paraphrase was despite this strategy I think there will be illegal activities or the law will be broken as we go forward.
If that's true, that ought to be the priority. That ought to be what's stopped. This is not --- the Clean Water Act has not been voluntary for CAFOs since 1972, since it started. And if that's being violated, if people's rights and things are being violated, that ought to be addressed and it ought to be addressed now.
With regard to this strategy, I see a lot of similarities in what we're doing in New York State. I --- my reaction from where we are and the type of agriculture we have is that the level of detail in this strategy for our state --- I don't know about Pennsylvania, I don't know about other states it's too much detail. The professionals that we have at our state level don't want widespread use of individual permits. They are used to regulating entities and they unlike FSA, RCS and Frankly EPA's staff know what they can do and what they can't do. They know what they will be given in terms of resources from Albany or Harrisburg or Washington. And, frankly, they're political supervisors. The politically appointed supervisors understand that very well, too. They know what resources will be forthcoming and what won't be. And that's why there's widespread support in our state for the use exclusively of general permits that's not to say that anybody should get away with anything.
In fact, if you're going to put a new operation in our state you're going to file a Notice of Intent and you're going to say up front what is your plan? How are you going to deal with nutrients and manure that you generate? And I think that that's central to it. The issue isn't is it an individual permit or is it a general permit. The regulators have said they would prefer in our state a general permit as long as you have a defensible, credible plan to deal with nutrients. And remember we're asking for zero discharge permits. We're not asking for a permit to pollute.
I think that some of the other aspects of the plan that I think will get us further away from compliance with people are things like general permits in impaired watersheds I think that's a bad precedent. And I think has led --- that will lead farmers from a voluntary program in terms of accessing equip funds and others into a regulatory program. I think will scare them off, I think we will set our progress back.
I think data collection is another area of concern to us. There is no question regulators should have full unfettered access to farm plans, to inspections, at any time that they feel that they need to and they have the resources to carry them out. But does the general public need access to that? I cannot imagine why if you're operating legally and correctly in your plan.
I think that the strategy overall is over-reaching in other areas in regulating more AFOs. I think that you're exceeding your authority, frankly, in regarding non-point source pollution. That's a state issue, the state is equipped to solve it, our state is solving it. And I think we need your energies and technical assistance in funding. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Doug. Followed by Don Robinson.
MR. GOODLANDER: Thank you. My name's Doug Goodlander. I'm on staff for the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission.
The Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission has not had the opportunity to formally review and develop comments concerning this proposal. The staff of the commission has briefly reviewed the document and would like to provide the following general comments related to the proposal.
The commission will continue its review of the proposed strategy and will provide formal written comments before the end of the comment period.
Our general comments include, the commission is pleased with the general direction of the AFO strategy initiative in that it specifically focuses regulatory activities on operations thought to have a high pollution potential. It relies on a voluntary incentives-based approach to encourage the remainder of farmers to implement nutrient management plans. This is similar to Pennsylvania's nutrient management program which provides nutrient management regulatory oversight of those operations thought to have a high pollution potential and encourages and provides incentives to the remaining farmers to voluntary and implement these efforts. While of the two programs differ on how they define high pollution potential they are similar in overall philosophy.
Two, the proposed AFO program requires a comprehensive nutrient management plan on farms participating under the proposed program. This is very similar to Pennsylvania's approach to requiring nutrient management plans that address a broad range of nutrient management concerns on the farm, not just manure application.
Generally, the only difference in the required elements of the federally proposed comprehensive nutrient management plans and Pennsylvania's criteria for nutrient management plans, is that the federal program proposes to include feed management as part of the plan. And the Pennsylvania program does not include the settlement. Even though Pennsylvania's proven to be a leader in implementing five tape feeding programs for our animal production operations, we have not made this or other feeding programs a formal element of our nutrient management process.
Three, in order for this proposal to be successful, adequate funding resources are needed. We do not believe that EQUIP and other federal funding programs at their current funding levels will provide adequate resources to implement this strategy.
In addition we have an ongoing concern related to the lack of adequate technical assistance resources provided to the federal, state and local level. These two issues are of critical importance to insure the success of the strategy.
Four, we are concerned that this strategy strongly relies on a proposed NRCS comprehensive nutrient management plan standard or guidance document which has yet to be provided. We reviewed a draft of this proposed NRCS nutrient management standard several months ago and it raised numerous concerns in our minds related to its practical application in Pennsylvania. It is difficult for us to determine the feasibility of the proposed AFO strategy without seeing the technical criteria that are being proposed by the program to the NRCS comprehensive nutrient management standard or guidance document.
Five, we are concerned about how and who will interpret the element of the strategy defining who is the regulated community. It is fairly straightforward when it comes to those large operations greater than a thousand animal units but it becomes less definable and therefore less understandable which animal operations with access to streams or on impaired watersheds are CAFOs. We see that this could have a significant impact on the number of farms defined as CAFOs.
In conclusion, I would like to state that we appreciate the similarities between this proposed strategy and Pennsylvania's current nutrient management act program.
These two programs appear to be addressing similar concerns related to agricultural nutrient management using an appropriate blend of regulatory and voluntary efforts. Our existing required plan elements are very similar to those outlined in the proposal and we see where this broad based approach to nutrient management can effectively address a full range of nutrient pollution concerns on agricultural operations.
We are very interested in reviewing and commenting on NRCS's draft comprehensive nutrient management plan standard or guidance document as we feel this serves as the backbone to the strategy.
It is difficult to fully understand and therefore comment on the impact that this proposal will have without seeing this standard.
As you finalize and begin to implement this strategy we encourage you to recognize the variability of conditions that exist at the state level and to allow for flexibility in the state programs to implement the provisions of the strategy. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: John Robinson followed by Frederica Barkman.
MR. ROBINSON: Thank you. I'm Don Robinson, district manager of the Lancaster County Conservation District. The strategy has many worthy concepts and issues that need to be pursued to keep agriculture viable while protecting the environment. However, there are a few concepts and issues that raise concerns. Two points of great concern that emerge from a concept on page 16, and 17, Section 4.4, subsection titled, significant contributions to water quality impairment. Those are, one, the accuracy of monitoring and two the economic impact that this would have on small family farms in a concentrated area that are not CAFOs yet could each be treated as one in a collective group.
First, the concept implies that monitoring will be able to successfully differentiate between sources of stream degradation or contamination contributions from livestock operations, cropping operations, residential septic systems, waste water treatment plan contributions, air depositions and other sources of contaminants within an eight digit watershed or larger.
Secondly, the impact of this part of the strategy appears to put small farms particularly ones in prime agricultural areas at a distinct economic disadvantage with larger farms or less intense areas by possibly forcing them to export non-excess much-needed manure nutrients and then purchase commercial fertilizer that results in no net change in nutrient reduction. The margin of profit is not adequate to support small operations under this strategy. In fact, this strategy may actually encourage expansion of operations in those areas in order to compete.
Strategic issue number two, section four, the financial assistance for comprehensive nutrient management plan implementation that proposes to use EQUIP and other current federal funding programs is woefully inadequate and build on the hopes and dreams for increasing funding from farm bill programs that were designed to have decreasing funds and phase out support to farmers. The chances of receiving a PL566 or EQUIP watershed grant are minimal and require too much work to prepare a successful application. Overworked and understaffed NRCS field offices and district staff have to take too much time away from technical assistance activities to prepare applications and contract paperwork to secure and distribute funds to generate more planning paperwork in a small part of their county. This can be counter-productive activity compared to the way the former ACP program worked and was funded.
Page 39 strategic issue number seven. Action item watershed nutrient load estimates. Site using data from fertilizer sales to help determine loading.
Currently available data in Pennsylvania is very inaccurate for this purpose. Not only is the data not watershed specific but the county data is not reliable since fertilizers sold in a county like Lancaster where many fertilizer dealers are headquartered may not be --- or rather may be exported and used in many other counties or states but yet is still allocated to our county.
These fertilizer sales statistics for a county also include fertilizers for homeowner use, commercial lawn service use and golf course use and yet is still reported as agricultural use.
There may be some merit to using animal numbers as CAFOs are calculated, rather than using the density as we do in Pennsylvania. But it appears that using an oversimplified inaccurate unrepresentative inflexible method of determining animal units is a step backwards from the system used here in Pennsylvania called animal equivalent units. This system has been recognized by EPA as being much more accurate than their method. The excuse that it's the same all over the country gives little comfort when the plans are to consider revisions in a few years adding more confusion. Why not start right the first time? The Lancaster County Conservation District and I believe on this issue I can speak for all county conservation districts in Pennsylvania support conservation planning to meet allowable soil loss standards as an integral part of any nutrient management strategy and should be included for all lands receiving manure.
MS. BENDER: Ms. Barkman followed by Philip Beachey.
MS. BARKMAN: Good afternoon. I want to thank you for providing these listening sessions. My name is Frederica Barkman. I'm from Clearfield, PA, Monroe Township, Bedford County, PA. This is going to be in my back yard, 400 yards. It's where the factory farm is going to be located. Many --- the quality of my life is at stake by the way. Many states and Pennsylvania as well tried to keep their CAFO regulations as reasonable as possible in order to encourage industry and be competitive with other states. Even now Pennsylvania is in the process of rolling back their environmental regulations to the minimum that federal law requires. That is why this AFO strategy is so important to me; why it is so important that this plan be one that is at least randomly protective. I wish that I could say that AFO's strategy creates such a framework but I cannot. It is too vague. The strategy is not a one-size-fits-all minimum standards. Instead it leaves basic parts and specific requirements of state permit programs and different management plans for each state to figure out. This continuing competitive war between the states on the environment. Vagueness of terms, definitions and requirements have caused problems in the past and provided loop holes that the industry has used, continues in the AFO strategy, thus despite the fact that one of the strategy's guiding principles was to establish a national goal in the environmental performance, expectations for all CAFOs.
The CAFO definition should be cleaned up including their guide letter for poultry problems, then individual permits that are site specific should be required of all CAFOs including existing ones and some AFOs.
General permits do not allow for citizen participation and their knowledge of their local government chartering.
Third, the strategy seems to favor and provide for the continued use of the lagoon technology that has problems rather than permitting other more sustainable measures. The air spraying of liquid manure should be banned all together and air pollution should be addressed not just water --- not just water, I'm sorry.
Corporations should be responsible for the cost of cleanup, waste disposal, and the burden of liability not just contractors. In other words, permitter pays should apply.
Finally, the time line the strategy proposes is too long and allows ongoing pollution to continue. Clarify the definition of a CAFO will require many more facilities that require permitting, therefore, moratorium should be put into effect for all new and expanding factory farms at least as to existing operations and having permitting and regulations revised. Thank you very much.
MS. BENDER: Mr. Beachey and after that we'll take our break.
MR. BEACHY: Good afternoon. My name is Phil Beachy. I'm from Perry County, Carol Township. I'm a novice and I just read about factory farms coming to Perry County and put my two cents worth in so I have a couple things I'd just like to mention.
One, I read the Pennsylvania Constitution and it talks about clean water and clean air and I read that as a right for the citizens of the state. And so I think that takes a priority and I sure wish that somehow that would be addressed in all that we're doing. It seems to be neglected. Maybe we need to amend it, I hope not.
My main concern is for citizen input. The factory farms tell us and give us information, but when I went and started to question people, I went to the supervisors, to the Solicitor, to the Commissioners in our county. And they all said there was nothing they could do. What's taking place has to happen because it's coming down from Harrisburg, but there's not --- there's no input that one could have.
I wish there were a way that you would have input from citizens that were near, actual real people. You would have the role of the government, the federal government the state government, but governments to be of the people, by the people, for the people. Somehow for the ordinary Joe Doe to give their two cents worth. I venture to say that if there were referendum, some kind of a vote on these things we would be shocked at what the ordinary person's saying. I could be wrong on that, but my main concern is to you and the main thought is that somehow, so that Joe Doe that person out there can get his two cents worth in what's happening. I hear what the federal government's saying, I hear what the states are saying. I say to myself they ain't speaking for me, that's not what I want and I have a hunch that there's a few more people thinking like I am. So just for your consideration, I appreciate the opportunity. This is an interesting exercise in government. Thanks.
MS. BENDER: Thank you, sir. We're going to take that 15-minute break. Everybody's been sitting for a very long time. So if you could be back in your seats in 15 minutes, whatever time is on your watch, 15 minutes hence, be back and we'll finish with the last group of presenters. Thank you.
SHORT BREAK TAKEN
MS. BENDER: A bunch of folks have been asking how many speakers are left. There are six. There were seven before we took the break but somebody left. We have six speakers left. And the first, if he can get ready, is Michael Stibich, followed by whoever is here from the United Egg Producers.
MR. STIBICH: My name is Mike Stibich. I'm from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and am the chair of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club. The Pennsylvania Chapter will submit detailed comments on your joint strategy prior to your deadline. Those comments probably will not be complimentary. I have one little area that I'd like to speak to today on behalf of the Chapter and that involves the fact that you acknowledge many things here, one of which overriding is the fact that it has taken us 25 years to get you to produce a strategy, 25 years. And yet, having produced that strategy 25 years late, you will not take the one step to give some meaning to the fact that you intend to continue to develop something that's meaningful and that step is a moratorium. If, in fact, you're not willing to put a moratorium on the issuance of the permits that you intend to issue starting in the spring of 1999 on new or expanding facilities or upon what you call those smaller facilities that have unacceptable conditions --- and I'm going to deal with that phrase, unacceptable conditions, later. If you're not willing to do that, I am not willing to take your effort seriously. I consider it a sham. You admit --- you admit and acknowledge that you have no data on the size and the extent of the problem as it exists today, no data, but want to move ahead and permit other facilities, factories, to engage in these practices without doing anything about it. You could stop the permitting today. You have the authority to do that.
You use this phrase, unacceptable conditions, and I have never seen that phrase before and I don't have a clue what that means. And I think it's going to take some time to develop some concept and substance behind it. And all of the while we've got new facilities coming on-line every day, as you've heard today.
Your strategy is great in that it mandates something that is comprehensive and I thank you for using the word comprehensive, but I don't see one detail insofar as what your nutrient management plans are going to do, nothing, and yet you want to let new facilities come on-line?
You continue to rely upon antiquated technology, lagoons and liquid spraying of this stuff. And we want to let more people, more industries, more factories get involved in doing the same thing? This is not legitimate. You rely so heavily upon the concept of voluntary compliance and yet we've had 25 years where the industry could have shown voluntary compliance and they ain't. They haven't done that. And yet we're still going to go in the direction of voluntary compliance? Come on, kids. This is not being serious.
There are other --- I could go on endlessly pointing out the inefficient use of this particular strategy, but I suggest if you're going to be serious, if you're going to be serious, kindly impose a moratorium, no permits. And we know you have the authority to shut them down if they don't have them. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Is there a representative from the United Egg Producers? Down one more. Martha Noble and then Bill Plank.
MS. NOBLE: Good afternoon. My name is Martha Noble. I'm a policy analyst with the Stable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, D.C., but I'm here today wearing my hat as a Pennsylvania resident. Although I work in Washington, my husband and I own a home in Huntingdon County where he lives and works. So on my way down I thought I'd stop off and attend this show.
I particularly --- although the Stable Agriculture Coalition and myself as an individual will be submitting detailed comments on the AFO strategy, including some criticisms as well as some kudos for at least recognizing things such as the necessity of regulating land application. What I want to focus on today is this idea of your virtual center and data coordination and the research that's a component of this strategy with a couple of major comments.
The strategy itself, as you all noted, because you're narrowly focused --- is narrowly focused on surface water contamination, but the problems of factory farms extend far beyond that, I think, as many of you know. It's a message I'd like you to take back as a Pennsylvania citizen to your agencies and to other agencies in the Federal Government. And it's that time that you sat down together and accounted for all these problems coming from the factory farm system. This includes air pollution, it's noxious odors, it's ammonium nitrates, it's hydrogen sulfide levels. It includes worker health and safety, particularly for workers who are actually working in these confinement systems and whom many studies in Europe, in particular, show have a number of respiratory disorders as well as work-related injuries. It includes animal health and in particular something that's coming further and further up on the Federal agenda, the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are common both to the animal and human populations that are incubated in these systems. Particularly because of the use of sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics in order to promote growth. The animals in these systems are bred to the edge of physiological stress in most cases. They are then put in crowded and stressful conditions. And then in most of these systems they are given antibiotics daily in their food and their water. This is an incubation system for resistance. It's adding to a problem we already have for medical use in humans. It's something that again, I guess, you may know that Europeans are about to address in a major fashion. And we'd better be cognizant of what's going on there.
I think there are also questions with regards to the economic and social health of rural communities in which these facilities are placed. Usually there are big promises from the factory farm system about all the great jobs that are going to be generated and all the income, yet a number of studies coming out of schools, such as University of Iowa, are showing that these systems actually generate fewer jobs and less income and wealth to these rural communities than do a number of smaller, more sustainable operations in the community. There's a lot of economic dislocation. There are costs that people have mentioned here today, such as impact on roads. We also see impacts on welfare systems. We often have now what we're seeing a transient population in some cases being deliberately recruited out of countries such as Mexico, people who just don't have the resources of what they get in this system.
I think your virtual center should include all these problems and it also should include an accounting of all the subsidies that have been given to this factory farm system in its establishment and its maintenance and all the subsidies that you're going to have on-line to deal with all these problems, including surface water pollution. It doesn't sound right for you, as you're part of an agency, to be crying poverty on one hand and that you just don't have the money to regulate. Where on the other hand, USDA being an example, the same agency is giving things such as guaranteed loans to operators to establish these factory farms. There needs to be an accounting of the total that is going on in the Federal Government and I think for the state representative here, the State governments as well as local governments. This system is not inevitable. The only economic efficiency it has is in transferring wealth to fewer and fewer actors, the vertically integrated companies that stand at the top of the pyramid in this system and that in your strategy as well as others are not being held accountable for the problems they're causing. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Bill Plank and then Dennis Cooper.
MR. PLANK: My name is Bill Plank. I serve on my county conservation district. I have 40 cows at home. I belong to a number of environmental groups. I kind of work in the middle. And I'm going to trash the speech I thought I was going to give. I serve on a commission who works with the Potomac River and we have 90 million chickens in the south branch of the Potomac. We've got problems there. I do believe that your strategy should talk about dry --- quote, dry poultry manure also. We've got --- Shenandoah River is the most nutrient-polluted river in Virginia. We need to do something about that.
On my district --- and I've learned a lot being on the district about 15 years, not nearly the radical I used to be, I guess. We've always worked with this paradigm that if you kept your nutrients at home you saved money and you stayed in business. And we cleaned up water. I work with a group that works on drinking water for the City of Cumberland, Maryland. Their water comes out of my county in Pennsylvania. As Mike Stibich said, if volunteerism worked, we probably wouldn't be here today. On the other hand, you need a measure of both regulation and volunteerism. But given that paradigm, that there's money in keeping your nutrients at home and keeping them out of the water, why are we here today? I don't understand it either. I was present the day that Vice President Gore announced the beginning of this program last --- a year ago October. And I think about re-invention and that paradigm I think has to stick strongly in that re-invention. I attend a lot of meetings, sometimes just as an observer and I did one this morning, Nutrient Management Board of Pennsylvania here, I'm very interested in our structure, how we do planning here and from a district standpoint, how we work with people to assure compliance. We're not seeing the number of plans come in that we thought would come in. I think we worked hard at building capacity here in Pennsylvania and I think we've worked very diligently and honestly about it. I wish you luck. Many states haven't even started this process and yet we have the experience of doing it here and it's moving slower than I'd like to see. I see basically goals being met by this strategy 11 years from now, for me that's way too long in the future. By then the whole system may have changed. We may not have CAFOs. We may not do it the same way in 11 years. Who knows. I see a lot of scare tactics and denial. I was in a meeting last night in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, a neighboring county, where 80 people were upset about water quality problems with their wells, streams and odor, obviously. I think it's wrong, as I sat and listened today, to work with countervening dollars. I'm a member of Chesapeake Bay Foundation. I support what they do. I live in the Bay region. I think it's wrong to spend a lot of money cleaning up a bay and then provide technical assistance to folks that will most likely pollute the bay. I live on an exceptional value watershed, which is a top-tier EPA-type of watershed. About five miles or so from home downstream is a 1,200 sow reproductive unit. I've watched them. I've watched them spray over intermittent streams and tributaries to that exceptional value creek. I've watched a pit leak. I guess that's it.
MS. BENDER: Nice work. Thank you. Dennis Cooper and then Marty Campfield. Mr. Cooper.
MR. COOPER: I want to thank you for letting me come up and say some words. I didn't expect to when I came today, but they let me sign a paper. I'm a farmer. I'm a family farmer. Our farm consists of father, two brothers. We have 500 sows. I listened to people here talk about factory farm and I don't really consider our farm a factory farm. Our farm feeds five families, provides the income for five families. If we didn't have a concentrated number of livestock as we do, none of us would be in the farming business because of regulations, because of taxes, finances. We couldn't do it. And I look at the regulations that I see here, and it worries me. I don't fall in --- or our operation does not fall quite into all the categories that you have here, but some day it might. I noticed a lot of people here aren't farmers. They don't work with their hands. Because the ones that are out there farming, doing the job, are out there doing their job and don't have the time to come here. And I do feel for some of these people that are worried about --- that have a house and worried about an operation coming next to them and the odors and so forth. Yes, manure stinks. But yet, I have always been taught and I think you'll find that most farmers have always been taught that you leave the land better than you found it. And you take care of the land and that means taking care of not only the land but the water and the air that is around you.
Now, I would like to see less regulation myself. I believe it is good what is in there about voluntary systems. And I think people need to be given the chance to take care of their own land and to decide for themselves what is best for their own land. That's all I have to say. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you. The last speaker who signed up is Marty Campfield.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Yes. Good afternoon.I'm the owner of a business here in Pennsylvania that provides nutrient management planning services to farmers. We also have computer software that we market throughout the northeast to help farmers keep records. Our software is being used by the Planning Commission in New York State for the New York State --- New York City watershed. And we also work very closely with a lot of farmers to help them computerize and also provide planning for their farms. I also live within a half a mile of a very large hog operation so I hope I approach this from a couple of perspectives. I also sit on the State Nutrient Management Advisory Board, just being recently appointed to that. I say this just to introduce myself because I appreciated the introductions for all of you and I appreciate your time today.
I'm going to just touch on some things that came to mind as you went through the presentation because I think we could all spend about four hours talking about this, each one of us. But I'll just try to address a few things. I certainly know from working with farmers that most farmers in this country want to work very closely and in harmony with the land and the people around their farms, because they are citizens, too, and they are neighbors. And I think some of the best neighbors we have are our rural neighbors.
One very small point, when you mention CNMPs in your strategy, I would caution you to be careful about that because in Pennsylvania we now have certified nutrient management plans and you are using the C to stand for comprehensive. So there may be some confusion in the future when people read that. One small point.
Also, I would highly encourage you to have a very clean streamlined process of plan review and approval. In my estimation this is one of the great downfalls of Pennsylvania's current program. As a planner I often get plans sent back to me two and three times with numerous changes to be made. After we've made changes we then get the plan back with new changes to be made. This is a totally frustrating industry right now and it is very frustrating to farmers who are waiting a long time to get their plans back. So your process needs to be very clean and streamlined.
As for voluntary, I think we'd all love to live in an ideal world where everyone volunteered. But look at Maryland, look at Pennsylvania's current compliance and I think you need to look very strongly at whether volunteerism is going to work.
You mentioned farmers that could seek assistance from State and Federal agencies only when the private sector wasn't working. That was kind of ambiguous to me. I wasn't sure when a farmer could go to a private person to do his plan or when he could go to the State or Federal agency to get his plan done. And that needs to be very clearly laid out if you want private industry involved in this because we cannot compete with government who does it often for free. I'm trying to rush here.
EPA visits to farms are very threatening. I understand they need to occur in some cases, but imagine the IRS calling you and telling you that they're bringing four inspectors to your home tomorrow. This is what it feels like to a farmer who hears that an EPA review is going to occur on his farm. I'd just mention that.
The conservation plan is a part of the nutrient management plan, so although we have a trust relationship that you mentioned for confidentiality, it's often tied to the nutrient management plan and therefore you need to review the legal aspects of that because I think that makes it public information.
Conservation districts finally need to get computerized like farmers are getting computerized. I was in an office recently and they couldn't even find maps for a farm. They're looking through rolodexes. They're looking through piles of maps. So I strongly encourage you to get your agencies up to speed. Okay. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you, sir. Because everybody did such a nice job of sticking to their time with that little friendly reminder in front of them and we didn't take questions on the technical or clarifying questions, the two folks from EPA and USDA who led off this morning. So the people who organized the meeting told me that we have about 15 minutes if you have some questions, if you could limit them to the content of the strategy. I don't know that it's the forum at this hour and after the presentations from individuals to engage in debates about these things, but if you have questions, someone just said there was some ambiguity, if you have something that needs to be clarified that you would like more information on we do have a little bit of time to ask a couple of questions and we also have a technical panel here. Their names are listed on your agenda if you have any specific questions. And yes, sir?
MR. LYONS: Maybe before we get into the issue of technical questions, since we did run through this in a rapid clip, first of all, I wanted to thank all the individuals who spoke. But I wanted to offer anyone else who might want to say a few words and perhaps didn't sign up, if they'd like to raise their hand and they can certainly participate. My fear is that the room will empty quickly as those who don't have technical questions get up and leave. And I want to make sure that anyone who has any other comments or thoughts, particularly reflecting on what was said and obviously there was a wide spectrum of views on this issue, as we would anticipate, I want to give everybody who has any last thoughts an opportunity to share them with all of us. Is there anyone who would like to say anything else before we move into technical questions? Yes, sir? You want to just come up to the microphone and introduce yourself.
MR. EPIGER: Excuse me. Never waste an opportunity to speak. My name is Richard Epiger (phonetic). I'm from New Jersey. I've gone over and I've listened to all the conversations and all the comments that were made and I would just ask you to consider one possibility that is a broad leap from what you're trying to do. And that is the problem with geese. While it does not constitute an animal feeding operation, a lot of towns have flocks of geese that are extremely large and may constitute a whole unit.
If you'd just consider the fact that 50 community of geese can ruin a five-acre pond in two years, you recognize how bad the system is. And I would ask if there's a way that they could be included in this. Thank you.
MR. LYONS: Anyone else? Yes, sir? Yes, ma'am, I'm sorry.
MS. SMITH: Well, I'd just like to add one more thing if I could.
MR. LYONS: Why don't you come up to the microphone again and just reintroduce yourself to the Reporter.
MS. SMITH: Sandy Smith from York County and I do live on a farm and I've been farming in York County since I came up from Maryland from teaching school for more years than I'd like to know now. And good stewardship is a very important thing. And I don't think anybody here today that is saying anything bad about factory farming really means a personal vendetta against the family farm, but that's not what we're talking about. We're not talking about family farms. We're talking about family farms being a thing of the past. Thank you.
MR. LYONS: Thank you very much. Anyone else? Okay. If I could, since I'm going to have to take off, I just wanted to say a few things and then I'm going to leave it to questions. First of all, again, I want to thank everyone who spoke today and offered their views. This is the way the process is supposed to work. We lay a strong line out there and people have the opportunity to respond. And I think as reflected by the comments, there are a wide range of views about how to deal with animal feed operations. I think in particular I wanted to address a point made by several speakers. And they raised the question why are we here? There's a law on the books and if we simply want to implement the law, then in theory these issues would go away. I think the reason we're here is because the issues haven't gone away. Because for whatever reasons, current practice, current policies, current implementation strategies, whether for lack of resources or lack of will have not gotten us to the point where we've dealt with this issue. That's not to say that we haven't made a great deal of progress in implementing the Clean Water Act. Over 20 years we've accomplished a great deal. But from my perspective, we focused on the easy stuff. We focused on the point sources of pollution. And now we're down to the things that are a little more difficult to define and to identify and to document and to deal with. And those are non-point sources. And the administration dedicated a whole strategy to dealing with the next steps in implementing the Clean Water Act. And non-point, as you might imagine, comes immediately to the forum.
I think we're here because we have an obvious challenge. It's a challenge on a local basis, on the state basis and it's gotten national attention. Many states are attempting to deal with this issue. The industries that are affected are trying to deal with this issue. And communities who are affected by factory farms, are affected by animal feed operations are concerned about the impacts it's going to have on their environment or already may be having. And it seems to me we have a role and responsibility as --- at least to the Federal agencies that are involved in agriculture and environmental protection to try and deal with this issue in as comprehensive and equitable way as we possibly can.
What we're trying to do here is try and affect a strategy that will get the issues resolved. I heard comments that the time line is too long or that perhaps voluntary approaches are inadequate. I appreciate those comments and those opinions and certainly they're going to factor into how we deal with this issue. But I think the fact of the matter is that we've never had the resources. Perhaps we've never had the technology and the expertise to deal with some of these issues in the comprehensive way in which we need to deal with them.
There is a new paradigm in which we operate. We focus on watersheds. And we try to deal with watersheds in a comprehensive way and look at the impacts that various operations have on those watersheds, not just focus on individual operations but to help the watershed overall, to try and address water quality concerns in a much more comprehensive way. I think that's a paradigm that's pretty broadly accepted. I know it's accepted by the Pennsylvania Agriculture Commission and New York State and New Jersey and other parts of the northeast. And I think it's one that we're using on a nationwide basis to try and make more efficient use of the limited resources we have and really target our efforts to deal with those non-point sources of pollution that are impacting water quality and not just surface water quality, but groundwater quality as well as other resources as well.
I think your comments today focus in on some of the issues that we have identified and, in fact, debated at length during the process of putting together this draft rule. You know, you have two entities represented here that come at these issues in very, very different ways. The Department of Agriculture --- by the way, not just friends of the corporate farmers, but the Department of Agriculture which has a very important role in conservation, attempting to put conservation on the ground through a cooperative approach in working with landowners, an approach that's --- that has had some success over time and one that we think help us move to the next step in dealing with these issues from an AFO standpoint. And the Environmental Protection Agency, which has primary responsibility for implementing the Clean Water Act, which is a primary tool implemented through, for the most part, State agencies, has the regulatory state, which it uses to try and insure that the law is enforced and the requirements of the Clean Water Act are met.
We're trying to work together in partnership to figure out ways in which we can use the resources we have most efficiently and most effectively. That's really what the strategy is is an attempt to realize.
I think the comments I heard today highlight the complexity of this issue, certainly the emotion that's associated with dealing with this issue. And I think they also help raise a very, very important point and that is, regardless of the strategy that is finally adopted and the extent to which it adopts a regulatory framework or a voluntary framework, this is an issue that's going to have to be dealt with on a local basis. Everyone's going to have to be involved in affecting change and in working together to insure that the goals that we set out and the laws that are enacted are finally and ultimately implemented so that we achieve the clean water goals that we have.
I think your comments will help us as well as the comments we received from the other listening sessions we have, hopefully to get to that goal. And I want to assure you, as was noted earlier, that this session as well as the comments that we receive will all be posted on the Web. So you have a sense of what dialogues occurred in other parts of the country to the extent in which your views are shared by others or perhaps not. This is the way the process is intended to work and hopefully it will lead to an outcome that is going to achieve the clean water goals that I know we all share, whether agricultural producers or just citizens who are concerned about the place they live and the land they love. So I want to thank you for the opportunity to join you today and for the opportunity to hear what you had to say and assure you that all your comments will be taken to heart as we put this final rule together. Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you very much. Questions? Yes, sir.
MR. NOVAK: Yes. My name is Karl Novak, once again, and I've just heard your comments, Mr. Lyons, and I'm impressed with where you want to go. I think one of the things that --- I think that you put yourself in a hole from the standpoint of approaching such things as what you have in the way of assets or in people or whatever you want to call assets, to do whatever's to be done in the future. I think what you should be doing is looking to increasing your staff and doing the right thing in the long run and that is something that you must do. If you don't do, I think you certainly will come forth with strangling yourself in the long run without the people and the assets necessary to really bring to the people of our United States what they should have and that's clean water and a life that is one that is not encumbered with a lot of diseases and waste and whatnot, but that can come from doing less than what we should be doing. Thank you.
MR. LYONS: Thank you for that comment. I can't avoid a softball. I've worked in conservation for 20 years, going back to when I graduated from Rutgers not far from here, and have fought hard to try and obtain the resources and that means money and technical assistance, the people and the finances to do the kind of work that we need to do on the landscape. Whether you support a regulatory or voluntary approach, it takes people and dollars to get the job done. And I would tell you that it's an uphill battle to make conservation a priority oftentimes in debates in the Congress and with others. There are a lot of priorities, a lot of concerns. Conservation never seems to rise to the level of concern that we --- I think you and I share in terms of the commitments of resources necessary to get the job done. So I would implore you to send that message to your elected officials to convey to them your desire to insure the resources are there to get the job done.
Lacking resources, we try innovative and creative ways to get the job done and I'm frankly enheartened by what I see across the nation, the desire and the commitment on the part of communities and local governments and state agencies to try and step in the breach and try and fill some of the voids that exist. But make no mistake, there's a tremendous investment that needs to be made in land stewardship and conservation and I hope as a nation we come to realize that at some point in time so we can head off crises before they become such.
MS. BENDER: Other questions? Clarifications or technical questions? Yes, ma'am?
MS. BARKMAN: I'm Frederica Barkman again. I live in Perry. This one factory farm that's going to be located in my backyard, it's going to be located at the start of two watersheds, the Potomac --- where the Potomac is and the Susquehanna --- the Chesapeake Bay. It's all the beginning. It's going to be setting on a hill and it's going to affect two --- the two streams, Shaffer (phonetic) Creek and Potomac Creek.
And I'm here speaking for my town. The school is one mile from this factory farm. I'm very worried about it and so is my family, my neighbors and I'm speaking here for them. Thank you.
MR. LYONS: Ma'am, I appreciate your comments and your concerns and unfortunately it's not a situation that I have a great deal of knowledge about. I'm sure that some of the state officials here, perhaps local officials probably know more about it.
MS. BARKMAN: Yes. I've talked to several of them about it.
MR. LYONS: And perhaps could address it better. You know, in many respects the strategy that we've drafted is really intended to try and deal with existing operations and maybe in some respects is inadequate because we aren't able to look ahead and play a role in helping to guide the siting of future facilities, certainly one of the factors that come into play. Those decisions are often made, obviously by local authorities, whether municipal authorities or county authorities and certainly State officials through a permitting process.
MS. BARKMAN: May I say one thing? They do not help us.
MR. LYONS: Well, I'd be surprised to hear that knowing some elected officials in Pennsylvania, but I'd certainly encourage you to work on that.
MS. BARKMAN: You don't live in Monroe County.
MR. LYONS: Well, no, I don't. I live in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. This is what I mean by saying we all have to try to work together to try and figure out ways to address these issues to insure that they don't result in environmental damage.
MS. BENDER: Questions?
MR. CAMPFIELD: Yes, it's good to have the back and forth here. I appreciate this. One other thing that I didn't have time to mention and it was a question to me. I believe you mentioned that if an operator is in compliance with all of the provisions of the Act, for example, and there's a spill or a discharge, that they would be given one-time immunity from consequences, if it was deemed to be a mistake? Did I understand that correctly?
MR. PIOTROWSKI: Oh, you need to just to identify yourself.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Yes. Marty Campfield.
MR. LAPE: Marty, in the strategy we do have a couple of incentive provisions and basically what we've laid out in one of them is, if a small operation in the voluntary program is implementing a comprehensive nutrient management plan and has a mistake of some kind and in good faith they're implementing their plan, we're basically saying the regulatory authority and the voluntary authorities ought to say, gee, is there an opportunity for this person to correct that and not be brought into the regulatory program immediately.
MR. CAMPFIELD: That's what I understood you to say and I like the spirit of that. We all make mistakes. We're all humans. I just feel uneasy about that because I wonder who will define mistake and who will be the one that decides whether it is or is not a mistake.
MR. LAPE: Marty, I think that's precisely the kind of feedback we'd be interested in, if you have particular thoughts as to what kind of criteria should exist, what kinds of facilities, whether or not that kind of incentive should even be offered.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Right.
MR. LAPE: We're very much interested in hearing that.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Right. The second comment and then I'll be finished. I believe you also mentioned that if an operator was complying for five years and didn't have any violations that they could then drop to a non-CAFO status and not have to continue to have a CNMP or a comprehensive nutrient management plan?
MR. LAPE: That is the second idea of an incentive, Marty. That's basically a facility that's not a large facility,
MR. CAMPFIELD: Okay.
MR. LAPE: --- not one that's in an impaired watershed that has been brought into the regulatory program maybe because they've had a history, small operation. They've corrected the problem. They successfully implement the nutrient management plan and at the end of the five-year term have no continuing basis of a discharge. Then the regulatory authority could basically say, they're out of the regulatory program.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Okay.
MR. LAPE: And that's the second idea.
MR. CAMPFIELD: My comment on that would be that once again, the spirit of that is good in that we're providing some incentives to reward the operators. However, I would like to see the planning continue because if we believe inherently that the plan is a good thing --- and once we've gotten the operation complying, they're going to see the benefits, our clients see the benefits in implementing a nutrient management plan. They save fertilizer dollars, they save topsoil, it goes on and on. So I'd like to see that continue, but perhaps provide incentives such as continued cost sharing, something that others don't get if they don't comply properly. But I don't think we want to drop the process that we believe so much in starting.
MR. LAPE: Maybe we weren't clear. We didn't expect that the planning process would be dropped. It would be continued in the voluntary arena.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Okay.
MR. LAPE: So the concept of their comprehensive nutrient management plan would continue to be implemented in the voluntary arena.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Okay. The only other aspect that that brings up, and this has been happening here in Pennsylvania, too. We had a flush of people who signed up to become certified planners in the private industry. After most of these people did one or two plans they fell back and I think today you'll find a handful of people actively developing plans in this state. One of the tough things about this, from a business standpoint, is that you are creating initially a tremendous need for plan development and then it falls off rapidly. And in that case once again, if you switch from mandatory to voluntary, you leave business standing there saying, now we've hired all these people, we've geared up for this and how do we handle that? So that's a side issue but very important.
MR. DELVECCHIO: I'll take a shot at that one.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Okay.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Okay. You're absolutely right. You could look at this as a very --- a peak at the beginning for comprehensive nutrient management planners and then as all the plans were developed that need would drop off. But the one thing that we have to recognize, as with any nutrient management planning, the annual maintenance of a plan is almost as critical as the original development of a plan. And what I'm saying is that there are so many factors in the environment that can affect a nutrient management plan from year to year, you know, the --- obviously climate has a tremendous effect. It could be disease or insects in a crop, so therefore as much nutrients as we thought were going to be taken up weren't taken up. You could have the ideal growing conditions and more nutrients were taken up because the crops grow so good. Nutrient management planning needs to have somebody look at that plan on an annual basis to make sure that what we had planned several years in advance is still appropriate.
So we feel that even though there's a peak for the original plans that we're also going to be maintaining a level of need for comprehensive nutrient management planners and certified planners throughout the length. As long as people are continuing to implement their nutrient management plans you'll still have that need. And we'd like to see a lot of that addressed in the private sector rather than the public sector.
MR. CAMPFIELD: I agree with you. I concur with you. And that message needs to be out front and as loud and clear as the initial plan development.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Good. That's a very good comment. Thank you.
MR. CAMPFIELD: Thank you.
MS. BENDER: Thank you, sir. Anyone else, questions? Come on.
MR. GARBER: Hi. Lamont Garber, Chesapeake Bay Foundation. And I'd also like to extend thanks for you all coming up here and hearing some concerns of people who live and work in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
My question is about nutrient management plans themselves and their effectiveness in protecting water quality. I think there have been a lot of watershed studies, monitoring studies that have been done around the country looking at the effectiveness of nutrient management plans that have been done in a particular watershed and what impact they've had in nutrient levels in the stream and in the groundwater. And I think at best we can say a lot of the studies have shown fairly mixed results. Our own rural clean water project here in --- well, in Lancaster County shows some fairly mixed results. Perhaps it was just because we didn't monitor for a long enough period of time to show the effects of the nutrient management plans.
But my question is this, are you confident that these comprehensive nutrient management plans are going to have the intended effect on water quality and are there watersheds that you're looking to where you can say, yes, where nutrient management has been done in this fashion for this period of time they are having the positive effect?
MR. LAPE: I think many of us hope that comprehensive nutrient management plans will yield significant environmental benefit. I think it's fair to say, though, there are watersheds with very problematic situations, where we need to address the fact that there may be more nutrients generated than there is land reasonably available and that some of those nutrient management plans are going to look at alternative utilization options that may look at alternatives other than land application, such as transport out of the watershed, energy conversion. So we are quite hopeful that the plans be done right the first time and achieve the environmental outcomes. We would be interested if you can alert us to any particular studies where the results have been mixed because we would like to understand why that is the case.
MR. LYONS: Joe, did you want to make any comments?
MR. DELVECCHIO: I think one thing we have to realize in regard to this whole polluted runoff and non-point source issue is that we've taken --- we've spent a lot of time messing things up and we're going to have to take some time fixing them too and especially in regard to water quality issues and phosphorus being the primary nutrient. The system is going to take a while to cleanse itself. The sediments in the streams, the sediments on the soil, on the land, all have a lot of nutrients built up in them and the comprehensive nutrient management plan intent is to stop the inflow of nutrients into that system. But the actual change in water quality that you're going to see is going to take a number of years to see that.
You mentioned your rural clean water project. I know Vermont, they were part of the comprehensive monitoring evaluation program for a ten-year period after they implemented best management practices. What they found was, they were having a tremendous impact on the loss of nutrients all at the edge of field, but they were seeing hardly any change in the water itself. And that was a ten-year period of monitoring. At the tail end of that ten-year period of monitoring they were beginning to see some change. So what I'm telling you is that, you know, ten years seems like a long time, but it could take at least that long to see the actual in-water change, the water quality standards change. This is, again, a whole different issue than, you know, treating the end of a pipe and seeing some instantaneous results in the levels of some industrial pollutants.
MS. BENDER: One last question.
MR. PLANK: What does that mean for drinking water? We've got storage sediments --- ten years isn't going to make much of a difference.
MS. MITCHELL: Sir, the Court Reporter needs to hear the question. Could you use the microphone or we'll bring one back to you?
MR. PLANK: Bill Plank. I was wondering --- and I used to work on drinking water reservoirs. I'm an amateur and I've learned as I go. But what we're seeing in drinking water reservoirs is phosphorus pollutant sediments. It takes a long time --- what do you do, do you dredge it? Do you --- then where do you put that spoil? I understand and I understand it can take quite a bit of time to make a change from edge of field to actual water quality, but what does it do to lakes? Especially in Pennsylvania here, we have very --- at least in western and southern Pennsylvania, we have very few natural lakes. What we're dealing with are man-made reservoirs and we depend on them and we do a lot of work on trying to keep sediment out of our waterways for that reason. So what's our long range prognosis here? It seems to me kind of dim.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Well, let's not lose sight of the fact that, you know, if you stop the pollutants from being inputted into the waters then you're having a beneficial effect. I mean, the problems with long-term nutrient storage in reservoirs, at this point there's nothing --- there's really --- other than time heals all wounds, what else can you do about it?
MR. PLANK: Well, I've read your plan for doing comprehensive nutrient management plan in a period this summer. Excuse me, it was NRCS that had one out. They were going to allow up to two times the phosphorus input of --- at the threshold level or if you knew the changeover point from dissolved, you know, to orthophosphate to other kinds of phosphates. Two times that, up to two times that level. I don't see how that's stopping it. The comprehensive nutrient management plan mentioned in the strategy --- as other commenters said, doesn't mention, are we going to regulate nitrogen, are we going to regulate phosphorus? It's really unclear. And if we don't regulate phosphorus we're in trouble and if we do --- 11 years off in the future with no clear picture of how to do it and no clear picture that it produces a result, I still think it's a deal. I think moratorium is another key here. That's one of the ways you stop this input is --- and you said that, let's stop the input.
MR. DELVECCHIO: Right. But the moratorium isn't --- I mean, that input is not just strictly coming from animal feeding operations. It's coming from cropland. It's coming from septic systems. It's coming from municipal discharges. I mean, it's coming from everywhere. You know, what we're dealing with here is the issue in regard to how are we going to handle it at the farm level and at the field level?
What you'll see in regard to the NRCS nutrient management policy is that it's been changed tremendously or it will be. It's in the process of being changed from what you saw this summer. Because of the amount of public comment that came back, you know, they realized that there needed to be some changes to it. So what you're going to see is --- the final version is going to be different than what you saw in the original version. I really can't answer the question in regard to long-term strategies in regard to drinking water. I think, you know, it's a situation where we have to stop the --- you know, minimize the impact with what we call strategy, minimize the loss from animal feeding operations. The other issues in regard to save drinking water may either require treatment or time.
MS. BENDER: Well, I want to thank you all for being so cooperative with your moderator and giving everybody a chance to have some time to say. I don't know if you folks have any closing remarks or --- anybody? Thank you.
MR. HERNANDEZ: Not extensive closing remarks. I think Jim Lyons put it well in perspective in terms of summarizing some of the things that we've heard today. I specifically would like to thank you folks for coming out here and participating in this and letting us know what you --- what you interpret in that strategy and hopefully we've all listened and we'll take those comments and incorporate them as appropriate.
I wanted to say thank you to the folks that participated in this from an EPA perspective, from the USDA natural resources perspective. Especially I want to say thank you to the folks in the --- Abigail Ladd from Senator Santorum's office, Jennifer Saraceno from Congressman Tim Holden's office. And one individual that we failed to recognize, as we did not know he was in the audience, is Douglas R. Hodgkin (phonetic), Jr., district staffer for Congressman Bill Goodman from the 19th District, also took interest in coming out here.
As we leave today, the only thing that I will say is that we need to take all these different perspectives and, in fact, put it in perspective, I hope. I come from a part of the world that is not as densely populated as this part of the country. You all can probably tell from my accent that I'm not from the northeast, among other things. And as I heard this, I would speculate that other folks from other parts of the country might have a different perspective. But I leave you with this, I had the opportunity to travel a lot, extensively through the countryside. And as I get up on an airplane, I look down and I see a lot of good work being applied on the land, on the private lands of this country. I've also had the opportunity to travel some in other countries, specifically in some South American countries and Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Mexico, a couple of others, and every time I come home, it feels so good that I am an American and that we're trying to do some of the things that you're telling us that we need to do even more. So I hope that you leave here feeling that you've provided input to try to maybe make those things that we need to fine tune and make better, that you feel good about that input, but also feel good that we are, in fact, doing some good things out in the countryside. And I applaud the folks from EPA as well as USDA for the good things that are also happening out in the countryside.
With that, Janet, if did you have anything else to add or any of the folks from EPA? Folks, thanks a lot for coming out here today. This was very, very important to us. Thank you.
MEETING CONCLUDED AT 4:52 P.M.