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PUBLIC LISTENING SESSION
Draft USDA/EPA Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations
November 30, 1998
Reporter: Susan Milleville
TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS of the above-entitled matter before Susan Milleville, a Notary Public in and for the State of Wisconsin, at the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, City of Madison, County of Dane and State of Wisconsin, on the 30th day of November 1998, commencing at 12:30 in the afternoon.
Joe Del Vecchio
MR. O'CONNOR: My name is Carl O'Connor. I'm the dean and director of Cooperative Education, University of Wisconsin-Extension. I would like to welcome you to this listening session of the draft animal feeding operations strategy. I'll be assisting with the role of moderating this session this afternoon. I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture and EPA for holding this listening session on the draft strategy. I would also like to thank you, each of you, who have taken the time out of your busy schedule to attend the session and to assist USDA and EPA's efforts in developing a final strategy and especially those of us in Wisconsin.
This is the fourth of eleven listening sessions being held throughout the country over a four-week period ending in mid-December. The purpose of this meeting is to listen to your comments concerning the draft strategy, the animal feeding operations strategy, and to help better inform you also about what is in the strategy so that you're comments can really help develop the final strategy as it goes forward in the next few processes which will be explained.
While we are interested in your thoughts and ideas today, I want to be clear that your comments on the draft strategy may continue to be submitted until January 19, 1999. I really can't emphasize this enough. Certainly you're going to hear some things today that you may not have known when you first came in or maybe going home it will all start to sink in and there will be a good idea that you want to share. We would like to have those in writing and they would be important to put in. Those you can continue to submit until January 19, 1999, and it's really important that we have that.
All comments at this session will become part of a public record and will be considered when finalizing the strategy. We encourage you to submit those written comments, and one of the ways to do it -- when you are back by the water, almost right where you signed when you came in, there were a stack of envelopes that look like this. They're all pre-addressed. I notice they didn't put a stamp on it. They will make you put your own stamp on it. They are pre-addressed to Denise Coleman, and this will get your information into the official record. So please, please, take one of these home. Even if you're not sure if you're going to make a comment today, make sure you take this along because this is a way to get your comments into the official record in addition to being able to speak today.
Before I review today's agenda, I would like to introduce a number of guest presenters who are with us this afternoon. Start with the listening panel that we have, our panel members, and start with Carole Jett. Carole is the special assistant, programs from NRCS in Washington, D.C. Dana Minerva is from EPA Washington, D.C., deputy assistant administrator for Water, EPA. JoLynn Traub from EPA, acting deputy regional administrator, Region V, Chicago. Charles Whitmore, Midwest Regional Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service located here in Madison. We claim you all the way along. Pat Leavenworth is State Conservationalist from NRCS in Wisconsin. George Meyer is the secretary of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and George is the director of the agency that's in charge of our state water quality. We're glad that you're here. In our audience Joe Tredony. I think we just saw him come in. Anyway, I think most of you know Joe from the Department of Trade and Consumer Protection.
Presenters today will be Joe Del Vecchio, assistant state conservationist from New York, NRCS, and Will Hall, EPA Office of Wastewater Management, Washington, D.C. I would also like to introduce Kathy Gee who is our signer today for those of you who may be hearing impaired.
I would like to take just a quick minute and review the agenda for today, how we're going to proceed, sort of the ground rules for the meeting. We will lead off with an overview presented by Pat Leavenworth presenting the draft strategy and its role as part of the larger Clean Water Action Plan. Following that, Joe Del Vecchio of NRCS and Will Hall of EPA will review the draft strategy itself. The remainder of the time will be devoted to you, listening to your comments, your questions and your discussion that you're willing to share.
Again, our goal here is to try to provide you with greater insight into the draft strategy and an opportunity to share your thinking, ideas and concerns that you may have. Now, the ground rules that we'll follow today. Please be sure to signed in with your name, address and affiliation to assist us if we mail out information later. It's important that we try to communicate directly with you. Please be sure that your name is legible as you print it, and I think they were helpful with that in the back. The order of comments will be based on the order in which you signed up. If you want to speak but you haven't signed up, you can still do so, and actually I think with the number we have today at any time if you hear some comments as it goes along and you're not sure you want to speak now but you want to speak later, please go back to the registration desk and indicate to them that you would like to sign. They will add your name to the list, and when they do that, we'll make sure we include you in the process as we go along.
Please try to keep your remarks brief and on point. We will need to limit your remarks to about four minutes because of the number of people who have signed up already. If we have a huge number of you added to that, we may have to cut it down. We want to make sure everyone who so desires has an opportunity to be heard, and we encourage you to submit your comments in writing and I shared with you the envelope and how to do that. I think that the kind of detail that you might be able to put in writing as opposed to the four minutes we limit here will be important for the folks as they keep continuing that strategy.
A brief summary of this meeting and other meetings will be on the NRCS and EPA Web sites, so we'll try to keep people informed in that way. Enough of the ground rules and how we're going to proceed.
At this point I want to introduce Charles Whitmore from the National Conservationist. Charles.
MR. WHITMORE: Good afternoon and thank you, Carl. I am Charles Whitmore, regional conservationist for the National Resource Conversational Service for the Midwest region. On behalf of the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency, let me welcome you all to Madison. Let me also thank you for coming to participate in this listening session on the national animal feeding operations strategy. We really appreciate having you and are looking forward to your comments and your input. As I look over the audience, I'm glad that we have agriculture producers here and conservationalists land conservation committee members. We have a number of agencies and organizations both state, local and private environmental groups and a number of state and local leaders. We are very pleased to have the news media with us as well.
The current strategy that we're going to be talking about is part of the Clinton administration Clean Water Action Plan. The strategy was developed with input from a number of agencies and organizations which has outlined some significant ways in which we can work together for clean water and public health.
I'm very pleased that we have the opportunity to have this listening session in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has the largest or the highest number of animal feeding operation in the midwest followed by Iowa and Missouri. There will be two other listening sessions in the Midwest in Indiana and one in Iowa. The Midwest has about 38 percent of the animal feeding operation in the nation, so you can see we have a large number of animal feeding operations and it's very important for us to get input on this strategy from the Midwest.
We are here, as Carl said, to listen to you. We need to get your input, and we need you to talk directly to us. We have USDA officials up front and U.S. EPA officials as well, so you'll be able to talk directly to them about the issues that concern you in this strategy. Again, I'm very pleased that you're here and we're here to listen to you and to get your ideas.
Many of you may ask why this strategy at this time. I think that many of us realize that there are some potential environmental problems as relates to animal feeding operations, there is a shift from small to larger operations, but there is a lot of technology advancement that we can utilize in helping us manage manure properly. The strategy gives us an opportunity with the collaborative efforts with U.S. EPA and with you all. The goal for the strategy is clean water, and that impacts on human health to give us the opportunity to promote both the volunteer and regulatory part of the strategy.
As I look at the strategy, the majority of it is a voluntary approach for animal feeding operations, so we're very pleased with that and the Department of Agriculture -- that we have that component of the strategy.
Again, let me just thank you all for coming and welcome you all to the listening session. I'm looking forward to participating this afternoon in listening to your concerns and issues and ideas on how we can have a strategy that meets both environmental needs as well as livestock industry needs. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks very much. One little housekeeping thing. There is a brown pickup struck with RABATA Crop Consulting on the side. Your lights are on. You might want to take care of that on a day like today.
Now, Dana Minerva of EPA, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water, has some opening comments for us. Let's welcome Dana.
MS. MINERVA: Thanks to all you for being here. It's really -- it's not such a pretty day, but you all came out. That's a really good thing because although we think this is a strategy of the federal government, we might think it's pretty good, we only think it's pretty good. We think that a lot of input from the public is really what's needed now. We very much want to hear that. It's hard for me to add to what Charles said.
The Clinton administration has very much linked the environment and the economy, and I think the farm economy is included in that. The Clinton administration has said these things are consistent, these things are complementary, they work together. That's what we're hoping to achieve by this strategy. I would like to give thanks from EPA to USDA and to Carole Jett who is with us, to Joe Del Vecchio who is with us. This has been a very good joint effort between USDA and EPA, almost unprecedented, I think. Probably unprecedented. I really think that's a good thing. I really would also like to especially thank Mr. George Meyer for coming out, secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. I'm very pleased you're here.
As Charles mentioned, the animal feeding operations -- the draft animal feeding operation strategy is only part of the President's Clean Water Action Plan, coming from part of a much larger strategy to help protect our nation's waters from pollution. It's a very important one. That's why we're having these listening sessions. It is a national strategy, and in that sense it can't deal with every local nuance and yet it's important for us to know what the local nuances of this industry and your environment are. That's why we're here to listen to you. I'll be quiet and we'll get on with it.
MR. WHITMORE: Thanks. I would like to introduce Pat Leavenworth for the National Resource Conversation Service here in Wisconsin. We're very glad to have a state -- we call her a state -- we do that. Certainly we're very glad to have Pat to discuss the study as part of the Clean Water Act and Water Action Plan.
MS. LEAVENWORTH: Thank you. Good afternoon, all of you. Dana said that today was probably not a very nice day, but actually this morning Wisconsin's temperature is warmer than Dayton Beach.
MS. MINERVA: That's where I'm from. You didn't know that either.
MS. LEAVENWORTH: You must have brought it with you. You've heard it from previous speakers thus far in terms of how the animal feed operations strategy is part of the larger Clean Water Action Plan initiative of the Clinton administration. The goal of the strategy is to minimize threats to water quality while ensuring the sustainability of livestock production in the United States. The overall Clean Water Action Plan has 100 action items, and not all of them deal with agriculture. They deal with a broad spectrum of activities, land use activities, out there in the country side. Some of them include urban storm water runoff and runoff from abandoned mines and the like. So the overall Clean Water Action Plan does not deal just with agriculture but with the spectrum of non-point source that affect our water quality throughout the nation.
The Clean Water Action Plan was released last spring, and there was a session in Chicago for this part of the world. It's a product of a charge that was given to Carol Browner, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Dan Glickman, secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture by Vice President Al Gore. The charge was given on October 18, 1997, which was the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Action Plan charts the course towards fulfilling the original goal which is fishable and swimmable waters for all Americans.
However, despite the great progress made in the last 25 years, about half of our nation's major watersheds have serious or moderately severe water quality problems. This is why we're here to look at this one aspect of the Clean Water Action Plan and hear your comments because it is a draft as has been stated. To make it a workable draft for all of us, we need to hear from you. Thank you all for being here.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Pat, very much. Now I would like to introduce to you Joe Del Vecchio from the NRCS and Will Hall from the U.S. EPA who will present a summary of the USDA/EPA Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations.
(Presentation by Mr. Del Vecchio and Mr. Hall)
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you, Joe and Will, very much. I'm going to take about a two-minute break for you to stand up, shake out the lunch that you had and also give us a chance to fix the mike system so that you can hear. There's coffee in back.
MR. O'CONNOR: Please find a place to get seated again, and we'll get started. Find a seat and we'll get started. Richard Keller and then Bill Wenzel, you're on deck. I'll tell you how this works in a minute. If you would get ready, it will just be a couple of minutes here.
We need to limit the remarks to no more than four minutes. We'll be using a timer and our gentleman here in the front will start with the green plane or a green screen. When you have one minute left, it will turn yellow. When it's red, you must stop. We ask that you use a microphone that's here in the middle so you can address the panel and use the mike so all of those folks in the back can hear you. That's important for you to do, please. We also ask that you give your name and affiliation before you start. And I will introduce the speakers and then I'll also introduce the next speaker so you have an opportunity to prepare and move along.
If you want to address a question to the panel, please address the question specifically to a panel member. Not to the panel in general, but to a specific panel member so that the panel member communicates directly to you. We prefer that we keep those comments -- if it's of a non-technical nature that we can answer fairly easily, and not complicated, we'll do so. Otherwise we'll save those technical questions towards the end and depending upon how much time we have at the end we'll have that kind of a discussion as we go along.
Any questions about how we're going to do this? All right. Let's start with Richard Keller, and Bill Wenzel is on deck.
MR. KELLER: Good afternoon. My name is Richard Keller. I'm a semi-retired dairy farmer from Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, where I continue to raise dairy heifers and calves after selling off my dairy herd a few weeks ago. I also serve as treasurer and member of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, and it is on behalf of that organization and its member farmers that I appear before you today. Accompanying me to this listening session is Bob Denman, assistant to the president of the WFU who may be able to answer any questions you might have in more detail concerning our organization's viewpoint.
Bob, if you would stand up. Thank you. At the outset, the Wisconsin Farmers Union wants to thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for holding this listening session on the federal government's proposed draft unified national strategy for animal feeding operations and for your efforts to reach out to the various farm organizations to bring them into the process of evaluating and commenting on this proposal. The Farmers Union believes an active outreach program is vital to the success of this proposal and to achieving its goals, the maintenance of clean waters within our country's boundaries through workable and reasonable standards which also allow for the continuance of a strong livestock industry contributing to economic stability, viable rural communities and a sustainable supply of a healthful and high quality food for the American public.
To that end, the Wisconsin Farmers Union will largely limit its oral comments today to the process of implementing the proposal and the time lines involved and will file its more detailed comments on the various specific elements withing the proposal in written forms at a later date.
Even before this federal proposal was drafted and made public in mid-September, Wisconsin Farmers Union members recognized the need to address water quality issues in the state policy statement, adopting several resolutions that spoke to their concern for the maintenance of clean water supplies in rural area. While those resolutions specifically were directed to state efforts on this issue, one element in the resolutions could apply to this proposal as well. In those resolutions, the Farmers Union members recommended that the agencies and legislators conduct state-wide public hearings and allow maximum public input prior to adopting any administrative rules and passing any legislation.
Today's listening session is a good first step taken to meet the recommendation of our members, and we would urge USDA-EPA to conduct similar sessions throughout the state over the next few months to fully explain the proposal and to receive farmer input on its elements. Recognizing the importance of this issue to our members, Wisconsin Farmers Union has made this proposal one of the key issues to be discussed at its annual winter conference set for January 6, 1999 in Marshfield, and we hereby invite representatives of USDA and EPA to speak at that meeting which we will be opening to non-Farmers Union members as well.
In order to give adequate time for farmer input on this proposal, the Wisconsin Farmers Union also urges the two agencies involved to extend the time for farmer involvement and comment on the proposal for at least an additional 90 days to carry the comment period through a period until around the first of April. The USDA-EPA proposal was published in mid-September at a time when the attention of many producers was focused on their harvest operations, not actions being taken by federal agencies. As a result, many producers are only now becoming aware of what has been proposed within this draft strategy and additional time is needed for them to become educated on what is contained in the proposal, to consider how the various elements and input on how the goals set forth in the proposal can best be achieved.
The Farmers Union believes farmer experience in dealing with animal feeding regimens, manure storage and handling and the other farm practice elements included in the draft proposal are of critical importance in helping government regulators to enact viable standards which will achieve the goal we all are seeking, improvements to the nation's various water supplies. Still farmers need sufficient time to study and evaluate this proposal to enable them to bring useful input into the process.
In closing, the Wisconsin Farmers Union thanks you once again for your efforts to reach out to producers and seek their advice and recommendations and urges you to allow adequate time for that process to take place. Certainly our members share your concerns about the improvement and maintenance of clean waters within the state of Wisconsin and the nation at large. In fact, they realize in a very vital way how important an issue this is because it is their families and their children who fish, swim and otherwise use and come in contact with the waters subject to this proposal.
If you have any questions, I would try to answer them.
MR. O'CONNOR: We appreciate that. Next is Bill Wenzel, and is Barbara Merford from Spring Green here? I didn't see a hand go up. Next behind Bill is Dave Staples from Creekwood Farms.
MR. WENZEL: My apologies if this comes off as a little bit canned, but I better stick to the script. My name a Bill Wenzel. I'm the executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Development Centers, a membership-based family farm organization. I am also here on behalf of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, which is a national coalition of family farmer and sustainable agriculture organizations dedicated to eliminating the threat of factory farms.
We appreciate the efforts of EPA and the USDA to increase environmental and public health protections through the promulgation of tougher water quality rules imposed on factory farms. The draft united strategy is a significant first step in ensuring that our clean water resources are not depleted by industrialized agriculture and the proponents of a vertically integrated system of food production and processing. However, if we are to realize our national clean water goals, the proposed regulations must be made stronger and the timetables for implementation shorter.
Due to the limits on time and the number of persons in attendance, I will restrict my comments to the issue of land application of manure. From our perspective, the ability to achieve water quality goals hinges on land application standards. Even if we engineer and construct leakproof animal waste facilities, the manure must ultimately be spread back on the lands. Proper application of manure is a profitable and environmentally sound method of nutrient recycling. Over application leads to nitrate and phosphorous contamination of ground and surface waters. Typically, factory farms purchase feed and other inputs. As a way to hold down capital costs, only that amount of land necessary to construct feedlot and waste storage facilities are purchased, leaving little or no land on which to apply the manure stored. Concentrating large numbers of livestock on small amounts of land inevitably results in the application of manure at rates far exceeding environmentally sound thresholds and virtually assures surface groundwater contamination.
The draft unified strategy represents a significant step forward by recognizing the land application of manure is a proper subject of regulation under the Clean Water Act and by requiring site specific or individualized comprehensive nutrient management plans for every feedlot requiring a permit. However, the strategy needs to be strengthened by specifically identifying phosphorous as a nutrient and requiring the permittee owns or holds long-term leases on sufficient acreage to ensure that manure is spread at agronomic rates; by requiring approval of the plan prior to the issuance of a permit and; by clarifying the standards imposed represent the regulatory that can be made more restrictive but which cannot be undermined.
In developing regulations consistent with the unified strategy, care must also be taken not to impose regulations which act as barriers to environmentally sound livestock production systems such as managed grazing. Suggestions have been made to establish setbacks as a way of alleviating polluted runoff. Although clearly appropriate for concentrated feedlot systems, setbacks take viable pasture land out of production, which, in turn, reduces profit to the grazier. Research conducted by the Great Lakes Grazing Network, a project of WRDC, has demonstrated that flash grazing on stream banks can actually improve water quality. Therefore, care must be taken to establish regulatory prohibitions that will not jeopardize livestock production systems that have a proven track record for environmental soundness.
In conclusion, we must be mindful of what the unified strategy can and cannot do. The strategy can operate to ensure that factory farms do not jeopardize our clean water resources. Regulations will do nothing to alleviate a whole host of atrocities attributed to factory farms such as the destruction of rural economies, the genocide of family farmers, the danger to the public and the abhorrence for local democratic processes. We will need separate strategies to eliminate these disgusting byproducts of factory farming. Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with my views and comments.
MR. O'CONNOR: Dave Staples from Creekwood Farms and Katie Crawley is next.
MR. STAPLES: My name is Dave Staples, and I represent Creekwood Farms in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. We are a member of the United Egg Producers. UEP is a federated marketing cooperative made up of individual egg producers engaged in the production of table eggs from flocks they own and manage on premises owned or leased by the farmer. Other members include owners of breeder flocks, hatcheries, started pullets and contract egg producers that meet the requirements of owned or leased facilities.
The industry has changed considerably in 30 years. We are proud of the food safety and environmental programs we support. In additions, UEP is participating in the National Poultry Dialogue, working to develop a voluntary industry standard for proper poultry management.
My operation, again, as I said, is located in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, and our primary products are shell eggs and organic fertilizer. We have patented a process that we use to prepare the manure into a very user-friendly organic fertilizer. We have approximately 750,000 laying hens. We employ 45 full-time employees.
Many of the concepts contained in the draft united national strategy for animal feeding operations only indirectly apply to egg producers. This is because our industry primarily sells or gives to third parties the poultry manure, litter, produced in our operations. However, UEP members support the use by these individuals of proper procedures and practices for storage, transport and utilization of poultry litter so as to protect the water quality and the environment.
I would like to comment on several of these important concepts. Nutrient Management: Poultry litter is an asset, something that enriches the soil, produces healthy crops and lowers farmers' dependence on commercial fertilizer. Properly balancing the needs of the soil with the of litter is done through nutrient management planning, something the draft strategy expects for all AFOs nationwide. We believe that these plans should be technically sound, economically feasible and flexible enough to be site specific. They should recognize regional differences in climate, soil types and farming practices. And since perhaps 300,000 new plans would be needed to comply with the draft strategy, there needs to be an appropriately long phase-in period that recognizes the ability of private and public sector specialists to design the plans.
Regulation of egg production operations as CAFOs: EPA's current guidance interprets the Clean Water Act to exclude from regulation as point sources all poultry and egg production operations which have no discharge at all to waters in the U.S. Thus, they are not required to obtain NPDES permits unless they stockpile or land apply manure so that runoff of significant amounts of pollutants occurs to surface water. Then such facilities are consider CAFOs if they have more than 1,000 animal units, or fewer animals if they contributed to local water impairment. Since much of the litter produced by our industry is sold or given away to farmers and others in up to a 50-mile circle around our facilities, most of our members are not CAFOs by this definition. While our industry certainly supports the environmental protection concepts embodied in the draft strategy, we do not wish to endure the expense and legal exposure associated with enforceable permits unless warranted.
Other issues of concern: The draft strategy stated the EPA will consider during the revision of the NPDES permit program several issues that raise concern with us. They include exploring alternative ways of defining CAFOs, including reducing the animal thresholds involved. Layer hens are bred to lay eggs, not accumulate large amounts of body muscle as with broilers and turkeys. Thus, they are smaller animals which eat considerably less food and excrete less manure. As a result, we believe the thresholds for destination of CAFOs should, if anything, be raised rather than lowered.
Providing for expedited designation of smaller AFOs in impaired watersheds: EPA must continue to use case-by-case inspection of AFOs before designations as CAFOs. Even in a watershed impaired by excess nutrients it is improper for EPA to broadly sweep all AFOs into a regulatory regime.
I want to close by saying that our industry supports environmental efforts that are sensible, achievable, environmentally specific, reflect the varying production systems in place today and allow producers to make maximum use of the crop growing nutrients in poultry litter as part of a sustainable land-based agriculture system. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Dave, very much. Katie Crawley is next and Lisa Cooperband is on deck.
MS. CRAWLEY: Hi. My name is Katie Crawley, and I work for Senator Russ Feingold. His schedule didn't permit him being here today, but he asked me to deliver this statement on his behalf:
"I thank USDA and EPA for taking the time to come to Madison to hear our farmers, consumers and local government officials on the issue of animal feeding operations, AFOs, and the potential problems caused by their concentration and size, specifically non-point source pollution. Although my schedule does not permit me to be here today, I have asked my assistant, Katie Crawley, to deliver my thoughts to you.
I am pleased that the USDA and the EPA have begun working together on the National Strategy of the Development of Regional Nutrient Criterions. I'm particularly happy to see that they have planned hearings throughout the country to seek public input. The way we approach animal feeding operations will affect every Wisconsinite and virtually every American. In Wisconsin we want to protect the viability of our small farms, our clean water and air, and keep our products affordable.
I have always supported efforts to provide the citizens of the state clean and safe water and food. However, I am concerned about the far-reaching effects of federal regulations on Wisconsin farmers especially the honest farmer with the bad luck of sharing a watershed with a bad actor. I urge officials at USDA and the EPA to consider this problem as they prepare their final rule.
Also, I urge you to consider the effects of these rules on the small family farmer. As you may know, a vast majority of Wisconsin's dairy, hog and poultry operations are very small. An over-burdensome federal regulation in these times of low prices may be the final push to send many of these farmers into financial ruin, so we need to be careful and sensitive to the effect of regulation on the farmer's bottom line. If small Wisconsin farmers need technical assistance to comply, we should do our best to see that they get it.
I'm concerned that the new rule will not allow states the flexibility to target their efforts to the places needed most. For instance, Wisconsin soil is rich in both phosphorus and nitrates, particularly in the western half of the state. Also, Wisconsin has many troubled watersheds that state and local governments are successfully addressing with thoughtful remediation. Any regulation that does not allow flexibility to the states could potentially be a violation of Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.
Recently Wisconsin's Department of National Resources, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, local officials, farming representatives and environmental advocates all came together in the state's capitol and agreed on a state law to deal with AFOs. I am proud of my home state for once again leading the way toward a balancing of consumer protection and a fair deal for farmers. I hope their efforts are recognized and supported rather than penalized at the national level.
I urge USDA and EPA to continue their work in this area but to allow for flexibility so that progressive states can continue their good work on behalf of their citizens and as stewards of the environment.
Again, I thank you for taking the time to hold these hearings in Madison, and I wish you good luck as you complete, publish and implement this plan."
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Katie, on behalf of the Senator. Leslie Cooperband is next and Nancy Ward is on deck, please.
MS. COOPERBAND: Good afternoon. I'm speaking this afternoon representing UW-Extension and specifically the nutrient management self-directed team. I would like to make some comments, specific comments, related to the text of the draft strategy and in particular the sections that talked about land management of the manure. While the emphasis is on nutrient balance in terms of not building particular excess nutrients in soil, there's little discussion about managing that current nutrient management plans to put a focus on nutrient management at the expense of phosphorus. This is a particular issue with animal manures with the amount in excess from what crops need. That specific issue should be addressed much more specifically.
The group that I represent is in favor of a voluntary approach to adopting the management plan. However, we do feel there is a need to improve those programs. Specifically we need more research to understand what the barriers to adoption of alternative or best management practices are. We have had some experiences here in Wisconsin that showed the need for not just a type of program where you put out educational information to a group of producers or those that are in the position of adopting nutrient management plans but rather that there is some kind of follow-up so that farmer understands why it's important to utilize a particular practice and they feel the benefits to their operation.
Also, there is a need to look at alternative educational programs so that it's not just a one-way dialog, so that there's a two-way dialog, education going on and that information and financial assistance is not limited to manure storage structures, that there are economic incentives for alternative best management practices such as composting and things that remove manure from the farm.
In terms of the regulatory approach, it does appear that there is an improvement in that CAFOs are being included, those who are less than the 1,000 animal units. However, there should be a recognition that there are confined operations under 1,000 animal units that still contribute to non-point pollution.
In the strategy in Issue No. 4, the coordination of research, the majority of the proposed research needs are be physical or technical in nature. There are no proposed studies, for example, on the economics of manure handling and storage, for instance the costs for hauling manure to be land spread, alternatives to land spreading, incentives to adopt best management practices related to manure management. In the discussion about creating a research working group on animal feeding operations, we believe that there is existing regional research and working groups that deal with animal feeding operations already and rather it would be more productive to coordinate the activities of those groups than create yet another federal oriented group. We do agree that there is a need for some kind of clearinghouse as well as information exchange on alternative practices.
In general, the draft strategy does not go beyond what we see as current means of nutrient management planning except for some small tweaks. Specifically it does not -- there's still a heavy emphasis on the producers cleaning up their act as opposed to the greater understanding of the context in which animal feeding operations exist.
MR. WHITMORE: Thanks very much. Nancy Ward is next. On deck is Dick Hauser.
MS. WARD: Hello. My name is Nancy Ward. I'm here to speak as a rural resident and as a mother. I would like to speak to you today about a guiding principle for human activities that is currently being called the precautionary principle. It has been endorsed by a broad community of scientists, government officials, lawyers, environmental activists and just plain folks. Every one of us has used it when we learned how to cross the street, but now the streets have become superhighways of international commerce. The consequences of not looking are not just personal, but social and environmental disaster.
Risk assessment is profit driven. It asks how much contamination a human or an ecosystem can contain without showing obvious adverse effects. It tries to calculate how much harm we can do. But the precautionary principle asks questions about how we live our values and goals. Questions like does society really need this product or activity, what are the possible alternatives to this product or activity that achieve our desired goal, how much contamination can be avoided while still maintaining necessary values. It's based on the premise that the release and use of toxic substances, the exploitation of resources and physical alterations of the environment have had substantial unintended consequences affecting human health and the environment and that the proponent of an activity rather than the public should bear the burden of proof of its value and safety.
There are many aspects of CAFOs to talk about, but I would like to focus on the use of antibiotics. During the past six years drugs have been found to be a significant new source of pollution. They're now found in surface water, groundwater and tap water and they're distributed in the environment by flushing toilets and by spreading manure. When a human or an animal is given a drug, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of it is excreted unchanged. The remainder is excreted in the form of metabolites, chemical produced as byproducts of the body's interaction with the drug. These are more persistent in the environment than the original drugs they were derived from and more lipophilic, that is they accumulate in fat and they accumulate as they move up the food chain.
A worldwide health threat is developing from the regular sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics that confinement feeding operations seem to require. Animals are fed 15 million pounds of antibiotic every year and account for half of our sales. Stuart Levy, who directs the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University says, "These antibiotics may be present at levels of consequence to bacteria -- levels that not only alter ecology but also give rise to antibiotic resistance." This is already happening. Multiple drug resistant TB is on the rise. In 1992, 13,300 hospital patients died of bacterial infections that resisted the antibiotics used to treat them. The list of antibiotic-resistant diseases is growing. It includes salmonella, pneumonia, strep, staph, cholera, dysentery and others.
The USDA itself noticed the threat to the public health 17 years ago, but it caved in to increased pressure for increased profit taking from antibiotic fed animals. It's time that our government stands up for the health and safety of citizens first. If antibiotic use is by prescription and truly as needed, large confinement feeding results could be of great benefit not only to current consumers of cleaner food but to future generation. The results could be of great benefit not only to current consumers of cleaner food but to future generations, that's our children, and they're lives depend on our wise choices. Thanks for listening.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Nancy. Dick Hauser from the Wisconsin Cattleman's Association and Grant Abert is on deck.
MR. HAUSER: Thank you. I'm Dick Hauser. I am not officially from the Wisconsin Cattleman's Association. That was a former life. I'm simply a beef producers from Richland County. Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you. I noted when you started your presentation that you said this was a Clinton-Gore plan for the environment. I can't help but wonder if by having only 2 percent of the total population picking on animal feeding operation isn't maybe something that's easy today. By contrast just this morning I happened to be listening to the radio and heard the Osgood File. He talked about ski jets and how each ski jet puts three gallons of gas and oil into the surface waters per hour of operation. There are over 9 million of these running around. That's a consumer issue.
I would like for make three points. For years the farmers here in Wisconsin have been told that we are to be leaders in conservation. Most farmers do care deeply about the environment. It's in their own best interests. Some do not do a good job. The first point is here in Wisconsin we worked with other groups and agencies to develop prohibitions. We would like to have those used, not run over. We ask for a level playing field. We would like to see all species included, even poultry. We would like to make sure other states are operating the same as we are. We also ask that other countries like Mexico and others also play by the same rules. You used some slogans earlier. I would like to use one. The devil is in the details.
Second point: Allow each farmer to be certified to develop a certified nutrient management plan. You talked about needing more certified people. I think it's important that we get each farmer certified because if they work on the plan, then they will use that plan. We can certainly do this through extension education and testing much like we've done in the past with the pesticide issue.
The third point: Don't penalize our DNR and Department of Agriculture for being in the lead and force extra regulatory programs on them so that they can continue to be the administrators in this state.
In the final analysis, let's not kill off the family farmer. Keep in mind that while many of the people here are getting paid whether they're here or somewhere else, the farmer-producer is here and it's costing him money out of the his or her own pocket. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Dick. Grant Abert is next, and on deck is Doug Jackson-Smith.
MR. ABERT: Hello, my name is Grant Abert. I'm with the Alliance for Sustainable Agricultural Production, a group in Wisconsin that's concerned about the growing problems of CAFOs. We're a group of rural residents and farmers. While the USDA-EPA AFO deals primarily with the urgent and significant issue of surface water pollution at animal feeing operations, it does not address larger scale problems that impact public health and long-term sustainability. I want to focus today on one of the these major issues, air quality. There is an urgent need for a broad study to be done to examine the long-term effects of the livestock industry as it exist and as it is changing, on the economy, the way of life of the nation and its citizens. Minnesota has undertaken such a generic environmental impact study which should be a model for the federal government.
I want to focus on air quality, particularly odors and hazardous gas emissions and pollution. Animal containment facilities, waste lagoons and land application operations of factor farms emit numerous air polluting compounds. The two most toxic appear to be hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. The odors can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting and black outs. Only within the last few years have a few state health or environmental agencies taken neighbor complaints seriously. The Minnesota Pollution Control agency made tests of air quality have confirmed previous measurements taken by outraged local residents. The air emissions of about one-half of the factory farms tested exceeded the state's public health standard for hydrogen sulfides. States health and environmental agencies have also not yet adequately examined the health effects of other air pollutants, such as dust and air-borne stages of pathogenic organisms.
The other thing I would like to focus on is nitrogen pollution. Nitrates in the form of ammonia are extremely toxic to aquatic life and nitrogen pollution can stimulate algae blooms, resulting in fish kills. Open air animal waste cesspool lagoons, aerial application of liquid animal waste and direct emissions from animal holding facilities all can emit ammonia nitrogen as air pollution which is eventually redeposited in water and on land, adding to the nitrogen pollutant load. For example, the North Carolina Division of Air Quality has estimated that mega-hog farms constitute the single largest agricultural source of airborne ammonia in North Carolina. In eastern North Carolina hog operations generate about 135 million pounds of nitrogen per year.
By 2020 industrial agriculture will be contributing 134 million metric tons of nitrogen per year, up 68 percent from the 80 metric tons it generates annually today. Ammonia injected into the atmosphere is a major source of nitrogen. Each year fertilizer contributes 10 million metric tons of ammonia to the atmosphere. Domestic animal wastes contribute 32 million metric tons.
The Environmental Defense Fund of North Carolina has estimated that the concentration of large-scale operations in the eastern part of the state is a significant source of atmospheric nitrogen pollution.
The federal government and state governments have not yet adequately monitored the air pollutants emitted by factory farms even if the may have been a significant source of hydrogen sulfide. The unified strategy is wofully incomplete if it does not include air quality as it impacts public health and the nitrogen pollution of water.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you. Thank you to all the speakers for staying in the time. It's very helpful to all us, and we appreciate that very much. Doug Jackson-Smith is next, and John Stauber is on deck.
MR. JACKSON-SMITH: For those who have heard me talk before, four minutes is a record for me. I'll do so by passing out my comments and trying to key on the high points. I came today to provide perhaps a bit of background and technical detail in the consideration of the issue of implementing the new strategy. My name Doug Jackson-Smith. I'm the associate director of a research and extension unit of University of Wisconsin here in Madison that is engaged in studies of the economic and social trends within family farmers in the state. We've been charged by the legislature to try to document some of the implications of the new technology and new policies on family farms. I'm here today to share information of what the industry looks like and what Wisconsin's concerns are.
What I've handed out represents a number of results from the bread and butter of our research to do large scale samples of farms. We try to get a handle on trends and growth of the industry operations and the like. We have also used it to try to understand what the needs in terms of research are and we communicate that back to the university. Without going into much detail, the material I handed out today, I think, covers four major categories. One is what this might mean in terms of the implications for the Wisconsin dairy industry. The reason I key on dairy is that even though they represent half of the livestock farms in regulating livestock they are the heart and soul of the people that you have to deal with.
While my comments won't speak directly to poultry and hogs. I'll just go down some of the points that I have handed out. I think it's important to emphasize that most diary farms in the state are moderate scale family labor operation. This, despite decades of growth and transmission as evidenced in one of the figures in our table underscores the fact that roughly two-thirds milk between 30 and 100 cows. That would be roughly 60 to 200 animal units. That's changed from about 70 about 10, 15 years ago. We change slowly, and we fully expect production in the future for the next 20 years this moderate scale operation will still be the largest segment of our dairy industry and there industry still produce the lion's share of the milk as well.
Second point is regulations of 1,000 animal units or 300 animal units protect very few of the animals, really very little of the landscape and therefore it affects the moderate scale operations that I think are going to have potential challenges in terms of technology and implementation of the program.
Most Wisconsin dairy farmers do not have manure storage. That's not going to happen within the foreseeable future. What that means is the technical challenges to managing manure safely are quite different. We start with significant constraints. I won't go into an explanation of why that's the case. I think it's fair to say future changes are to work within a daily haul system.
Most dairy farms in Wisconsin have adequate land to dispose of manure. We're debating the phosphorus. When spreading manure the potential is there for adequate space to dispose although the actual behavior doesn't also reflect that.
The final point is that I think four most significant challenges will be in understanding the barriers to adoption of the material we have on the shelf in Wisconsin as adequate to solve the problems that's just not used. Before we expend a lot of energy, we need to understand what we have and what doesn't work and what it will take to get us to new kinds of challenges and new solutions. That means research dollars and research dollars targeted to these moderate scale operations. You must move into the research world or the technical changes that these producers face. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: John Stauber is next and Marge Wessely is on deck, please.
MR. STAUBER: I have written testimony, but I'm going to be sending that in. To keep brief, I'll do what most people have done and just read.
Wisconsin's long tradition of small and medium scale family farms is faced with extinction because of economic and political policies from the USDA down that for 50 years have told farmers to get bigger or get out.
Citizen outrage is the reason that this listening session is being held. Livestock factories have proven to be a disaster to family farmers, rural communities, public health and the environment. In states like North Carolina, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota the stench and pollution and degradation of air water has enraged public opposition to confinement facilities. Much of it, maybe most of it, coming from small and medium family farms. CAFOs crowd thousands of animals into unhealthy conditions, pump them full of antibiotics, hormones and high-powered feed that may contain feces and rendered animal byproducts.
Until now, Wisconsin has avoided this fate, but a tsunami of factory livestock operations is about to hit. Wisconsin sits surrounded by factory farms in the south and west by factory farms of Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Our Department of Agriculture and University of Wisconsin-Extension have been working to encourage factory farms to locate here in Wisconsin.
I personal have spent scores of hours pouring over many internal files of theirs as well as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Wisconsin's 50 some currently permitted CAFOs. What I found destroys a myth that Wisconsin has in place tough environmental regulations, and a diligent DNR that will protect us from the disaster factory livestock production has wrought in other states. The myth is false. Reality is just the opposite because we have not suffered the problem to date, Wisconsin lacks the local and state safeguards to protect against livestock factories. Wisconsin is easy picking for factory farms.
The most fundamental problem with Wisconsin regulations is that the official policy of the Department of Natural Resources, the policing agency that is supposed to enforce what minimal and inadequate regulations exist, which is, "Do not look for violations." That policy was stressed repeatedly by Alan Shea, Director of the Bureau of Watershed Management in formal testimony before the Wisconsin Assembly's Agriculture and Natural Resources committee on May 20th of this year.
At the assembly hearing Mr. Shea and representatives from the Department of Agriculture made it clear that if the DNR had a policy of going out and looking for environmental degradation caused by bad practices, it would find many more than it does but that the official policy is to only respond to formally filed complaints. In other words, if a concerned citizen or neighbor is so upset by a problem that they've seen with their own eyes, and they take the time to contact the DNR and file a formal written complaint, then maybe the DNR will send one of its field people. Until a citizen complain comes forward and files a complaint nothing is being done. This is an outrageous dereliction of duty.
The examination of the files on permitted CAFOs reveals ongoing problems including pollution of groundwater and unbreathable stench afflicting the health and well-being of the neighbors with no significant enforcement. Discussions with DNR enforcement personnel evoke off-the-record and sometimes on-the-record admissions that although the state now has only 50 permitted facilities, there's already insufficient staffing and support to implement existing regulations.
Right now a foreign company is attempting to put an egg factory of a million chickens into northwestern Wisconsin. A similar facility in Minnesota has been required to conduct environmental impact statement giving citizens and experts a chance to review everything. In Wisconsin the DNR has made it clear they will not require an environmental impact statement. One first step would be to require the statement. Another would you be to get the DNR out of the donut bags and into the field. Thank you.
SPEAKER: Can you give us your name, please.
MR. STAUBER: My name is John Stauber, S T A U B E R. I speak for myself.
MR. O'CONNOR: Marge Wessely is next, and on deck is Dave Burnham.
MS. WESSELY: I'm Marge Wessely. I'm just a private landowner. We live next to a good neighbor, 1,400 acres of DNR, and then we have a factory farm that the they decided to go larger and larger because the federal government said that there are funds. Let me read from this. I'm going to be like my granddaughter. She says she believes in Santa, and I believe in the EPA and the DNR. However, the DNR have to have some of their things straightened out, I think. We have one DNR person for water pollution, I believe, in seven or eight counties. He doesn't even want to talk to us because he's so busy going around doing other things.
There is supposed to be a public hearing on expansion of farms if they go over 1,000 animal units. We have not had that. The footings are in, the concrete is powered, he has an application in to the DNR. Everything is done. The barn is going up. Now, when is the process going to be when we can get our input in? That's one thing I have.
Cows produce one and a half times the manure of a human being and rules are strict on septic or holding tanks. We would like to see monitoring wells put in. It's expensive, but it's called the cost of doing business. The landfill in Manitowoc County is up to $100 million now to clean it up. I don't know what the price is, but it's terrible.
We cannot drink our water. We have atrozene in our well. Two weeks ago we talked to a 90-year-old lady who doesn't want to become involved because she wants to sit back in Kewaunee County and enjoy her farm. Her land is rented out. She got sick one day, like two weeks ago on a Saturday night, decided she couldn't drink her water anymore. That's where she assumed it was coming from. She called her neighbor, and she said please get me some bottled water.
The next week the neighbor and her had her water tested. She had fecal coliform in hers and it came back danger, danger, danger. She had nitrates in hers. He had nitrates in his and the nitrates -- the well is 15 years old. This is -- when I called the DNR water somebody or other and I talked to the person she said to me -- and I said we have atrazine in our well, she said, "Well, how old is your well?" That's the first thing out of the mouth. The next thing is how deep is your well. What has that got to do with the well? Yes, it may be an old well, but my son has one in Green County there's atrazine there.
They had a problem in this village. They found uncapped wells. The water quality at my son's place was good versus the surrounding wells. The well is probably in excess of 75 years old. I just think that there's things being put on other people. I don't like it to be said it's your well. No. If the well is like that, just think of what the ground is like.
We're having farms expanding in Kewaunee County. The little farmers are probably 50 to 75 to 200 cows, but the big farmers -- there's like 10 or 12 of them there -- are expanding. The one is close to Lake Michigan. Green Bay drinks their water.
About three years ago, I believe, the person was fined for one year then the DNR fined him the second year and the DNR fined him for the third year. His debris is going into Lake Michigan through the Ahnapee River. It doesn't seem to affect him that this is going on. I guess I'll get out of here now. Thank you for your time. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Dave Burnham is next and then Ron Leys.
MR. BURNHAM: My name is Dave Burnham. I'm speaking on behalf of the Amino Acid Education Council. Our customers are poultry and swine operations. As an industry, we are looking at ways to improve or to minimize the effects of pollution. Industry is blamed for most all pollution in the streams and the land and because of this, we as an industry are taking very, very concerted efforts and are visiting a lot of research to look at ways to minimize the impact. Our group, which produces amino acids, has shown significant reduction in nitrate production if we use amino acids to develop the feeds for pigs and poultry.
Some of our concerns looking at the proposed regulations are in the defining of inputting or outputs or numbers based on animal units. We feel this is unfair to people who are willing to make the necessarily management changes to increase or maintain the number of animals used. If animal units are used to define the number of animals that can be produced per square area, the person who is willing to go to the extra expense of monitoring his feeds or moving his manure out of the area is being penalized. Our customers -- our people are saying they just want flexibility. They're very concerned about legislation. The industry, the breeding companies, our industries, the research and nutritionists at the universities are looking at ways of reducing the amount of phosphates that are produced. These are the sort of things that I think are very important that we look at other options, we don't mandate specific policies. We need to make the industry aware that there are different policies that can be used and leave it up to the industries ourselves. It's important for all of us that we stay in business, and the way to stay in business is to make sure we produce products that can be used by the industry. Don't tie ours and the producers' hands in our efforts to develop new technology.
That's what I would like to say. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you, David. Ron Leys is next and then Dan Poulson, please, on deck.
MR. LEYS: My name is Ron Leys. I'm speaking here as a private citizen. I'm a livestock farmer. I have I small cow calf operation in Wisconsin. I'm also a hunter, a trout fisherman and I guess a person who wants to see a clean environment to leave to his children and grandchildren.
I read through the draft proposal, it took me a few minutes, I would say. I'm delighted to see attention to this very serious issue. From what I read it seemed to be too voluntary for my tastes. I looked, for instance, on page 11 of the proposal and it talked about programs that would be determined on a local level, voluntary programs. There would be local committees that would draft strategy and that sort of thing.
I've traveled around this country a good deal, and I think we all know that there are some areas in this country where there is so much hostility to government at any level and environmental things. Farmers in those areas will be able to out compete farmers who live in areas where more responsible farmers farm. For that reason and other reasons, I think it should be national in scope and they should be mandatory down to the numbers of animals. We don't have voluntary rules in the paper industry. We don't have voluntary rules for the lead mining industry of the highway speed limitations and stop sign rules. I don't think we should have voluntary rules for farmers either. I think the rules ought to be clear and we should all be expected to follow them. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you, Ron. Dan Poulon is next and Bob Uphoff is up on deck.
MR. POULSON: Good afternoon. I'm Dan Poulson, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your draft proposal regarding CAFOs and animal feeding operations. On behalf of our 46,000 members, I wish to express the following thoughts.
First, under the Clean Water Act farming operations over 1,000 animal units or operations between 300 and 1,000 animal units with a direct discharge through man-made conveyance need to be permitted. In Wisconsin we have been doing this for years through our State administrative code NR 243. In fact, our State program goes even farther because farming operations under 300 animal units can be required to obtain a permit if issued a notice of discharge by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Therefore, WFBF firmly believes that by in large, we are already doing what you propose.
Second, specific to your proposal, it is my understanding that the Clean Water Act regulates point sources. WFBF believes that you may be exceeding your authority trying to regulate non-point sources. But putting that issue aside, by just requiring additional permits will not necessarily improve water quality in Wisconsin.
Please let me explain. If all farms in Wisconsin between 300 and 1,000 animal units need to be permitted, the workload will be exorbitant. Wisconsin has approximately 70 farms that are currently permitted. This takes five full-time staff people at the DNR. Imagine the workload if we need to permit several thousand more farms. Which brings me to an important point. A permit does not necessarily improve water quality.
Third, in your draft proposal you also intend to issue permits to farms located in watersheds listed as not meeting water quality goals. Again, this would be an enormous workload. We in agriculture have been and will continue to strive to be good stewards of the land. This is why I would encourage you to work with the State of Wisconsin on developing a functionally equivalent program. We at WFBF believe we already have this in Wisconsin.
Fourth, you suggest in the draft that we look at feed management and nutrient management. These are ideas that need further research. I have a great concern if you force these items on farmers without adequate research and economically feasible implementation. In Wisconsin we are working on implementing nutrient management. However, if this is extended to include phosphorus at this time, you probably will be putting many farmers out of business because the academic and bureaucratic resources have not been developed to address phosphorus.
In conclusion, let me emphasize working with the State of Wisconsin to develop a functional equivalent program. We have an excellent track record of being a progressive state when it comes to water quality issues. Let us continue this through the rewrite of administrative rules that are currently underway.
Please remember that it has taken over 25 years and several billions of dollars to improve the point source pollution issues. A similar time frame and dollars also need to be dedicated to non-point. It would not be fair nor tolerated to expect farmers alone to solve this non-point problem. In fact, we here in Wisconsin realize this. That is why we are rewriting all of our non-point administrative rules, not just those related to livestock.
Thank you for the opportunity to address our concerns. On behalf of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, we look forward to working with the EPA, USDA and the State of the Wisconsin on this issue. We would be have happy to answer any questions. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Dan, very much. Bob Uphoff is next, and right behind him is Fred Laufenberg, please.
MR. UPHOFF: I'm a pork producer probably the closest livestock farm to this location because the farm is only about two and a half miles from this site. The thing between this site and my farm is one other interesting thing and that is the wastewater treatment plant for the City of Madison and 44 million gallons a day of wastewater. I think I have a fairly good understanding of the importance of the environment and water quality here. I am here as a pork producers myself. I am chair of the Land and Water Conservation Board for the State of Wisconsin which Mr. Meyer is also a member of. One of the responsibilities of the board is to oversee the watershed program in the State of Wisconsin.
I would like to comment on this document if could. A year ago I was invited by America's Clean Water Foundation to be one of the producer members on that dialog on pork production. It was a great opportunity to work with EPA and the USDA, and believe me, we had some very intense discussions and not everything was agreed to by all parties. But it was -- it opened up a number of doors for us to give a better understanding of where we're coming from.
Some of the points I want to emphasize as you look at this document here is it needs to be science based. We need to have incentives. There also needs to be some funding. We need protection, and it also needs to be flexible. As we look at science, we could say a lot of things and with the Internet we can get into a lot of areas. But the true science -- there's a lot of questions that we do not know.
One of the things we have talked about is we feel we don't have enough information to come up with a base standard up here. We challenge the individuals and USDA to come back to us with the holding capacity of what the land is capable of handling with different levels of phosphorus. As we look at feed management, phosphates is the buzz word. We try to reduce it in our diets. We need a certain amount of science, and as producers we need to have the assurance that this is going to work to meet our goals.
Again, I want to emphasize it needs to be science based. Pathogens, we've heard about them. It's a very serious deal, but I guess I would say one thing. I question whether the pathogens are actually in the manure or when they get into the water doesn't it make the pathogens grow like it does with the growth of a plant? I think if you look at the hundreds of thousands of livestock producers who on a daily basis have contact with manure, you would not find if you look at their health that they are in any worse health than any other part of the society. This is an area we have to be careful and look at the science as we look to address the concerns of pathogens.
Incentives and funding. I think it's very important to this project that what we're trying to do is going to take tremendous dollars. Over $110 has gone into the point source pollution to get those folks to the point they're at. That's not dollars that they expend and were able to recoup by increased fees or by increased fees by the wastewater treatment plants. They're paid by people every time you flush the toilet.
Keep in mind that regulations will drive size. One only has to look to see how many small papers mills there are in the country or how many small wastewater treatment plants. I had a pipeline go through my farm a year ago and the purpose of that pipeline was because of the water treatment plant here outside of Madison decided it was cheaper to close down their effluence into the Madison plant and then turned around and sent it through my property. I'm sitting there with a pipeline going through my property. Regulations drive the size. Be cautious as we look at this.
One final thing, and I know I'm out of time. The livestock industry has provided tremendous opportunity here. Because of the low cost of food, the people have had the opportunity to enjoy tremendous things. They can commute to the towns to buy at Wal-Mart, to have several cars all because the price of food is so much more reasonable here than in other parts of the world. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Bob, very much. Fred Laufenberg is next, and on deck is Mark Beisbier.
MR. LAUFENBERG: Thank you. My name is Fred Laufenberg. I operate a dairy and swine operation of moderate size north of Madison. In our operation we are involved in a lot of traffic close to Highway 12 so we get a lot of complaints, but I've learned to live with them. My main concern here is clean water. Being with the tight margins in the livestock operation, without clean water -- if we have to purchase our water, we cannot exist. So as a steward of the land, it's very important to us.
I have one question for Dana dealing with runoff. Has EPA ever done any studies dealing with landowners being we got a lot of small farmers north of town here spreading fertilizer dealing with runoff water going into our lakes through storm sewers? Have they ever done any studies dealing with nitrogen entering the lakes? Thank you.
MS. MINERVA: We have done -- I'm sure we have done some studies regarding what is coming from storm water from urban areas.
Do you have an answer, Steve?
MR. JANN: Steve Jann. I'm with the Region V office. Back in the early Eighties EPA sponsored a fairly comprehensive national study of the quality of precipitation and runoff. It was called the Nationwide Urban Runoff Program. I believe Madison was one of the study locations among many others around the country.
We did look at nutrients as well as other parts of precipitation runoff in that study. I also know that the U.S. Geological Survey has conducted similar studies, and I believe that there have been more localized efforts here in the Madison area looking at runoff from city streets as they affect the chain of lakes here in Madison.
MR. O'CONNOR: Next is Mark Beisbier, and if I mispronounce it, please make sure I get it right -- and your affiliation. Next behind Mark is Dennis Polivka.
MR. BEISBIER: My name is a Mark Beisbier. I'm with the Wisconsin Pork Producers. It's nice to put a face with some EPA faces. I'm a small producer northwest of here a little bit. I guess I look forward to working with most of you because we're going to have to in the future. The problem that I have with some of the regulations is that we don't have enough research. I live where the sand meets the hills, and when we first got soil maps back ten years ago we thought we lived in God's country but it had "Hell" printed all over it. We have a slight problem with manure applications. The problem being that on our land we need to no till everything and at the same time we need to incorporate our waste into the soil. I think that we need to do a lot more research -- and with that is dollars -- to help us find ways to adequately mix our manure with our soils so that we don't have these runoff problems that people are worried about. I wish that we could have a little more research dollars put into our university so that we can find alternative methods for application and other uses for our manures and things like that. That's all I have to say. Thank you very much.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you, Mark. Dennis Polivka is next and then John Lader is right behind Dennis.
MR. POLIVKA: I'm Dennis Polivka from Spring Green. I'm a pork producer, a husband and a father. I thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. You stated when we started that water quality has improved over the past 25 years. I know this to be true in the state of Wisconsin. I think one thing we need to recognize is that a lot of this improvement has come about because of agriculture's voluntarily working at controlling erosion, runoff, and chemical usage.
Some points I believe are important to the success of the issues that we're trying to comprehend here today are: One, that regulations be based on sound scientific information and not on emotions and personal agendas; two, incentives and funding need to be in place to help producers to establish some of the requirements that may turn out. I do believe that voluntary efforts from the standpoint of producers always work best, and if we can keep them on a voluntary standard that we'll have more success.
I believe there needs to be goals set as to the standards that you're trying to achieve with the regulations so everybody knows where we're trying to go. I also believe that the standards that are imposed on agriculture should also be imposed on municipalities and cities because agriculture is not the sole source of the pollution out there. There should be money put into environment education not only to producers so that they can form their opinions based on scientific information.
Lastly, I would like to see the rules to be fair and comprehensive enough so that they cannot be superseded by local communities.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you, Dennis. John Lader is next, and right behind him is Gary Jackson, please.
MR. LADER: I'm John Lader, vice president of the Wisconsin Pork Producers. It's hard to say something that hasn't already been said. As part of the pork producers we're pleased to be part of the dialog on CAFOs. Our organization has been a leader working on clean water and nutrient management for years. We do have some concerns regarding the need for balance of animal agriculture production and the environment. Specifically the agriculture sector cannot financially pay for the programs which benefit our entire society. We, as consumers, all eat food. We all drink water and we all breathe the air. Society as a whole must bear the costs to maintain these things.
More regulations mean bigger farms because as we have more regulations, a farmer or any other business must get bigger to spread those costs out over more units of production. Be careful how much you regulate if you don't want farms or any other businesses getting to be too large. The programs you have discussed and we have looked at must be science based, not based on emotion. They must be objective, not subjective. The data, if it's subjective, can be twisted and distorted by people to meet their own special interest groups.
In Wisconsin we're already meeting many of the guidelines suggested such as the 1,000 animal unit designations. We have strived to be good stewards of the land, water and air voluntarily. We look forward to continuing to do so and are willing to work in partnership with federal agencies and state agencies in a science based objective matter which does not place a further financial burden on our producers of food. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Gary Jackson is next and then Mark Reichers, please.
MR. JACKSON: I'm Gary Jackson. I'm director of a program calmed Farm-A-Syst/Home-A-Syst. It's a program that originated here in Wisconsin. It's a group related to water quality. I've been the national leader for that for nine years now. This program has engaged in many of the kinds of principles that you are talking about in the strategy. The key is building cooperation and working together. We know that this can occur because we've witnessed it and been part of it. Part of the difficulty I have in standing up here is who do I represent. I'm an employee of Extension, a member of the soil department on campus, but I'm director of an interagency coordinated team. In some states the program leadership does not come from the agency. Believe it or not, the farm bureau has the lead in one state in the U.S. and they picked up on this program with profit wine growers. The industry says we need to be proactive in these issues and find ways to work with our producers. I'm representing a program that's trying to go build inter-agency cooperation to assist producers in understanding the environmental risks that are on their properties and identifying the approach they can take to reduce the risk.
Farm-A-Syst/Home-A-Syst is currently present at different levels in 47 states. We focus on the needs that we've seen and what kinds of ways we can come together with within the state and local level. We are very, very proud of it and the promise has moved forward. In New York State, Joe probably is familiar with it, Farm-A-Syst materials were used as the basis for their program there. It's been an effective program. There's been some excellent partnering with NRCS working with producers to create awareness of what are the risks on my property.
That's the first step. They have to recognize that there's risk there. Few producers are intentional contaminators of the soil or water. A tool that helps them increase risk and reduce risk is what builds the next stage of voluntary action. We're quite proud of the record that we have. 60 to 90 percent of the producers who participate in this program take voluntary actions as a result of this effort. In Nebraska, which was focused specifically on the livestock industry, the pilot results have showed that 90 percent indicated this program was effective in identifying strengths on their property. By the way, this is one of the merits we see of the program. Even though it identifies areas of high risks, and I believe you mentioned many more things are being done right than are being done wrong, they should be proud of what have they're done. We've got a track record of progress.
Dick Hauser is right. The devil is in the details. The real concern is how will this affect me. I want to know that before I have a person come on my property. The farmer voluntarily audits -- it's a scary word -- assessment that helps people know how this does affect me and then helps motivate them to reduce the risk because few people want to be part of the problem. They would rather be part of the solution. Thank you very much for your time.
MR. O'CONNOR: Mark Reichers is next, please, and then Caryl Terrill.
MR. REICHERS: I have a lot of empathy for what you people are going through hearing all kinds of angles and sides to everything. I do have remarks, and I'll ramble through them. I want to tell you a little bit my about myself. I with my two sons own and operate two feed yards on 400 acres. They're separate and we feed out around 800 to 1,000 cattle. They are a byproduct of the dairy industry mostly called Holstein steers. A few years ago we participated in a project that was called the Galena Watershed Project. We got some cautionary money. Working with that project we were able to implement, far more economically implement, some environmentally proper and sound practices in our second feed yard. Because we participated in that I was named -- about ten year ago I was named LaFayette County's conservationist of the year. About five years ago my family farm was selected the farm steward of the year. So we're very pleased to be able to tell you that.
One of the things I would like to do because of the potential standards from us I would like to be able to buy additional farm land so that I could increase the size of my feed yards and have a place to haul that manure. However, we have people that have moved into my area that have all sold their land for development. People come in and they can buy farm ground for $2,500 an acre. They will pay them whatever it takes. They're just buying up land on both sides. I've been outbid. I want to have more place to haul manure, and I can't afford if. They don't want my manure.
To the issue that some other people have made, I don't think that this needs to be so difficult that it's like going to our tax attorney to get this paperwork done. I'm college educated. My sons are college educated. We have an idea that you shouldn't even have to be college educated to be able to do this. I have a certified crop consultant. I tell him what I'm doing and I tell him if there's no problem, leave me alone and let me farm. We get along just fine that way. Having about $1 million worth of assets, I think this is something that we can do if we had to. More random thoughts. One of the things that -- I tried to read this report last night, but I couldn't get on the Internet until 2 o'clock in the morning. I can't quote you chapter and verse, but there's something about tillage. The more you work the ground, the more it washes away. It's just a fact of life. We do everything no till. I'm very happy to tell you that we raised a lot of corn, 270 bushels per acre, this year, and you don't have to work up all of that ground and incorporate that manure. It will happen itself.
I have three different wells, and I'm not afraid to drink from any of them. Manure has a lot of more in it. You need to replace the nitrogen organic matter with sulfur, potassium and other things that are in it.
Over the last year I was contacted by a cheese factory in Belmont where they make some of the finest Brie and Camembert. They are having trouble getting rid of their wey and offered it to me if I would just feed it to my cattle which I did. That eliminated some of the corn that creates concern that with less phosphorus so send him my way.
MR. O'CONNOR: Caryl Terrell is next and then Ron Lawfer from Illinois.
MS. TERRELL: Thank you for coming to Wisconsin to hear the views of the people who are affected by these proposals. My name is Caryl Terrell. I'm the legislative coordinator for the statewide John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club. We have about 10,000 members here in Wisconsin. To put it briefly, we support family farms in their efforts to properly manage livestock operation of cropland and we welcome your attention to the confined animal livestock operations because they threaten Wisconsin's family farms and clean environment.
Livestock is part of a diverse, sustainable family farm. Grazing and pasturage recycles animal wastes back into the soil as plant fertilizer and transforms vast amounts of coarse forages into usable protein. But industrial scale operations produce enormous quantities of animal waste and air and water pollution and are hight in energy use. Livestock factories are not humane to animals. They limit consumer food choices that are free of antibiotics and do not return money to the local economy.
We support family farms that are the backbone of our rural communities. They support local businesses and provide a safe, locally produced food supply. Family farms are in an economic crisis now. Adequate regulation of livestock factory operations will ensure that existing family livestock farms are not disadvantaged.
Looking to your draft strategy, while it is welcome, it is too little, too voluntary and the compliance dates are too lenient. Here are some thoughts on how to improper the strategy. Many large-scale factory farms handle massive amounts of animal waste with primitive open-air cesspools and spray fields that contaminate groundwater, streams and the air. In many regions these factory farms are often crowded together on small land bases and animal waste is dumped on the land at rates far exceeding those recommended as sound practice for agricultural production.
The draft strategy assumes, erroneously, that large-scale factory farming is both inevitable and potentially sustainable and recommends the expenditure of large amounts of public funds for technical assistance and cost-share money.
There are economic and environmentally sound sustainable alternatives to large-scale factory farms. The draft strategy should recommend that these existing, truly sustainable livestock production practices be encouraged as alternatives to factory farms.
The draft strategy acknowledges that current regulations and standards for dealing with factory farm pollution are inadequate, that a backlog of almost 10,000 operations need Clean Water Act permits and that many of these facilities are currently the source of significant water pollution problems.
Most of these permits will be issued in advance of proposed regulatory amendment and new requirements for nutrient management plans, providing factory farms with rubber-stamp approval to continue using large-scale, liquid manure storage facilities and land application spray fields.
The draft strategy should be revised to require that existing large-scale liquid manure handling systems be phased out and these systems be prohibited in any permit for new or expanding operations. In addition, air quality public health standards to protect workers' and neighbors' health is a key element that is missing from this strategy.
A sound strategy should impose a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms, until environmental impacts are assessed and adequate regulatory measures which assist farmers to select sustainable practices are adopted for dealing with these impacts. CAFOs are not just a water quality issue. There are also important local land use issues with important local public health implications. Citizen involvement is essential and should be provided for in the strategy.
The draft strategy should clarify that the standards for the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans will include both nitrogen and phosphorus limitations based on water quality protection for land application of factory farm animal waste. All permitted facilities should have a comprehensive nutrient management plan, which the public can review before the permit is approved and whose implementation is a fully-enforceable condition of the permit.
We have concern with the legal liability and financial responsibility for factory farm pollution. The draft strategy should require that the processing companies who own the animals and factory farms and who dictate the conditions for operation of factory farms be legally liable and financially responsible for factory farm pollution.
The Sierra Club must take this opportunity to briefly comment on current events. While we were enjoying Thanksgiving turkey dinner with our families, the National Pork Producers Council reached a deal with the US EPA which threatens to make this joint strategy hogwash. The deal includes every dirty trick we have been fighting against in the state of Wisconsin and Congress, self-monitoring and lower penalties with little or no oversight by the US EPA and apparently with no public involvement. We are very disappointed that the EPA would make such a deal. Not only will family farmers lose, rural residents will lose and our clean air and clean water will lose.
Thank you very much for your attention.
MR. O'CONNOR: Ron is next. Thank you very much.
MR. LAWFER: My name is Ron Lawfer. I reside at Burr Oak Lane in the rural area of Stockton, Illinois. That's right south of the border. We're not too far from Wisconsin, about ten miles. Mr. Whitmore used to be a state conservationist in Illinois, and it's good see to see him again. I appreciate the opportunity to attend the informational meeting. My wife and I were dairy farmers in northwest Illinois for 35 years, and that operation is currently being operated by my son. During the last six years I've had the opportunity to serve as a representative to the State of Illinois. I have 96,000 constituents in a rural area but really I represent more dairy cows than I do people in that area.
I disagree with the premise that animal manure is a pollutant concern. Animal manure is a very small percentage of the nutrients used to produce grain and crops in Illinois. I believe it's about 4 percent of the nutrients for those crops come from animal manure. I would like to see some scientific knowledge of where the pollutant concern arrives at. You pointed out the potential for nitrogen phosphorus can harm the environment. If nitrogen and phosphorus are of concern as mentioned in the strategy, then possibly we need to regulate all the applications of nitrogen and phosphorus not only from animal feeding operations but also commercial fertilizers. I would like to see that scientific knowledge and that that be based on scientific facts rather than singling out the livestock industry on those two concerns.
During the last six years I've been a member of the general assembly and I've served on the agriculture committee. We worked very closely with the agriculture industry, the livestock industry and have developed during that period of time clear and concise rules and regulations in the livestock Management Facilities Act which we adopted in the State of Illinois on May 20, 1997.
As part of my comments I would like to enter into the record a copy of these rules and regulations. They set forth building standards and management standards and provide for inspection from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and enforcement by the Illinois EPA. For additional federal standards to be considered at this particular time, I believe, would be detrimental to the livestock industry in Illinois. We have a system in Illinois that works very well. Last year over 2,100 farmers became certified livestock managers under the provisions of this livestock act.
As a member of the Illinois General Assembly and the agriculture committee, we're going to continue to fine tune and put in place those regulations that we feel are needed to protect our environment. We can do this with the cooperation of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
The impaired water streams in Illinois at 20 years was 19 percent. Now it's 10 percent. The water quality has improved in Illinois and it's because of a lot of work by the livestock producers and all the farmers in the state of Illinois. I appreciate your time and hope you consider my comments. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you very much Ron. Clarence Mess is next and then state representative Al Ott. Did Clarence give up on us today? It's very possible. Al, you still only get five minutes.
MR. OTT: Thank you very much. I am State Representative Al Ott. I serve in the Wisconsin State Assembly. I want to say thank you to the EPA and USDA and the folks here in Wisconsin that came to a joint hearing on November 19th on the strategy and I want to thank you folks for coming to that.
Of course we are pleased that the EPA and the Department of Agriculture are addressing this difficult subject. However, we sincerely hope that Wisconsin will be allowed to continue the process of developing water quality based standards for animal feeding and non-point source pollution that are tailored to the specific qualities of Wisconsin and its environment. We also hope that the imposition of one-size-fits-all program from the federal level will not cause us to lose some of the innovations in our program or unreasonably burden the agricultural sector of our economy.
In light of this meeting or this hearing, I also would share that I would be forwarding this along with the signatures of other legislators in the Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate and they would support it. Wisconsin needs to be able to prioritize the regulatory effort based on the degree of adverse effect that each individual activity has on water quality. We are concerned that there may be a federal mandate to issue permits to a large number of animal feeding operations. This will require much more agency staff to process paperwork and will direct the agency's efforts away from quality concerns.
The concept of functional equivalency of state programs is critical. Wisconsin is well along in the process of developing state regulations and, in some aspects of the program, we are already more stringent than the proposed federal program. For instance, rather than regulating only surface water, our program also addresses groundwater and wetlands water quality. We understand that it is simpler for the federal government to impose a mandatory program nationwide, and that exercising judgment regarding the adequacy of state programs is much more difficult, but it is extremely important for us to meet the goals of the program with a reasonable degree of flexibility.
Funding has always been a central issue in any animal feeding operation and non-point source pollution regulatory programs in Wisconsin. The costs of meeting water quality standards have the potential to put many farmers out of business. The cost of compliance for older, smaller farms that are typical in Wisconsin simply exceeds the ability of the farmer to generate revenue to pay for the best management practices. Over the past 20 years the Wisconsin legislature has spent approximately $123,000,000 on non-point source pollution and a substantial additional amount on animal waste. We are committed to continuing this level of support. It is time for the federal government to meet our water quality goals by providing financial support. We simply do not have at the state level financial resources to meet all of the cost sharing and staffing needs for this program.
The testimony from EPA officials regarding the differences between the unified national strategy and the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Management Plan was disturbing. It is difficult enough for us to deal with one federal program and we are putting a great deal of effort at the state level into developing a single strategy for animal feeding operations and non-point source pollution. We do not need and cannot deal with the added complexity of trying to satisfy the overlapping and inconsistent requirements of two federal programs. Wisconsin should be allowed to prioritize its efforts to place a greater emphasis on costal zones and thus satisfy the requirements of the program.
We talked with some of the drafting folks who might be interested when we talked about having to do both. If we can pull out the agriculture lands and bring them under our programs outside of the federal -- of the costal zone management and create a Class A, which may be that agriculture land in the costal zone and a Class B which may be the agriculture land outside so that we can in fact have one program in respond to those two programs. The details of the program are also going to be critical. There was a discussion at our meeting about phosphorus may be used as a limiting factor of animal waste. This kind of discussion should not be had without a great deal of further study.
If someone had 500 acres to spread their manure and there were 500 acres adjoining land, both facilities of that feed lot with adjoining lands would be able to have an agreement -- he rented lands from someone else or had an agreement to spread manure on that adjoining 500 acres that 500 acres then would be non-point classified versus point source classified. There needs to be that discussion. What we're talking about is whether manure is spread by the feed lot owner who owns it for manure spreading should be treated the same as a feed lot owner who leases land and should be subject to non-point regulations not point source regulations.
Thank you very much for your time. Thank you for coming to Wisconsin to have this hearing. We look forward to working with you on these very important issues. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: I didn't warn John Molcheski that he is next. John, you are next. And our last speaker who is on my list at least is Phil Miller.
MR. MILLER: My name is Phil Miller. I'm an employee of a private profit-making company, small family company here. We've supplied technology and services and products for over 30 years here in the state of Wisconsin. We deal with human waste and animal waste. Basically the reason I'm here at the hearing is to see how my employees here are doing. Also I really want to tell you folks that us folks in private industry. I'm not getting paid today, by the way, because I'm not acquiring new customers. What I really wanted to say is that we had a huge amount of technology and investment in this whole field of environment and we're offering to you folks those things freely from our company. We spent a lot of time and effort. In order to succeed in our business we have to be cutting edge with what we do.
We want to find a better way to partner with you folks. We work extensively with NRCS. 12 years of our business life was used to acquire pre-engineering approval. We have that approval. It's well worth it because those standards allow us to comply and meet the needs of our customers. Basically I want you to know we're here to work with you and however we can partner, we'll all win. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks. Those are the speakers who signed up. As we are looking at the clock, one of the things we wanted to do was to have the panel be able to ask any question of any others. I think we covered that, but if the panel has any that they want to ask of the audience we want to make sure that there's some time to do that.
Do we have any comments, concerns, or follow-up questions that any of the panel would like to make of the audience? Do we have to have a specific person -- Dana, if you would like to open it up, we would have time to do that. Speak up in the microphone so they can hear you.
MS. MINERVA: Some commenters said that they needed flexibility in the state to design regulations that were geared toward specific soil types and watershed and conditions in the state. Others seemed to be implying that there needed to be a national floor standards that apply to this industry across the nation. That's a balance that has to be struck in this strategy, providing national minimum standards with enough flexibility for individual states to allow -- I'm wondering whether anyone had any particular thoughts on that. I presume that -- is there is a feeling that there needs to be flexibility but also some sort of minimum floor?
MS. TERRELL: My name is Caryl Terrell. One of the things that we're concerned about here in Wisconsin is our barn door has a big sign on it that says we're not prepared for large animal operations. You'll get good treatment. Our rivers are already polluted. You won't be noticed.
It's very important that we have national standards that provide a floor, but we also need to be within a state to deal with the specific problems in that state. I'm sure you're aware if you've been traveling around the states that geography changes, soil type change, weather changes. Senator Feingold's staff person was talking about the western part of the state and the amount of the phosphorus and nitrates in those soils. A standard that is set that says you should have X percent of nitrogen or X number of nitrogen per acre or phosphorus per acres is not as good a performance standard. It should be in terms of health of the soil. Right now we think that the nitrogen that's recommended that we use on the soil is destroying the soil. The university is looking into that.
We certainly do need to have a standard that says that the soil could support a crop with the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that's added is not going to contaminating the groundwater. It will be used by the crops. I think that's the balance here. We need to have a performance standard that protects water quality, groundwater, surface water quality but the flexibility to say in these soil types and these weather conditions we need to be able to have within the state a determination as to what the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen applied to the soil should be. There are many people who said they wanted good science. That's the kind of good science that I think we would support.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Caryl.
MR. JACKSON: Gary Jackson with the Farm-A-Syst Home-A-Syst program. That dilemma is never going to go away where we've come at this whole approach that we've tried to use as we work with the state is developing ownership within the state and ownership at the individual producers' level. That's the whole concept of a voluntary assessment. They walk through themselves and thus have very little opportunity for denial that there are some problems.
We need a chance for this to work from the government level to meet our needs within our state, the conditions the management nature of the people of the state, then it's brought together to become their program, not the government's program. Then it becomes much more an enforceable program that is acceptable to the agencies as well as the people and that makes for increased chance of success. A poor regulation that's not enforceable is worse than no regulation. I hope that flexibility will allow very functional policies to come forward.
MR. O'CONNOR: Any other comments on that? Another question from the panel? Have they wore you out?
MS. JETT: As we've been out across the country, we've seen a lot of different climactic issues that come up. We were last week in California and, of course, things are dry out there. One of the issues that came up as we were drafting the strategy was to take care that we didn't accidentally insert language in there that would restrict some of the different practices that might be needed in different parts of the country. One of the issues that I would like to know if you would be willing to speak about is the frozen soil issues. There was mention that you're in a situation where you carry the manure to spread it or you don't have the storage facilities. For people that don't understand the type of small operations that mainly exist in the great lakes area, it would be useful for us to have something on the record about this issue or if you could write to us about it because there is a sense within the beltway that we shouldn't be allowing spreading on frozen soil or on snow as part of the comprehensive management plan. This is part of the country where that issue could be addressed. If you aren't willing to discuss it today, I would appreciate it if you might send us some comment on it.
MR. STAPLES: I think again on frozen land the manure application is to the frozen land does not affect any waterways or groundwater, then why wouldn't you spread on frozen ground? If it's going to offend the environment, then it should not be. If it isn't, then frozen ground shouldn't be the issue.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thanks, Dave. Tell us who you are.
MR. WIESENBERG: I'm Robert Wiesenburg from New Glarus, Wisconsin, also known as America's little Switzerland. We purchased a farm in '90, and there already was a manure storage facility there. It has been a real education for us. In our type of soil that we have the frozen soil will bother in the wintertime because not all farms but a lot of farms you could not get the manure up to the top of the hill so people will spread it on the leveler ground. They're losing out on the value on the other land. This has allowed us to reduce -- by having the pit there allowed us to reduce our fertilizer cost tremendously. It isn't as great as what you think at times. There is also a bad thing. When you start talking manure facilities it is not only the cost of that facility, you're biggest problem is getting that manure out of that facility. You take it in the springtime -- universities throughout the U.S. will tell you if you don't get corn planted by the first of May, you lose as much as a bushel per day. If you were to be required to inject manure from dairy animals because of the high forage content, that manure holds moisture longer. It would not allow the soil to dry out thereby you can't get the crop in on a timely basis.
Also, you have to look at -- I don't want to see regulations put in as to when you can apply. You've got to watch out because in different areas of the country you're going to have your real wet seasons and seasons that aren't so wet. You've got to have flexibility to get it out. In our area of the country in southern Wisconsin a lot of the Midwest you can plant winter wheat crop and have the wheat to sell but you have the bedding plus it gives you another time window to get manure out. For your own good before you make any decisions, look at what the costs of the equipment is to getting this manure on the land. When you have to start hauling it long distance, it goes by truck because you can't do it with a tractor. You don't buy the storage from somebody from the university or farm management group to hire it done because those people cannot be every place at once in the spring or the fall. We went through that this fall. We had to go and rent equipment to do it ourselves because the people do not have the time. Even these people that are in the custom applying of it, they can't afford the equipment to be able to do everybody's at once.
Thank you for the opportunity. That was one thing I really wanted you to hear because -- look at all the costs of getting it out not only the cost of storing it. Thank you.
MR. REICHERS: Mark Riechers. I was here before. To the issue of hauling manure -- I have to do it all the time. Everything is no till. If I take manure out when the ground is soft, I do a great deal of damage to the soil structure. I believe that I have retained far more in manure by spreading it on frozen ground and not working the ground because the manure works into the ground. We have -- I didn't come with the book with specifics, but I have about six miles of terraces on my farm and by having bumper strips and by having all of these things in place, then I can go ahead and do that.
Manure handing is expensive. I have to tell you that the last time I bought a manure spreader I told my sons who were in their teens, i said, "I hope you enjoy that." I said, "That cost the same as a Z28, and I bet you have a lot of more fun with this."
MR. O'CONNOR: I'm sorry.
MR. MILLER: Phil Miller with Weiser Concrete. What I wanted to mention is that -- you talk about this spreading on frozen ground. I want to talk about the storage issue just a second. We are a supplier of the technology product on manure storage systems. They're very, very expensive. What you're going to have to deal with if you're going to put in some regulatory period, you're going to have to come up with money because it's very expensive to build these structures that are environmentally sound and the engineering criteria that is set forth in design standards. You're going to be faced with big money issues that are going to be part of your environmental assessment. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: Any last things for the panel? Otherwise we'll go to some closing remarks. Carole Jett, please.
MS. JETT: My name is Carole Jett, I'm with the USDA Clean Water Action Plan. I want to again reiterate our thanks to you for coming out today. It is a nice day for this time of year in Wisconsin. I lived quite a bit of the time in Michigan.
We had to make some decisions when we looked across the country to hold the sessions. We tried to fit him them in between hunting season, Hanukkah, Christmas. I appreciate being able to get here. A couple of our people from your state couldn't get here because of certain issues back in Washington, D.C. We do appreciate it, and we are going to take all of the public comments both through the comment period, your written comments in these sessions as well as probably some other activities that Congress has in store for us and take a look at all of these issues as we develop the new policies.
When I think of Wisconsin, I think of conservation. I think the conservation ethic here is very high. You have a very interesting structure of agriculture here in Wisconsin that is different from many of the locations that we have gone to for listening sessions. I think it's important for those of us working on the strategy -- it's important that we have a chance to see and hear and talk to you about the different kinds of agriculture around the country, the different sectors of agriculture and the way that you all do business.
So again, I appreciate it, and I would also like to offer our DNR friend here an opportunity to say any closing comments, if you would like to, Mr. Meyer.
MR. MEYER: Thank you very much, Carole. I know on behalf of Secretary Brancel and the Department of Agriculture and Wisconsin DNR we're glad to see the excellent turnout here today. I think it was a good mixture of producers, of farm organizations and environmental representatives and local and government representatives to present testimony but also to learn what these programs are about.
I think we have a very good track record in the state of Wisconsin and have, in fact, I think really nailed the issue on the head. We've done a lot of things that exceed the standards. And in addition there's a program that or relationship that's being put together at the request of the Wisconsin legislature. Secretary Brancel and myself have appointed committees to look at current regulations on animal waste and non-point and strengthen them.
I'm sure that that group, which is very representative of people in this room, will put together a set of standards that will in fact accomplish what the NRCS and EPA strategy is designed to accomplish. That's why Representative Ott pointed out as we have pointed out as an agency that I think you need to look at functional equivalent programs.
Last week there was a very interesting meeting in Chicago where the agriculture secretaries and the natural resource secretaries from six states in the upper midwest where there to meet with Region V. The unanimous agreement of those 12 secretaries was to in fact have the federal government look at existing state programs designed within the states based on the state's needs and see if they're going to measure up to the standards that your program is proposing to come up with. If in fact based on our needs as states we can achieve those same goals to give us functional equivalency, pass the test of functional equivalency.
We all know that farm production in Iowa is different than Wisconsin and Nebraska is different than Wisconsin. If we have the same objective but it can be done in a way that meets our state's standards -- that's the message I would send back. I heard that several times today. I don't think you told anyone we don't want clean water and clean air. I think the producers in this state have shown that they're interested in things that give us a chance to do that in the Wisconsin way. Thank you.
MR. O'CONNOR: JoLynn has a message from EPA on the way out. JoLynn.
MS. TRAUB: Good afternoon. I've heard Nebraska mentioned three times now, so I have to tell you that issues concerns water quality and managing animal wastes and runoff from agriculture are not new to me. I grew up in a small town in Nebraska. I spent about 18 years on farms and ranches. Little did I know that when I joined EPA 19 years ago that I would be dealing with the issues that we're dealing with today. Over the past 25 years -- we just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. We have been dealing primarily with point sources. That's been a pretty much federally driven program.
As we move into the next 25 years, I think you heard everyone in the room today talk about the challenges and problems we are facing and will be facing associated with non-point source with storm water runoff. These new and complex problems require a different set of tools and strategies, partnerships, collaboration, education and outreach. I think today's meeting is an example of those different types of approaches. Your feedback and your comments are extremely important to us as we go forward in modifying and dealing with final strategies.
We've been listening for several hours. I think your comments have been very thoughtful, very well-articulated and very important to us. As we go forward in developing and implementing the final strategy, I think trust in relationships will continue to be very important. We from the Region V office want to be out in the field working with NRCS, our other parters with the state agencies. We're going to have a strategy that we work on together and implement together. We would like to spend more time to get to know you. I hope this is just one of many meetings that we have. Thank you very much for spending the afternoon with us and for your thoughtful comments.
MR. O'CONNOR: Thank you, JoLynn. I wanted to add my thanks to all of you for your comments today. They were very helpful, your ideas and your interests. I'm especially pleased that I was asked to chair this session. I think Extension, as many of you shared, is part of the research and education that we think ought to be an important part of this voluntary program as George and several others and Pat Leavenworth talked about often. We're not part of the regulatory agency, but we certainly think that education is important to the citizens of Wisconsin. That's our job. We're pleased to do it well.
I would remind you one last time the comment period remains open until January 19th. There are envelopes like this with the address on them. Please use them. Your information is important. Drive safely. Have a safe trip home.
(adjourning at 3:43 P.M.)
STATE OF WISCONSIN, COUNTY OF DANE ss.
I, SUSAN MILLEVILLE, a Notary Public in and for the State of Wisconsin, do hereby certify that the foregoing was taken before me at the Sheraton Hotel, 706 John Nolen Drive, City of Madison, County of Dane and State of Wisconsin, on the 30th day of November 1998; that it was taken in shorthand by me, a competent court reporter and disinterested person approved by all parties in interest and thereafter converted to typewriting using computer-aided transcription.
Dated December 7, 1998