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DECEMBER 3, 1998 - DRAFT USDA/EPA UNIFIED NATIONAL STRATEGY
PUBLIC LISTENING FORUM
DECEMBER 3, 1998
Verbatim Report of Proceedings Re:
Forum Conducted by: PHILLIP CRAWFORD, Facilitator
KEVIN BROWN, USDA - NRCS
GLENDA HUMISTON, USDA
LEONARD JORDAN, USDA - NRCS
JEFF LAPE, EPA
WARREN LEE, USDA, NRCS
FRED LINDSEY, EPA
BUB LOISELLE, EPA
Proceedings Reported By: Syndie Hagardt, CSR, RPR
KAPASKA COURT REPORTING
MR. CRAWFORD: The best seats are up front. Don't be bashful, come right on up here and be friendly. No free food, sorry.
This is the sixth of eleven listening sessions for the United National Strategy for AFOs. We call them AFOs. Some of these folks from other parts of the world call them AFOs but I told them today it was AFOs. So if you are on the plane to Portland this is not your room. I just wanted to let everybody know we're talking about AFOs and CAFOs tonight.
I am Phil Crawford, Washington State University Cooperative Extension. I have the honor of being the somewhat neutral third-party to facilitate tonight. My job is to sort of help things move along. I am really glad to be here. I think this is an important topic and I have already have some lively discussions about it, in the last couple of days as a matter of fact.
My role is to manage the meeting and make sure that we reach a couple of goals tonight. Certainly the first goal is to let the agency folks who have crafted this document and are here to listen, give you a chance to have a brief overview to point out some of the details. The second goal is to hear from you. And we want to give the most time to that and so I think we'll have plenty of time to do that. So that's really what we're going to try to achieve tonight.
There are restrooms right up here in the front and restrooms downstairs. There is some water, that's the best we could do; Seattle water. It's a government deal here so there's nothing's free tonight.
The procedure on the agenda tonight is in two main parts. The first part we will have brief presentations by several agency folks and then we'll have the questioning from you. There is only a couple of ground rules that I would ask you to watch for. You want to listen and speak with respect, and I think that's going to be fairly easy; and stay on time, I think we are going to have plenty of time. We have a little electronic gizmo up here to show you when your time is up. So we'll show you how that works.
We'll have five minutes for each person to speak and then if we have time left over we can have more questions and answers and comments after that. What I would like to do now is have this panel up front, listening panel, introduce themselves. So you'll hear their voice. You'll hear more from some of them and some of them you'll hear a whole lot from because they are going to give a presentation but the others they will be listening very carefully and taking notes. We'll talk a little bit more later about what happens to what you tell us at this meeting.
I guess I want to assure you from my discussions with the agency here that they are taking this very seriously and they want to get everything that's said down in good form and make the most use of it. So rest assured that whatever you have to offer both orally and in writing will be put to good use.
So Fred, will you start the introduction.
MR. LINDSEY: Yes. I'm Fred Lindsey from the Office of Waste Water Management at EPA in Washington, D.C..
MR. CRAWFORD: Can you all hear okay? Should we be using the mike with these intros? We've got a mike here. Go ahead and use the mike.
MR. LINDSEY: Let me try it again. I'm Fred Lindsey with the Office of Waste Water Management of EPA in Washington, D.C..
MS. HUMISTON: Glenda Humiston U.S. Department of Agriculture with Natural Resources and Environment.
MR. BROWN: Kevin Brown with Natural Resources Conservation Service. I am Deputy State Conservationist in Louisiana.
MR. LAPE: Hi, I am Jeff Lape with EPA in Washington.
MR. JORDAN: Leonard Jordan, NCRS here in Washington.
MR. LOISELLE: I am Bub Loiselle. I am with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Seattle office. I manage the NPS permits compliance unit.
MR. LEE: I am Warren Lee, the Director of Watershed Wetlands Division with NRCS in Washington, D.C..
MR. CRAWFORD: Thanks. Fred, will lead us off with some general comments and then Glenda will follow him.
MR. LINDSEY: Thanks Phil, I appreciate that. I appreciate all of you coming not here today and taking time out of your busy schedules to share with us your thoughts, your insights and just basically your comments related to this Draft Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations. We are very much interested in what you have to stay and we very much appreciate your coming.
The draft strategy was identified as one of the key actions in the President's Clean Water Action Plan which the President announced back in February. The proposed strategy here is one of more than a hundred actions which the President mandated that EPA and the Department of Agriculture and our federal agencies undertake to finish the job, if you will, of improving and protecting the nation's waterways and water quality.
There's been dramatic changes in the animal feeding industry over the last 20 years or so and have prompted quite a bit of public concern and demonstrated the need, we think, for a nationally consistent approach to protecting human health in the environment as it relates to animal feeding operations.
What we are trying to do here with the strategy is to develop and establish national performance expectations for animal feeding operations, AFOs. Basically what we are talking about is developing a protective level playing field on a national basis. All parties are going to have to work together if we are going to not only preserve our health and the environment but also to maintain a sustainable economically viable animal feeding industry.
As Phil mentioned, the meeting is really twofold; first of all, to inform you a little bit more about what's in the Strategy; secondly and most importantly, to hear what you have to say about it so that we can use that as we revise it and come out with a final Strategy.
Let me say also that we from EPA are very pleased to be partnering with the Department of Agriculture in this effort. The Department brings more than 60 years, I'm told, of collaborative work with the agricultural community on efforts like this, voluntary efforts like this, and they have a wealth of experience in this area. The Department of Agriculture has a number of tools and mechanisms for working with the producer industries on a voluntary basis, and we really think that they compliment our experience base and the tools which we have which are environmental and regulatory based.
We have established a great working relationship between the two agencies in developing this, it took some time but we have. We think it's important that the same kinds of relationships and cooperative attitudes are going to be necessary at the various other levels of government and at the local level between all the various interests, including the producers as well as the other stakeholder interests.
The lynch pin here we believe is the development of the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan which you are going to hear much more about. Our plan is by the year 2008 we would like to have all AFOs have new comprehensive management plans, and we think that will largely take care of the problem. All this is going to take resources, both private and government resources. We are working hard to try to secure the resources from our perspective and we hope that you'll help us to support this effort. We think that the results will be of tremendous value to the environment.
To sum up, let me just leave you with these thoughts. This is a Draft Strategy, it's not final. We will be finalizing it based on comments at this meeting and the other meetings which Phil mentioned, as well as written comments which we expect to receive by January 19th, 1999. It also does not bring into play -- it is not a set of regulations or there are not new regulations involved in this Strategy. We think of it more as a road map, a direction that the two agencies are going to take in terms of dealing with this issue. There are new regulations -- or not new regulations. We mentioned in the Strategy that we have been looking at the regulatory structure that we have but this does not bring into account new regulations.
Again, let me just thank you for coming and sharing with us your thoughts and your comments on the issues associated with this. Thank you very much.
MR. CRAWFORD: If anybody needs signing we have someone who can handle that. Sorry I didn't announce that. If you know of anybody in the audience ask them if they would indicate.
(WHEREUPON, there was no response.)
MS. HUMISTON: Thank you. Hi, I'm glad to be here to share a few comments with you. Glenda Humiston, I'm with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as you heard earlier. This is truly a fascinating process. I have only been with the federal government for about going on five months now, and the first task that landed on my plate when I moved back to Washington, D.C. was the negotiations on this Draft Strategy. It is a really fascinating process to go through, because you've got two agencies here who have very distinctly different mandates, work with very distinctly different communities, different legal requirements, different funding committees in Congress and it just makes for a lot of difficulty in sometimes making our programs work better together.
The attempt of this Strategy, as Fred mentioned, was to take our existing programs and the existing laws and try to make them work a little better, make a little more sense to people who were trying to interact with both. Also we had a great deal of difficulty in doing this, where you have EPA which has some regulatory responsibilities, although in this part of the country many of your state agencies are delegated authorities. Some parts of the nation that's not true. Some parts of the nation we have got states who have very strict water quality laws, much stricter in fact than what is proposed in this strategy. Nothing in this strategy weakens those.
But what was recognized at the federal level it was a couple needs; first of all, that we needed to have a minimum floor that was national so that there was a level playing field and that some of the larger corporate entities couldn't play states off each other, which was already starting to occur. And that was one of the key purposes for trying to come up with a united strategy that had some national standards.
Some state governments around the country think that what we have proposed is too stringent; in fact, I believe some of the ones here, from what I was briefed this afternoon, feel these aren't stringent enough. That's a large country for you with a lot of diversity. But I do think what we have put together is a Strategy that I hope all of you have taken a look at it. And what we really need from you tonight is your comments. We need to hear from you not that you just want us to throw it away because, frankly, that's not going to happen. What we need to hear is how can it be better? And we truly do want to hear this.
This is a first attempt for our agencies to try to put something together like this. It's difficult because, again, you've got that regulatory component. The agency I work closely with, National Resources Conservation Service, is a voluntary component and, in fact, very strongly both EPA Administrator Carol Browner and USDA Secretary Dan Glickman have very strongly made the case of wanting to keep that regulatory/voluntary somewhat separate from each other in order for both of them to function better. I know that's an issue for some folks.
So without going into what we are going to get presented here in a moment, and these two guys do a great presentation and you are going to know this inside and out even if you haven't had a chance to read it thoroughly.
Let me just emphasize those three things. We are not rewriting the Clean Water Act here. This is a strategy that's based on existing law, rule and program that we are trying to make work better together. He have we tried to carefully balance a regulatory entity and a voluntary cooperative instead of programs and cost share type programs in a way that will work for the most people.
And the last thing I would like to do is apologize, quite frankly, for those of you who feel it might be difficult to get some written comments in. One of the problems we had when we decided to pick ten cities to do these type of listening sessions is not everybody can get to those ten cities; therefore, your verbal comments will not be officially in the federal register; however, they are being transcribed. We will have full, complete access and advantage to all of them. What I would urge you tonight is after you've made the comments, your own, and after you've heard others is to please get in written comments to us. You've got until January 19th, you have got more than a month and a half. I would hope that would actually give you some chance to go home and think about it. I know I do some of my best thinking driving home after these things. Add a few comments and add suggestions and ideas, because we are in the marketplace for any good ideas you've got on how to make the Strategy work, how to make this whole issue work for a lot of different people. So with that I'm looking forward to your comments.
MR. CRAWFORD: There are envelopes in the back preaddressed to put your comments in. I don't think they have any postage on them. Here we go again.
MS. HUMISTON: We took a budget cut this year.
MR. CRAWFORD: Right. There's a whole pile of them back there. I also want everybody to know that there are handouts back there. If you don't have a copy of the Strategy you can quickly grab one. I also want to make sure that everybody who wants to make oral comments has signed up on the list.
I need to let you know we had a little bet.
We've got the list right back there, so if you haven't signed up on it please do so because I'm going to call your name before we get to that part. We had a little bet at lunch about the size of the crowd tonight and I think I am winning -- I'm not sure but we'll find out here.
These guys have been in places like Tulsa and they told me they had 200 people, so we didn't quite do that well. Well, we ready to get to the details or at some of the details and the electronic presentation. I don't know, you guys going to do this together? Oh, the tag team.
MS. HUMISTON: They are getting really good at it.
MR. CRAWFORD: Kevin and Jeff have a good show. It's up to you from here. Thank you.
MR. BROWN: The strategy is the discussion of eight different guiding principals. For time sake what would fit on this slide we have come up with five minimum water quality and public health impacts; second, focus on the AFOs with the greatest risk both to the environment and public health; third, long-term sustainability of livestock production, it's got to be economically feasible; fourth, we are going to establish a national goal and performance expectations; fifth, is to coordinate federal, state, tribal and local activities.
First of all, we'd like to define what we are talking about here. What's an AFO? A definition: Animals kept to raise in the confined situation, they are confined for at least 45 days out of any given year and feeds brought to the animals.
The 1992 Act Census has 450,000 of these operations although the consolidation trends are showing that the number of operations are down but animal units per operation has increased.
MR. LAPE: It's important to put this in context. Back in February the President and the Vice President released a Clean Water Action Plan. That plan acknowledged that we made great progress in this country in dealing with water quality issues. At the same time the plan acknowledged that there were a number of remaining problems that need to be addressed.
The plan contained a hundred actions of which this is just one. Some of the other actions are dealings with other pollution sources; such as, combined sewer overflows from cities; storm water runoff, urban runoff. So what we are doing today is part of a master plan to deal with remaining pollution issues.
When you look at this Strategy you will see in Section 2.2 we talk about this Strategy being focused on water quality issues; such as, over enrichments of surface waters from nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen; potential pathogen problems and the impacts they can have on shellfish beds and the need to protect drinking water supply.
We do also in this Strategy recognize that there are a need for more information on certain types of environmental impacts. For example, we are beginning to better understand that nutrients can go into the atmosphere and be transported.
There are also other issues related to animal feeding operations; such as, odor and siting. We do not directly address these in the Strategy. Those kind of issues such as siting and odor are largely best addressed at the state and local level.
MR. BROWN: This strategy set forth a national goal to take action to minimize water pollution from farm animal feeding operations. The national performance expectation is stated. First of all, develop technically sound and economically feasible Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans.
Let's talk a little bit about the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan and some of the components that will be in those. First of all is feed management. This is something that a lot more research has to be done to work on. There has to be more information on the input into the operation. Manure handling and storing is something we have been doing for a number of years and we feel pretty good about that. Land application manure, rates, nutrient content, soil conditions and that type thing will be part of the CNMP.
The land management portion. This will be a traditional conservation plan that soil and water conservation districts and NRCS have done for years. Address soil erosion, irrigation water management and those type conservation practices. Recordkeeping will be a big part of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan. It will be what is applied, where and when.
The last one is other utilization options. We know through research that there is a lot of counties where there is more animal waste produced in that county that can be utilized by land application. We'll have to look to other options to use animal waste.
MR. LAPE: Glenda mentioned the different roles of the USDA and EPA. We felt it was important to make it very clear in this Strategy how voluntary and regulatory programs fit together, work together to support the idea of operators developing and implementing Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans. We tried to do this in such a way that the have a clear understanding of where we are trying to go.
First and foremost we believe it is absolutely essential that we continue to rely on the good stewardship role of the farmer and therefore we expect that the vast majority of operators will develop and implement Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans in the voluntary arena. There is an existing regulatory program, a permitting program under the Clean Water Act and we'll talk about that a little more. We basically lay out what our priorities are for using that regulatory program and expect that would be done very strategically for a small percentage, maybe about 35 percent of operations.
MR. BROWN: In the discussion of voluntary programs it's how we are going to make the voluntary program work for 95 percent of the customers that are out there.
First of all the term locally --
(WHEREUPON, the stenographer asked the speaker to slow down.)
MR. BROWN: That's the first time being from Louisiana that someone has told me to slow down.
Voluntary program, locally led conservation. It's a term that was kind of coined in the '96 Farm Bill. Soil and water conservation districts took the lead locally recommending that local practices and local solutions to concerns are the best way to attack the problem.
Second, environmental education. It's a great component, is traditionally done by extension service, ARS and others but we're all going to have to be a portion of this.
Technical and financial assistance program. Primarily from USDA it's been equipped for our PL566, program, small watersheds and CRP. From EPA in the states the 319 program where technical and financial assistance has been available.
The last bullet here is probably the most asked question we have concerning this strategy; is this mandatory? And the answer is, no, it's not. It's owners and operators are encouraged but not required to develop and implement CNMPs. But we feel like, as the strategy discusses, this is the best way to describe the water quality and AFOs is to have and implement the CNMPs.
MR. LAPE: You know, Kevin, I think our stenographer was just having difficulty incorporating your accent into the record.
MR. BROWN: And I don't even have an accent.
MR. LAPE: I didn't notice it either.
We talked about the voluntary program and the regulatory program and how they fit together. Again, the vast majority of operators we think would develop and implement Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan in that voluntary arena. But it's also important to understand that there is a regulatory program out there and it has been in place for almost 25 years.
When congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 they specified what kind of point sources of pollution needed permits. In that definition of a "point source" they included the concept of a concentrated animal feeding operation.
In 1974 and in 1976 the EPA established regulations that basically described the performance expectations for those CAFOs and established the permitting requirements. So it's important to know when we talk about better implementing the existing regulatory program, it's that NPDES, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permitting System under the Clean Water Act that we're talking about. By in large that program is implemented by the states. There are 43 states throughout the country who are authorized to implement that permitting program.
MR. BROWN: The strategy has discussion on land application of manure. We realize that it's the best means for utilizing the disposal of the manure. Properly done the agriculture benefits. We know it's nutrients, water holding capacity, organic matters applied to the soil, and we feel like if it's properly done that's in compliance in following the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan; improperly done, it could have public health impacts and would not be in accord with the CNMP.
MR. LAPE: In the strategy in Section 4.4 we talk about where we plan to use the regulatory program. We basically lay out three priorities where we think facilities ought to be covered in the permitting arena. Those operations that generate significant manure, large operations and that generally equates to the existing regulatory definition of greater than 1,000 animal units, we think you ought to be within the permitting program.
A second category we think is a priority for permitting: Our facilities with clearly unacceptable conditions, ones that have ongoing discharges into surface waters need to be a priority for permitting as well.
The third category are those facilities that either singularly, a single facility, or collectively are having significant water quality impacts. That can be done on a specific water segment or for a whole watershed. So that's basically what we are suggesting the 5 percent of the regulatory focus should be.
Our second major component of the regulatory program is for those facilities that are covered in the permitting program we would expect that the comprehensive nutrient management plan be part of the permit, that that CNMP that we would provide guidance to the regulatory authorities on how to incorporate those plans in the permits. We believe that reliance on NRCS practice standards will be the principal base for those plans. We also expect that a certification program request is a key vehicle for making sure that the plans have a consistent quality.
The bottom line, it is the responsibility of the CAFO owner/operator to make sure that the plan is developed. Even though they may get assistance from some outside party or from NRCS or extension service or the State Ag agency, it is the owner/operator's responsibility to submit that plan.
MR. BROWN: There's a couple of incentives in the strategy. First of all, for smaller CAFOs, those CAFOs less than 1,000 animal units, they can exit the regulatory program under a few conditions.
First, operations currently regulated. It is a CAFO but it is less than 1,000 head, and this addresses the initial concern of why they are being regulated. And the last thing, that they are not in an impaired watershed but would be able after the cycle of the permit they would be able to exit the program.
Secondly, is the good faith incentive. This is when the operator voluntarily has the CNMP supplying all the practices and putting in all the systems involved in the conservation program. Then there is a discharge, whatever that reason might be they would have a chance to clean that up before being regulated. This is an incentive brought in and looked at and wouldn't automatically mean the producer would go into the regulatory arena.
MR LAPE: We're going to switch gears a tiny bit. In Section 5 of the strategy we begin to lay out seven strategic issues. These are the key big themes that we see in our strategy.
Let me just give you a flavor for how we have presented them. First, for each of the strategic issues we provide a brief description of how we view that issue. Second, we provide what we believe are the desired outcomes or where we want to get to. Third, we lay out the actions that EPA, USDA and the states we think are important to actually achieve those outcomes. So what we're going to do is walk through each of those issues giving you flavor for what we think we want to achieve and some of the actions that we want to take.
The first strategic issue deals with building capacity for these Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans. We recognize that hundreds of thousands of animal feeding operations throughout the country either have to revise existing plans or potentially develop them from scratch. That's going to take resources and technical assistance, so we want to basically take on the actions that develop that capacity. One of the key ways that we present in the Strategy is to rely on the concept of certified specialists to help develop the plans. So we want to build the capacity for those certified specialists to be available to help owners and operators of animal feeding operations provide guidance and training to those specialists so they can provide the service and insure consistent quality. And our goal is to have all of those plans developed by certified specialists.
MR. BROWN: Strategic issue number two is accelerating the voluntary program. Again, our goal is to have all AFOs to have CMNP by 2008 and maximize the environmental benefits per dollar, both public and private funds; insure equal opportunity to all producers to participate in our outreach efforts. National standards and guidance for CNMPs, those will be developed and available through local field office technical guides. And to explore options for financial assistance. Of course, the availability of financial assistance is going to have a big influence on the time line for implementation of the CNMPs's.
MR. LAPE: The third strategic issue deals with improving the regulatory program. And you look at the section of the strategy you are going to see two basic themes; better implementation of the existing regulatory program, and our plans to relook at the existing regulatory program and see if there are ways to improve it. Let me deal with the first.
As I mentioned, CAFOs currently are obligated to be covered by permits. EPA and the states, for a variety of reasons, have not implemented those requirements consistently across the U.S. We outlined a phased approach for getting permits in place for those priority facilities that I talked about, the large facilities, those with unacceptable conditions and those that either singularly or together are causing water quality impairment.
One of the actions we talk about is preparing better guidance for the states on how to issue these CAFO permits, working with the States developing priorities for technical assistance and financial assistance.
So those are the examples of the kind of actions you will see in the Strategy to better improve existing implementation. We also acknowledge that these reg's are 25 years old, the Ag industry has changed, there has been a lot of consolidation, there are new technologies and our previous reg's in some cases weren't particularly clear. So we are looking at ways to revise those reg's.
Lastly, we talk about the need for improved compliance assistance and enforcement where that's appropriate.
MR. BROWN: Strategic issue number four is coordination. This is coordinating federal, tribal, state and local efforts, primarily just an information. We know we need additional information on such things as research, technical innovation, compliance assistance and technology transfer. The actions proposed to accomplish this is to have a coordinated research plan, coordinated technology transfer plan and a virtual center which would be a repository for all the information on AFOs.
MR. LAPE: The fifth strategic issue that we talk about is encourage industry leadership. There is no way at that the federal government is going to do this alone. We need the agricultural entities to step up to the plate and play a key leadership role. In this part of the strategy we lay out some ideas for how to help foster that to happen.
Several sectors of livestock have really put a foot forward through, for example, the National Environmental Pork Dialog, the environmental assessments that they are beginning. The poultry folks are engaged in a dialog. These are the kind of steps that we want to foster, so we look forward to your ideas as how to accelerate that and make that happy even more.
MR. BROWN: Issue number six is data coordination to preserve trust relationship between USDA and the producers. For 65 years NRCS has worked with soil water conservation districts and have had confidential information in gathering and preparing information for soil and water conservation plans. Secretary Glickman and Administrator Browner have found the need to protect and trust this relationship with farmers. Secretary Glickman calls this a fire wall issue, which is really keeping the confidential information gathered in the voluntary program not to be used in the regulatory program.
The second bullet is joint policy statement. NRCS issued on May 22, 1998 policy statement to insure this confidentiality.
The third one is just cost benefit ratio or methodology. It just talks about insuring the taxpayers for getting what they are paying for.
MR. LAPE: The last issue that we identified in the draft strategy is how we measure success. If we move forward with your comments and develop a final strategy we need to think about how we're going to measure our progress. We need to do that in a couple of different ways. Sewer, we're going to evaluate how much financial and technical assistance is provided, how many CNMPs are developed and implemented. But at the same time we have to come up with measures to evaluate our success in the environments. How well are we doing at protecting water quality? So we will be working with you to set up those two-pronged measures.
MR. BROWN: The last section of the strategy discusses the roles of nine different groups from producers all the way up to the federal partners, and its the key roles that they have in implementing the strategy.
MR. LAPE: By now we would hope that all of you have somehow had access to a copy of the Draft Strategy. When we put it out it was available on the WEB. We mailed out copies to a whole bunch of folks. And for whose of you who still might not have it we have some in the back of the room as well.
Up on the slide also are some WEB sites that are also listed in some of the materials in the back of the room, for those of you who like to surf the WEB for information.
MR. BROWN: We're approximately three quarters of the way through a 120 day comment period that ends January 19th. We would like for you to make your comments verbally tonight and then make sure you send them in in the addressed envelopes. The final Strategy hopefully will be out sometime early in 1999 and we do need your comments to make this work.
MR. LAPE: So that's it on us. Thanks.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you Kevin and Jeff. A question occurred to me: What about comments by email?
MR. LAPE: Yes.
MR. CRAWFORD: The same as written, they are acceptable as written?
MR. LAPE: Yes.
MR. CRAWFORD: Okay. Our final presenter in this panel is Bub Loiselle who is going to talk about AFOs in the northwest.
MR. LOISELLE: He lied a little bit. Originally I did have some comments and issues to address but there was an agency session this afternoon and quite frankly most of what I wanted to put in front of the folks from headquarters, EPA and USDA, were addressed then. So if it's okay with you I would just go ahead and would rather hear from the audience.
Evidently there is some opposition here that wishes me to do something different so Debbie Becker from the Washington State Dairies Association, what is it about my bailing out on those comments that bothers you?
MS. BECKER: Just curious.
MR. LOISELLE: In short, the one issue that I read when the Strategy was issued was about leveling the playing field within the industry. Because as you well know at least the folks that read the Strategy thus far, there seems to be a focus on regulating large operations -- those operations that have 1,000 animal units or more. In my opinion for what we are doing in the State of Oregon, Washington and Idaho this really didn't level the playing field enough.
I mean, to suggest that it's just the large operations that are creating or causing the majority of the problems is in error from what data that we compiled thus far suggests. If I am speaking a little bit out of school there are other folks from my shop that can jump up and correct me, if they wish. But it's certainly our belief that it's the smaller operations that are causing the majority of the problems, and this is something that we need to look at on the national level across the board. That was one of my primary concerns.
The other concern that I had was that there did not seem to be a very good discussion on the existing enforcement Strategy that EPA is employing at this point for regulating the CAFO/AFO industry. I do believe it needs further elaboration because we need to be totally up front with what EPA must do under our current authority, and to do anything less than to just spell that out clearly in the Strategy would be somewhat misleading and I don't wish to do that.
So Debbie, those were my primary concerns that I raised this morning.
MS. BECKER: Thank you.
MR. LOISELLE: Given that, thank you.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you, Bub. We are ready to hear from you. What I would like to do is have each of you come to the microphone, state your name and your affiliation if you wish. We are going to be sure everybody gets a chance to speak. The first round will you keep your comments limited to five minutes or less, and then if you wish to stay and ask questions or have other comments I think we might have a little bit more time to do that. So let me see if I can pronounce these names well enough for you to recognize them at least. I think I am just going to go in the order that you signed in. So if you can remember you can get your courage up and get ready.
Mark Kaufman from Washington DOE. That's Washington Department of Ecology for those of you who don't know the lingo here. We call them ecology.
MR. KAUFMAN: We do go by that. I have got about eight different concerns here.
The first of which is the suggested 2008 compliance date with this. As you may well know in Washington we have recently passed legislation that very closely emulates many of the principals in the joint strategy. Our compliance dates are set around five years and we're not really happy with that because in between now and then farms are still polluting.
I tend to agree with you, Bub, that our problems are not only the large farms. It's the aggregate degradation of the environment from many small operations on whole watersheds. I agree that many of the farms need to be put under permit and whole watersheds their farms should be permitted.
We've got shellfish bed closures in Whatcom County, Washington that would basically point the finger at the one land use that goes on in North Whatcom County, which is the dairy program. Using that mentality every farm in Whatcom County, basically north of Bellingham and east of I-5, should be under permit because they are significant contributors to the degradation of our water supplies.
Second of all, the AFOs should expect some increased permitting. In the past EPA's direction has been to permit facilities at 1,000 animal units operation, and this sort of ignores the smaller operations which can relatively have a much greater degradation on the environment than as one well managed large operation.
You also mentioned that you are going to have funding for education, for training for NRCS and the private sector specialists to help in taking and filling the load for where the farm planning is going to take place. The farm plans -- I mean the NRCS farm planners are way overtaxed. They have ten times more work than they can ever get done and this results in farmers waiting in line until the NRCS can get to them and while they are waiting in line they're still polluting. The farms are still operating and they are still contributing to pollution.
I encourage wholeheartedly the use of training the private sector in this. We have some farm planning consultants, both engineering firms and some different individuals, who have some experience in farm planning. I would like to see those become the certified crop advisors and use the best use of professional technologies available, and not only the technologies but they need to also write these farm plans so they are usable by the farmer. A lot of technical jargon tends to be unusable for the lay person. I think in addition, these farm plans should have some components that lay out specifics in common English for the farmers that tell them how to manage their farm, as well as explain the needs for updating their farm plan if they raise or lower their heard size. So that by updating their farm plan they would incorporate more acreage to spread manure upon, based on their heard size and the crop uptakes of the crops being grown.
One of my criticisms of this and our State's program as well is that a lot of this has been directed around human health issues. The Endangered Species Act is probably going to be enacted in the state of Washington, certainly throughout Puget Sound. Most of the lower, mid and upper Columbia basins are going to have listings for several different species of salmon. Fish and wildlife concerns need to be taken into account in a much more strong manner than just the human health concerns.
In Whatcom County we've done an exceptional job, I would say, of promoting alternative technologies for alternative use of manures. We support biogas generation systems currently being built in the county. I would more like to support lower tech, cheaper alternative uses but this as well could maybe be something that will help us in the management of the agricultural waste.
In addition I think we could rely on the dairy industry or animal feeding industries in general to use cost-based incentives from their milk buyers, in the case of dairy, to have somewhat of salmon safe milk or something along those lines and use a cost-based incentive for their pricing which encourages voluntary compliance. This would make the regulatory job from the ecology and EPA standpoint a whole lot easier to swallow.
You mentioned that the whole program is going to be voluntary for the nonpermitted facilities. In Washington state we are going to have every facility going to be required to have a farm plan by December 31st of 2003. This may seem like from a national standpoint a political reality, but local or statewide the Washington Dairy Federation and many other of the other associated industries with dairy push very hard for this to come about in our state. I don't know what the political realities of this are nationwide but these are some things that you might want to take into account that you probably could get by with requiring all farms to go under a farm plan.
The one other thing that's really disturbing me is the confidentiality measures that NRCS has put forth. Our new Dairy Regulations Senate Bill 6161 heavily relies on the farm plans produced by NRCS to use as verification and in some regulatory measures to use those farm plans. If we can't look at those farm plans we can't carry out our job, and our job is as a regulatory and permitting agency. Public dollars were used to support these farms throughout their subsidies and the Freedom of Information Act needs to be used to access these.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thanks, Mark. I'm going to show you how the timing thing works. We didn't get it started the first time and so you went a little bit over but I could see you were running for the finish line there.
So this thing will be green when it starts and then go to yellow, and when it goes to red the trap door opens and you're all done.
MR. BROWN: How much time at yellow?
MR. CRAWFORD: One minute. You've got one minute when it goes to yellow.
The next speaker is Andrew Craig, Washington Department of Ecology.
MR. CRAIG: I thank you very much for the opportunity to comment on this strategy. I won't be as long as my counterpart "Mak" but I will try to be direct and to the point.
My main point I want to make tonight on this strategy is the permitting criteria for AFOs. On page 16 of the handout you gave out tonight , I'll read it a little bit to give you some background on it.
"Of the estimated 450,000 animal feeding operations only about 6,600 facilities had over 1,000 animal units as of l992. Due to increases in the number of large facilities over the past six years, EPA and USDA believe that as many as 10,000 such facilities may exist today. EPA and USDA expect to update this estimate based on newer information."
And this goes into consolidation that you referred to in your presentation. "Based on size alone, these facilities are considered to be CAFO's and therefore are 'point sources' subject to having an NPDES permit if they cause the addition of pollutants to waters. EPA believes that virtually all CAFOs with over 1,000 animal units are covered by the permit program and are a priority for permit issuance."
My main comment tonight is that the condition of causing a discharge should not be a criteria for listing them as CAFOs. If they are over 1,000 animal units they should be a CAFO. Discharge is not required.
Another comment I would like to make tonight coincides with Bub Loiselle's comments about leveling the playing field. I can give you a quick rundown of the score card from Whatcom County where I am the other dairy inspector. Approximately 12 to 15 farms in Whatcom County are over 1,000 animal units, and there are a total of 241 farms in the county itself. Now to be fair Whatcom County has the largest area density of dairies in the state of Washington, but that shows that there are greater than 200 dairies that are not falling under this criteria that you have specified.
Another comment I would like to make is permitting should -- once permits are issued they should place a large emphasis on recordkeeping, testing of manures and lands and soils they are applied to, as well as the application routes, the times of application and the places they are being applied. As it states above the paragraph I read, "Land application of large volumes of waste requires very careful planning to avoid water quality and public health impacts".
Planning for applying waste to me is the big issue when it comes to seeing if dairies or other animal feeding operations are polluting or not. If they don't keep records they don't know where they stand. They have no monitoring sticks. They could be polluting or they could not be polluting but you don't know unless you keep records. So mandatory recordkeeping is a comment and recommendation that I would like to make. It should be a part of this Strategy.
The last part I would like to echo my counterpart "Mak" about data coordination and access to farm plans. We can't do our job unless we have access to some of that information. That information will be used to determine risks associated with various watersheds as well as prioritizing for water cleanup plans.
That's all I have. Thank you.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thanks, Andrew. Alan Ismond from Aqua-Terra Consultants.
MR. ISMOND: I have copies here of my presentation and I'll give you a copy at the end when I'm finished.
"My name is Alan Ismond and I have a chemical engineering degree and over 20 years experience in the food industry. We are here today to discuss whether the farming and animal husbandry practices in the U.S. are harmful in any way to the American people and the environment, and whether any modifications to these practices should be required.
Before embarking on any meaningful evaluation, it is important to first establish a frame of reference. We have been led to believe that we have the safest, cheapest and most abundant and sustainable food supply in the world. If this is true then we are here for no good reason. However, I would like to show that the food industry has manipulated the definitions of safe, abundant and sustainable for self-serving reasons.
Borrowing from the visionary soil scientist, Dr. William Albrecht, the first important concept is that of the Biotic Pyramid. Healthy soil is needed to produce healthy plants, which in turn produce healthy animals and all of which are required to produce healthy humans. I would like to propose the definition of health as the presence of vitality in the absence of therapeutants, not the absence of symptoms in the presence of therapeutants.
A recent article in the Seattle Times states that 85 million Americans use prescription drugs and many more use over-the-counter medicines. We are suffering from infectious, degenerative, neurodegenerative, immunological and reproductive failures. To add insult to injury we are increasingly having to handle our food as a biohazard because of the growing presence of pathogens. Surely we can agree that we have failed to find good health but rather have created a society on life support.
The health of our farm animals is no different. A recent article in Feedstuffs listed four pages of drugs and additives that are used on animals. Interestingly part of the therapeutants are used for promoting growth and feed conversion and many of the remainder are used for battling digestive disorders. Once again, we find that our supposedly healthy farm animals are also hooked on drugs.
And finally, the health of our plants and crops is also artificially maintained. For example, a report in U.S. News and World Report indicated that 135 million pounds of herbicide are used annually and that pesticide use increased by 10 percent between 1993 and 1995.
Clearly the model for farming and animal husbandry that we are now using has failed to produce a life-sustaining harvest. But what about the issue of resource sustainability? Because of the escalating size of farms and feed lots we are faced with a two-headed monster. We are strip mining the soil and soil fertility on farms that produce crops for animal feeds and are inundated with a large surplus of waste materials produced on animal feed lots. One obvious solution would be to integrate the two problems. However, there are several major impediments that must first be addressed.
One reference that I researched suggested that the manure from one cow can fertilize four acres. Obviously, large feedlots with thousands of animals do not have enough surrounding acreage to assimilate the large waste load that they generate. As someone once said to me, this will turn out to be an exercise on how to put 10 pounds of crap in a five pound bag.
The second problem is more insidious. Once more, allow me to establish definitions and a frame of reference; manure is the by-produce of healthy animals fed a healthy diet. Crap is the by-product of unhealthy animals pumped up on unhealthy diets supplemented by growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics. Nutrient recycling is the soil enhancing practice of taking properly prepared manure and adding it in the proper proportions to the soil Nutrient disposal is the soil-destroying practice of taking crap and dumping it onto the soil. Please keep in mind the Biotic Pyramid. Unhealthy animals produce unhealthy manure, which if applied to the soil produces unhealthy soil. Unhealthy soil produces unhealthy plants, unhealthy animals and unhealthy humans. This is one case where recycling is not a good idea.
The attached flow chart, Figure 1, shows the unfortunate consequences of nutrient disposal in a toxic ecosystem. Finding other uses for feed lot crap other than nutrient recycling will not address the nutrient loss on the farms that produce animal feeds.
So how do we solve our food production and environmental problems? We can take the current distorted model of large scale farming and animal husbandry and try to minimize the negative environmental impact. Unfortunately, this will be as useful as bailing water on the Titanic. It won't fix the problem and will only slightly delay the inevitable.
The only solution that will address the health, sustainability and pollution issues is to return to smaller and more integrated agriculture and animal rearing units. As well, the focus must shift from maximum tonnage per acre and pound of flesh per pound of feed to optimal tonnage and maximum quality, safety and sustainability. Ultimately it is not the USDA or the EPA that will reshape the industry. Only market pressures can do this. Unfortunately the biggest driving force, the consumer, will likely not get involved in the process. Consumers want cheap and abundant food but don't realize the consequences of such demands.
In closing, I hope that we will move from treating the symptoms of corrupted farming and animal husbandry practices, namely crap management plans, to transforming an industry that is one of the greatest threats to our survival. Let's move from the husbandry practices and unhealthy animals that produce crap, combined with strip mining of our soils and using them as a dumping ground for crap, to rebuilding healthy living soils with manure from healthy animals. This issue is more than just how to avoid stepping in the crap, it is about preventing the American way of life from going to crap."
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you, Alan. Next Simon Chaitowitz.
MS. CHAITOWITZ: I have a problem with a statement made at the very beginning of the Strategy plan which causes me to question the wisdom and validity of your whole plan. It's in your introductory and I'll quote: "A strong livestock industry (of which AFOs are a part) is essential to the nation's economic stability, the viability of many rural communities and the sustainability of a healthful and high quality food supply for the American public."
What I would like to know is how can you base the Strategy plan on those statements because livestock is not essential to a healthy and high quality food supply. There is a staggering body of evidence, new studies coming out every day, that meat and dairy consumption increases people's risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and the list goes on and on. In fact, studies show that a pure low fat vegetarian diet can prevent 30 to 60 percent of all cancers we suffer from, and 60 percent of all heart disease.
I also don't feel another part of that statement is true where you say; "Livestock is essential to our economic stability." I have recently read a couple reports that compare domestic cash receipts for the meat industry, which in 1997 totaled roughly a hundred-billion dollars. A couple nutrition experts have done an estimation on the amount of U.S. healthcare costs that are attributable to meat consumption. William Harris is a physician who wrote a book called Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism and in that book he estimates the amount of U.S. dollars total $123 billion dollars a year that's spent treating diseases directly linked to meat consumption.
So given those two things, which are two out of three points you seem to place your plan on, it seems like you need to rethink the whole plan to me.
The one other paint I have is that I know we are not here to discuss animal welfare but to me it seems very strange to discuss the health of our environment and the health of the people who live on this planet and ignore the nine billion animals that we eat every year.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you. Sorry for the butchering of your name. Next, Ellen Leach, Behaviorial Resources Incorporated.
MS. LEACH: Actually, I just have questions from what's been said so far or what I've seen in here.
On page 4 it says, "Of the rivers and streams surveyed 53 percent of all perineal stream miles..."; were the 53 percent randomly chosen or were they chosen because they were bad? So if they are randomly chosen we could fairly extrapolate to higher percentages in the rest of the statement?
MR. CRAWFORD: We are going to hold questions to the end.
MS. LEACH: Okay. I'd be happy to wait until later.
MR. CRAWFORD: I'm afraid we will never make it. Sorry, we just thought that probably wasn't going to work and you can get the questions in later at the end or follow-up with some of them if you want.
MS. LEACH: That would be fine because I thought I would have more later.
MR. CRAWFORD: Great. Okay. Thank you. I am glad we're generating a few questions.
Paul Blay from Skagit C.D.
MR. BLAY: I don't have anything to comment on. I signed the wrong sheet.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you. Anne Schwartz.
MR. FAWCETT-LONG: My name isn't Anne Schwartz, never has been and probably never will be Anne asked me to read her comments, she can't make the meeting in person but she had prepared some remarks.
This is from Anne Schwartz, Farmer and President of Washington Tilth Producers.
"Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today. By way of background I have a B.S. in animal production from Washington State University and have been farming for nearly 20 years in eastern Skagit County. For over three years I chaired a national committee drafting recommended standards for organic livestock production for the Organic Trade Association and had the opportunity to work with hundreds of livestock producers throughout the U.S. I am currently the President of Washington Tilth Producers and have served in this capacity for five years. Tilth Producers is the Organic and Sustainable Farm Organization in Washington state and we have a membership of over 350 farmers.
I speak today on behalf of our organization and for myself as a humane human being. We have several concerns regarding Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) and while the Draft Strategy begins to recognize and address some of these issues, especially as they relate to the environment, it does not begin to address the impacts to the well-being of the community local and regional economies, quality of life to both humans and animals and most importantly our democracy. Throughout this country, communities are learning that the only ones who benefit from AFOs are the multinational corporations that own them. Communities are fighting them everywhere because they don't provide benefits. These AFOs are so contentious because our market economy system has so thoroughly failed to provide the opportunity for the marketplace to chose something that makes sense.
These AFOs don't make sense for many reasons. Here are a few:
The animals are miserable and the only way people can bear to work with them is to go through a conscious process to desensitize themselves to animals that can't turn around, can't get away from its neighbor and the overwhelming stench of feces and urine. These animals are stressed every bit as much as were the Jews packed in railroad cars on their way to Nazi concentration camps. The people that work in these plants are paid poor wages doing work that is far different than that of self-employed farmers with diversified crop and livestock operations.
My copy of the Farm Bureau Federation Newsletter assures us that they will be there fighting against tough regulations on AFOs. I challenge that their fight is misdirected and would be better spent fighting for an agriculture that is diverse and dispersed. There is only so much demand for meat in this country and it is declining. For every AFO many smaller farms and ranches are eliminated and this Is more than any other factor is what is decimating our rural communities as family farms lose their battles trying to keep their farms going. Their children leave, hospitals and schools close, as do cafes, dealerships and all those things that are crucial to small towns. The corporations who will profit must be made to pay all of the costs associated with doing business just as the developers should be made to pay all costs associated with urban growth so should corporate factory farms be made to pay all the costs associated with rural decline. They are the only ones to benefit.
Recent reports in the news expose manipulations in the marketplace by a few very large cattle operations. By default and intent federal and state policies have allowed and encouraged this market manipulation. The USDA no longer has sufficient staff to do the market analysis and watchdogging to keep the system free from influence of these large vertically integrated operations. Former Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Espy, was just acquitted of all charges but common practices by corporations to buy influence was exposed and those corporations were fined. One of the intimate advisors to our President is of the same family as was charged in the Espy case.
The recently published report by the USDA Commission on Small Farms revealed many policies and programs that were designed to put small farms out of business, and last year USDA made a formal acknowledgment to that affect. There should be no public funds spent on any technical assistance nor to cost share the development of waste management systems nor to provide regulatory oversight for the environmental impact to land and water resources Here in Washington our organic food program (which arguably provides only benefits to the surrounding communities and environment) is a fee for service program. The taxpayers pay nothing towards it and reap many benefits from our program. It is the vertically integrated corporations who own the processing plants, the animals and dictate operating conditions on the factory farms who should bear full legal and financial responsibility for the operations that are making them money. At this time the entire financial burden for dealing with factory farm pollution calls on contract farmers and taxpayers.
It is time to start leveling the playing field and provide a better accounting for the true costs to every one of these Animal Feeding Operations. Why should we pay any tax money so we can make sure fat cat corporations aren't ruining our soil and water quality? Any AFO that requires regulatory oversight should bear the full financial burden of that impact to the state or federal government.
Land applications of animal waste should be based on best management practices for soil and water quality protection and enhancement. In the Netherlands, people realized they were fouling their soil and water with excessive manure and took steps to link livestock numbers with a specific land base. The Draft Strategy should provide for specific limitations on applications of Nitrogen and Phosphorous based on soil and water quality standards. The Strategy should also clarify the relationship between EPA and the NRCS and the Strategy should require 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. It's not appropriate to spend public funds and university research dollars trying to solve problems caused by false economies. What is appropriate is to make small and mid size farms profitable so that they stay diverse and dispersed Then everyone benefits The animals are much happier. The manure is spread on the land that grows the crops they eat. Organic material is supplied to soils that desperately need it. With increased organic matter soil erosion is reduced and less nutrients and pesticides are lost by leaching. Applying manures and composts increases biological activity which grows healthier crops that need less pesticides and less imported fertilizer. Merely trucking these products around the state is far less efficient than simply allowing animals access to graze green grass and crop residues. This keeps more profits on the farm, keeps more farm families where they want to be and benefits both rural and urban communities. It only makes sense.
The Draft Strategy should recommend that a diverse and dispersed land based livestock industry be encouraged as an alternative to factory farms. We appreciate this opportunity to share our concerns. We would also like to refer you to documents distributed by the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and the Clean Water Network. We are participating with the National Campaign and our regional Sustainable Agriculture Working Group".
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you. Now this is John Fawcett-Long.
MR. FAWCETT-LONG: All right, I'll switch from that one.
MR. CRAWFORD: Give us a summary, can you do that?
MR. FAWCETT-LONG: My name is John Fawcett-Long.
Thank you for this opportunity to present my views about the proposed Unified National Strategy for Animal Feedlot Operations. I am the coordinator of the Western SAWG, an association of 30 grassroots groups across the west working for a sustainable agriculture. I have been in that role for two and a half years.
I also serve on the Executive Committee of the National Campaign for sustainable agriculture and formerly served on the steering committee, Integrated Food and Farming Systems National Network.
I am the founder of Puget Food and Farm, a local education and advocacy organization and a former analyst and evaluator for The Food Alliance.
I grew up on a small farm in southwestern Minnesota and have seen the rural infrastructure and vitality shrink over the years, in part due to subsidized factory farm operations or CAFOs.
We need a level playing field in order to fairly compare factory farm efficiency with that of independent sustainable producers. We need to do this by accounting for full costs of production including the environmental effects of factory farms or animal feedlot operations and then determine support to the appropriate operations.
The Draft Strategy is a good start but it doesn't hold factory farms appropriately accountable for the effects of their operations and contains what amounts to too many subsidies for that kind of operation. It's not appropriate to use our tax dollars for factory farming. A guiding principle of sustainable agriculture is to incorporate the full costs of production, the environment and rural vitality are public goods that these private enterprises effect.
I appreciate the good parts of the proposed Unified National Strategy for Animal Feedlot Operations.
1) Recognition of manure land application issues. Clear recognition that land application is a concern equal to manure storage and is to be regulated by the Clean Water Act.
2) Plans required for permitted feedlots calls for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans required of every feedlot that must get a permit.
3) Flexibility. Every feedlot not required to get a permit to do a voluntary CNMP by 2008.
4) Specifies federal agency roles. Specifies different roles for USDA (develop standards for CNMPs and approve individual plans) and EPA (compliance and enforcement).
5) Training. Training of USDA staff to assist feedlot owners with nutrient plans.
6) Recordkeeping. Requires permitted feedlots to keep records on quantity and location of manure applied.
Some of my overall recommendations are:
1) Sustainable livestock production practices such as hoop houses for hogs, rotational grazing systems for beef or diary cattle, holistic management practices in general. Pastured and free range poultry should be encouraged by the Strategy as alternatives to factory farms.
2) Require individual clean water permits instead of general permits or watershed permits. Draft Strategy proposes a general permit process for most existing operations, which does not give neighboring communities a chance to review and comment. Individual permits should be required. A truly visionary strategy would impose a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms until environmental impacts are assessed and adequate regulatory measures are adopted.
3) Draft Strategy relies heavily on NRCS standards as the basis for the Clean Water permits for factory farms. These may vary from county to county but should receive national consistent guidance from USDA. Granted standards need to respond to local conditions but factory farms capitalize literally on the checkerboard, weak standards.
4) The entire financial burden for dealing with factory farm pollution in these vertically integrated systems, integrators as fat cats in the factory farm system, falls on contract farmers and the taxpayers which is a double blow for independent producers who must compete with these companies. The draft Strategy should require vertical integrators who own the animals in the factory farms and/or dictate the conditions for operation of factory farms and be legally liable and financially responsible for factory farm pollution accountable for full costs of production.
Other Improvements Needed with the Draft Strategy:
1) Phosphorous should specifically be named as a nutrient to be managed.
2) CNMPs should prove that the permittee has legal access to sufficient acreage for application of manure at agronomic rates.
3) Land application standards should be spelled out. No application on frozen or saturated soils, no application on slopes, no application within setbacks and require incorporation of wet manure into the soil within 24 hours of application.
4) CNMP should be approved before permit is issued.
5) Public review and comment of CNMP.
6) Strategy should spell out clear recordkeeping and reporting requirements for permits.
Some suggestions for Research Priorities for the Draft Strategy are:
1) Alternatives to production methods that use animal confinement is buried as number 11 in the list of 14 research and education priorities. This should be a top priority.
2) The assessment priorities in the Draft Strategy rest on the assumption that the best system for animal production in the U.S. is that of large-scale factory farms, concentrated geographically and many times separated from animal food sources at great distances. Nowhere in the agenda is this assumption compared and tested against more sustainable alternatives using either environmental or economic standards.
3) A credible research agenda should include the detailed social, economic, environmental and agronomic effects of the industrial model on water and air quality, public health, animal health, farm profitability and rural communities. The issue of concentration should be a significant issue for a publicly-funded research agenda.
4) A research plan must start with a set of priorities for research and development of sustainable systems.
5) Sustainable research priorities would include nutrient cycling, identify key research gaps and needs for sustainable systems already in place.
6) It should include research regarding community impacts, profitability of small and moderate-size owner-operated farms and environmental justice issues.
7) Finally, in developing an education and extension plan the Strategy should ensure that a full range of stakeholders are represented, including small, independent producers, minority farmers, sustainable farming networks and environmental consumer labor and public health organizations.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you. Rick Nelson, Washington Cattleman.
MR. NELSON: Good Evening, I'm Rick Nelson, President of the Washington Cattleman's Association. I have only been President for two weeks and I admit I haven't had an opportunity to really examine all the documents that you have presented for me this evening.
At first glance I'm afraid that I see some of the Strategy as a step backward; in that, I think that in the last 25 years agriculture has made great strides in water quality and it's imperative that we not lose sight of that fact of those that have invested major dollars in new facilities, updated facilities, to be current with water quality standards that are in place today.
Another question that I see there is, I don't see where there is any Strategy to address citizen lawsuits. We need to see citizen lawsuits through such things as this just throw them right out the window, and we don't see anything. We don't see the EPA. They need to step up to the plate with a producer when they are involved in a citizen lawsuit. If we reach an agreement with the government agency they should also be there with us if one of our producers becomes involved in a citizen lawsuit.
At this time I think I will just cut it short. Thank you.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you, Rick. Douglas Frick, of McCulley, Frick and Gilman.
MR. FRICK: I am not a lawyer, I am a hydrogeologist. I just have a few technical questions. We'll have more on written comments I'm sure but I thought I would just throw out some of my tech issues that I thought of in my preliminary review of the Strategy for your consideration in the next six weeks or so.
The general comment is that some technologies may not yield a protection of water quality and the controls might not be necessary in some cases. In other cases the cost of implementation may actually far outweigh any possible benefit of a protection. I was wondering also how the strategy would provide the flexibility needed to address the feasibility or lack thereof of implementing these various control technologies? Will a cost benefit analysis be allowable, acceptable for determining the feasibility of control techniques? Will the benefit to downgraded and ecosystems be considered in that analysis? Will no action be acceptable in some cases?
Secondly, with respect to Section 4 of the Strategy. It is stated that the regulatory program focuses permitting and enforcement priorities on high-risk operations. I was hoping that the Strategy would be a little more specific on what characteristics define an operation as high risk and what is the risk? And then a follow-up to that is: Will corrective preventive actions be developed using a risk-based approach?
Third comment. Given the large number, I think it's 15,000 to 20,000 of new NPDS permits that might be issued as a result of the regulations that would come out of this, how will this workload be responsibly handled by the understaffed agencies tasked with the review and approval process?
In regard to Strategic issue number three, action one, on what basis will EPA/USDA identify operations as exceptionally large or with significant environment concerns thus requiring individual rather than statewide or watershed permits?
Last, how will EPA/USDA consider removal of the NPDS exception for producers who are now exempt from permitting because they do not discharge except during a 25 year/24 hour or larger storm event? In other words, if this event is now used to design criteria for sizing lagoons and run-on control structures, etc., and that exception is removed; what larger event would become the criteria for design?
Thanks very much.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you, Douglas.
Mark Street, Washington Pork Producers.
MR. STREET: My name is Mark Street, Washington State Pork Producers. I would like to submit the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) Environmental Resource Guide. This guide describes NPPC's policy positions regarding environmental requirements for all types and sizes of pork production operations. It also describes NPPC's On-Farm Odor and Environmental Assessment Program, Odor Solutions Initiative and other important ongoing education and environmental programs.
Many of the ideas contained in the draft Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations (AFO), such as the requirement for nutrient management plans for all sizes and types of production units, mirror the recommendations of the 1997 National Environmental Dialogue on Pork Production when producers and regulators sat down for eight months and hammered out guidelines to ensure environmentally sustainable pork production.
Pork producers support mandatory manure management plans and on many farms this is already being accomplished. Manure is an asset, something that enriches the soil, produces healthy crops and lowers our dependence on commercial fertilizer.
We support air quality and odor research efforts as well as providing the technical assistance necessary to help livestock producers make environmental improvements in our operations. While we are not opposed to regulations to protect our environment we believe that regulations must be based on sound science. Decisions and assumptions made based only on the size of a farm rather than its environmental performance have no place in regulations of any kind.
While America's pork producers generally support the goals of the Unified Strategy we oppose any and all instances where the Draft Strategy allows social policy to supplant sound science.
I want to summarize the National Pork Dialogue Framework recommendations so you can get a sense of how comprehensive it is and how in some areas it goes beyond what is proposed in the Draft Unified Strategy.
The framework calls for the permitting of both new and existing pork production operations of all sizes. The Framework proposes regulation of all aspects of pork production immediately for new or expanded operations and over a five-year phasein period for existing operations. It recommends:
Public participation procedures for the permitting of new or expanding operations.
Management and location requirements to prevent pollution of surface and groundwater and to control odor, including a cumulative effects analysis and specific setbacks for new manure and wastewater storage and application.
Standards for the design, construction and operation of all facilities.
Restrictions on rates and methods for land application of manure and wastewater, including requirements for soil and manure testing, preparation of nutrient utilization plans and in certain circumstances employment of a phosphorous-based standard.
Preparation of emergency response plans and compliance with emergency response and notification procedures; certification of all operators.
Training of supervisors and employees who are engaged in land application activities or are responsible for emergency responses.
Provision for financial guarantees by operators of new or expanded operations.
Recordkeeping and inspections.
Closure standards for manure storage facilities.
Civil and criminal enforcement with stringent penalties for "bad actors", including permanent cessation of operations.
Various forms of financial and technical assistance to enable pork producers to comply with the Framework's recommendations.
Last, additional research to be conducted on certain environmental and public health questions which the Dialogue participants believe have not yet been adequately answered.
At various times during the development of the Draft Unified Strategy the pork industry has provided both EPA and USDA input about the AFO/CAFO Strategy. We look forward to continuing to work with USDA and EPA as the two agencies move forward to update and revise their guidance and regulations regarding the livestock industry. Pork producers have actively sought the development of progressive laws and regulations to more closely govern the production, handling and land application of manure.
Our state association and NPPC together believe as producers we must manage our operations in an environmentally responsible manner. Our ongoing environmental programs such as the On-Farm Odor and Environmental Program and the Odor Solutions Initiative reflect this commitment.
We support environmental efforts that are sensible, achievable, reflect the varying production systems in place today and allow producers to make maximum use of the crop growing nutrients in hog manure as a part of a sustainable land-based agriculture system.
MR. CRAWFORD: Be sure you give a copy of that to the stenographer so we get that into the spoken record. Thank you.
Debbie Becker, Washington State Dairy Federation.
MS. BECKER: Good evening. First of all, I probably want to be the first Ag group across the country to tell you that we actually welcomed EPA into our state and we are glad to have them come aboard. I'm probably going to be a little more political in some of my statements.
We do believe that over the last several years it's really been a lack of enforcement that we've seen. The water laws have been on the books for a long time.
The other thing that I want clarify a little bit about our industry in Washington state is that we are only family-owned dairy farms. We have no corporate owned dairy farms in our state.
And the other thing I want to kind of start off with here is as a state dairy industry -- I am sure you probably discussed this today at your earlier meeting -- we are actually considerably farther down the road in terms of environmental compliance than this Strategy outlines. And just to give you some background. Our program subjects dairy produces to regular inspections, at least once every two years. They have mandatory farm plan implementation and they have to be in compliance with the Clean Water Act today.
What we are seeing is through some of this implementation is an unfair focus on the dates, the 2003 for the farm planning implementation. Dairy farmers actually have to be in compliance today, they are not allowed to discharge.
Recordkeeping and soil testing and manure testing are all included in that document, that's nothing new. We feel strongly that any proposal that is adopted by USDA and EPA needs to take into consideration the work that has been done here and the program that was actually put into place. There are many folks in this room that we've sat around a number of conference tables for about three years, some of them hostile some of them friendly, but we're are confident that we have a good program. It's a model, I believe, that can be used across the rest of the country.
But what I do want to point out briefly are some discrepancies or issues that I see in the program that's in front of you. Also, we would be happy to provide some expertise or background on how we got to where we were.
We agree that the Nutrient Management Plans should be cite specific and developed to address the individual producer's need and facility. The references to the feed management and the feed intake of animals concerns me a bit. We have an industry that relies heavily on nutritionists to insure the good animal health and welfare of these animals. And I'm concerned if you take an issue such as the development of farm plans that is very technical in scope, encompasses land application, water, rainfall, so on and so forth, and you try to take these technicians and add to their workload determining what should be fed to the animals to reduce the components of the manure that you are really complicating the process and I do believe that you're actually going to slow it down. We should focus on what it's going to take to actually get those farm plans on the ground, address the land application, the manageability of those farm plans for producers and leave the feed issue to the nutritionists.
I know that the feed industry is working on research to develop alternative feeds that do basically get to where you want to go, but I feel that you are complicating the process by including that at this time.
Recordkeeping, I mentioned that already.
Other utilization methods of manure in a watershed I think are limited in scope, particularly when you look at some of our areas outside of maybe even Whatcom County. You know, we've got counties that have ten dairy farms in them. So looking at trying to encompass some type of watershed unification for that manure is going to be very, very difficult.
Environmental education. You know, this is critical in the real world, though what I do want to say is there is a breakdown in the willingness to address new technologies and yet those are critical.
I want to touch on NPDES permits real quick. Permits do not necessarily indicate compliance. I know you can go in and permit folks but that's not going to prove or insure they are in compliance.
Also equip funding. If you're covered under a permit you don't qualify for equip. For instance, low interest loans. If you're covered under a permit you don't qualify.
Coastal Zone Management Act. The Costal Zone Management Act actually calls for herds a low as 20 cows to be permitted. There again, if you come under those permits you don't qualify for that funding.
We also believe, as Bub said, that the characterization that large herds are aggregate and the biggest contributors to water quality degradation, we take offense to that because some of our best operators are the big herds.
I would be happy to talk with you later on some of the other issues.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thanks, Debbie.
Chris Cheney, of the Washington Dairy Federation.
MR. CHENEY: I'm not going to fill in as you suggested, Phil, that I would say things that Debbie didn't say. She signs my paycheck and that would be an insult.
My name is Chris Cheney, I work for the Washington State Dairy Federation. There were two other issues that occurred to me in the presentation and also the readings. One old saying; "The devil's in the details".
The field operation technical guide rewrite that appears to be called for for creating standardized national policies or procedures, you need to know that, for instance, in the state of Washington we are currently in a process of reworking on some of the fotags -- or whatever that acronym is, to attempt to achieve safe harbor for our producers under the ESA Act.
As you know we have a mandatory farm plan component in this state -- actually, everybody has to have a farm plan by 2002, full implementation and certification isn't until 2003. So you have people going through the hoops, both the authors or designers of the farm plans but also operators on the farms trying to comply and come under something. If you come with an overlaying change then in the field operation technical guides or from a national level a lot of resources may have been wasted. Also the aggravation or hassle factor for the farmers is pretty extreme. Probably more than anything else putting people out of business is the hassle factor, they just can't hardly take any more of that stuff.
So our suggestion would be to make sure that a state plan such as Washington's is carved out into whatever you do in the future, and to hold some consistency or grandfathering allowances into the field operation technical guide for farm plans.
Another issue I would like to touch on is the permit issue. As you all probably know, perhaps even better than I, nothing changes as far as requirements. For the Clean Water Act just because of a permit you have animal agriculture you are not allowed to discharge without a permit or with a permit except for the 25/24 catastrophic upset, so on and so forth.
The notion that because of a certain size it should come under permit doesn't seem to me to add anything to compliance or creating compliance. Everybody is supposed to comply now.
I think that's about all I have to say. Thank you.
MR. CRAWFORD: Shawn Del Ysursa, J.R. Simplot Company.
MS. DEL YSURSA: I think I may have questions but no comments at this time.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you. Ron Parks, J.R. Simplot Simplot Company.
MR. PARKS: I'm Ron Parks. I would like to wait. I have questions.
MR. CRAWFORD: Boy, we're going to have some questions here. I have one here, I can't quite read it. It looks like the first name is Nels.
MR. KONNERCEP: I'm a retired farmer. I would like to point out that the human population is increasing at such a rapid extent that it's going to take all of the production that is possible to meet the feed requirements of the world, otherwise we are going to run into famine and disease and a lot of other things that are much more environmentally distressful than the disposal of animal waste.I would like to also point out that prior to the entrance of the Europeans on this continent that the livestock -- or not livestock but animal population was far greater than the domestic animal population today. In that these animals roamed freely all over the place and discharged their excrements without any particular significant harm to the environment.
I do think that we do need to regulate the confined animal waste problems, and I think that most farmers find it economically expedient to do that and for the most part they are doing it.
I would also like to state the fact that in most countries in the world, and I've traveled considerably over the world in 35 years, that this animal waste and human waste is regarded as an asset, as a nutrient. For instance, in China and other Asian areas they feed chickens on racks over hogs that are on the shoreline of waterways, both the ocean waterways and lakes and streams, and they regard that this waste matter is beneficial. Certainly the production of fish in these countries attests to the efficiency of that utilization of that material.
I rather doubt that it would be that there is a practical way of assessing the damage to shellfish and other fish life from the discharge of nutrients except for possibly in these very, very large concentrated herds. But again I think that we have to look at the maximum efficiency and the utilization of animal waste and human waste as well in terms of the need for food production in the future in regard to an annual increase of 84 million people a year.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you, Nels. That concludes the list of sign-ups that I have. I guess I would ask if there are others who missed the sign-up opportunity? I don't have any more on my list here. Okay. Why don't we hear from you, then we will take a short break and then have a chance for some questions and answers.
MS. LEACH: I agree that in the introduction the part of healthful and high quality food supply being dependent on the beef and dairy production is counter to a lot of information that is available now. I would add to Simon's list heart disease as one by-product of relying on such a food supply.
In that same paragraph on page 1 you have, "USDA and EPA recognize that farmers and ranchers are primary stewards of many of our nations natural resources". I would add they are also primary users. I think the rest of your documents also reflects that good stewardship hasn't been seen, because if it was we wouldn't have the pollution problems that we do have in our waterways.
I have to look through my notes here.
On page 5 you write, "While there are other potential environmental impacts associated with AFOs, such as odor, habitat loss, ground water depletion...", I don't know why you call those potential environmental impacts. I would say those are real existing environmental impacts.
You mentioned that there have been concerns about these environmental problems expressed over 20 years and we know there have been human deaths due to some of these problems. So I agree with a former commenter that the time line for implementation is too long as proposed.
You commented on locally led conservation programs. My fear is that can vary so widely from state to state. In some dates it will be very poor in that area. We know you are dealing with a state here that is one of the leaders environmentally, and there are other good states, but it really varies widely.
On page 8 where you're talking about managing waste and such, you talk about location of manure storage systems. I would like to see added location of the animals themselves, especially when they are grazing to be back away from areas where they would potentially pollute the water.
Particularly because I am a behavior specialist I would like to reiterate a former comment too about the harm to humans, the desensitization that occurs in humans where animals are treated cruelly, which the confinement does, is a part of -- this is commonly now known as the cycle of violence and abuse.
I also would like to see concern beyond water pollution but also the air pollution and land pollution issues involved in these industries.
I rankled a little bit hearing about the hassles to the farmers. As a person who runs a business and I know other business owners, I can assure you that there are hassles in running any business and most of us do not have the benefit of hand-holding by the federal government.
As far as feeding of a growing population, beef and meat production are not efficient -- I mean, beef and milk production are not efficient ways of feeding large populations. They too use a lot more resources than eating lower on the food chain.
I am out of time. Thank you.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you. I would really sincerely like to thank all of you who took the time to come and stand up and testify here. I know it's not an easy thing to do, especially after work and on your own time. So thanks again. We will take a break until 8:30 and then we'll promptly start the question and answer part of the program.
(WHEREUPON, a 15 minute break was taken.)
MR. CRAWFORD: We're ready to start the question and answer period. Why don't I start with Ms. Shawn Del Ysursa, you had questions earlier.
MS. DEL YSURSA: I'm Shawn Del Ysursa, I'm from the J.R. Simplot Company. I have a couple of questions. I had more but they were addressed by some of the earlier commenters.
My first question is: EPA is taking the position that agricultural storm water discharge exemption does not apply to discharges associated with the land disposal of animal wastes originating from a CAFO? If you could please explain the legal base of this position. It is stated in the Draft Strategy merely as a conclusion and I would be interested in understanding the basis.
My second question is a little bit longer. Region 6 recent draft permits prohibit the discharge of processed waste water for retention structures to the water of the United States by means of a hydrologic connection through ground water. EPA's notice in Federal Register for these draft permits recognize that different federal courts have reached different conclusions on whether EPA may regulate such discharges. Based on limited case law Region 6 is taking the position that EPA may regulate such discharges. What position will be taken by EPA nationally through the preparation of draft permits in this process?
MR. CRAWFORD: Somebody get question one in their head so they can respond to that?
MR. LOISELLE: If I respond to question one I am going to have to hear it again. But go ahead, number two I think I can address.
MS. DEL YSURSA: Question one in a nutshell is: Why doesn't the agricultural storm water discharge exemption apply to discharges associated with the land application disposal of animal waste originating from CAFOs?
MR. LOISELLE: Okay. This is sort of my shot at it legally. I am not a lawyer, so if there are any lawyers up here and I misrepresent the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth they can staple my lips together.
For the most part I believe the reason is that the confinement area itself focuses on the fact that you have a pathway to a surface water that can be designated or easily described as through a discrete conveyance; therefore, that's a point source. In the past we have had situations where you have land runoff, okay. That has been considered more or less a non-point source. Whether you believe that or not is irrelevant because I don't believe it myself. I don't think there's any such thing as a non-point source; there's just point sources we haven't regulated yet and some of them are so doggone big that we don't know what to do with them.
But the fact now remains that the land-applied animal wastes are now being seen as a point source by a lot of people that are now into the regulatory process. Exactly what tools and what hammers we have to help regulate and/or enforce against that is kind of iffy right now.
That's sort of a halfway answer that I hope addresses some of your concerns.
MS. DEL YSURSA: I appreciate the answer. Actually it raises another question and that is: Are there guidance documents or interpretations that EPA has, maybe, the legal side that EPA has prepared on this issue?
MR. LOISELLE: If there are hard and fast clear documents I am not aware of them at this point, I truly am not. But if you leave your name and phone number and whatnot I'll get some legal folks to talk to you about that.
To answer your second question, let me see if I have it right. You were wondering how EPA -- at least from my point, how EPA Region 10 is looking at the fact that Region 6 believes that if you can track back a point source that pollutes groundwater and that groundwater reemerges again that we can regulate that; was that your question?
MS. DEL YSURSA: My question is: If EPA was going to take a national position because Region 6 takes the position that EPA can regulate such discharge.
MR. LOISELLE: I'm going to take a big leap of fate and guess the answer will ultimately be "yes", because no region counterparts that I've talked to do believe that if you can identify a source, a point source, that drains or leaches somehow into the groundwater and then that eventually reemerges somewhere to a surface water and you can identify it to through whether it's dye tracings tracings or whatnot, then it's pretty hard and fast evidence that is the contributing source. So therefore it is in total a point source, and I that think we will prevail with that argument.
MS. DEL YSURSA: Could I ask maybe Fred Lindsey in the EPA headquarters, is that going to be headquarters position?
MR. LINDSEY: That's correct, if it is a direct hydrologic connection through the groundwater to the surface water that's readily identifiable and we believe this.
MS. DEL YSURSA: Despite the split in the federal circuit courts?
MR. LAPE: You are right that there's different case law and general counsel is evaluating different options.
MS. DEL YSURSA: Okay. So legal counsel office hasn't spoken. Thank you. I appreciate that.
MR. LAPE: We would like to see a hydrologic connection be a base for the regulation.
MS. DEL YSURSA: Thank you for your time.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thanks. Ron Parks, did you have a question?
MR. PARKS: Yes, I do. I'm Ron Parks with J.R. Simplot Company in Idaho. And Region 6 draft permit is out and it is our understanding that it will be the model or it is looked at as the model for the permit for the rest of the United States. There are some differences within that permit and the Unified Strategy.
The period of time to be considered a CAFO, one states 45 days consecutive and the other states 45 days within the year; which is correct?
What are you -- or maybe first I should ask: Is the draft permit from Region 6, will it be used as the model permit for the rest of the United States?
MR. LAPE: Let me just quickly review the timing of events. Region 6 did have a previous general permit in place that expired and they felt it was very important to move forward and repropose a permit. They did that and we came out with a national Strategy. They may move forward and issue that permit prior to us finalizing the Draft Strategy. I think that Region 6 permit will be the next step in example of a permit issued by EPA but I don't think, necessarily, it is going to be the model because we have not had an opportunity to evaluate public comments on the Draft Strategy and when we issue a final Strategy, to the extent that's different, I suspect future permits will correspond more to the national strategy. It's an evolving process.
MR. PARKS: Okay. This is more of a comment than a question. Manure, dry manure, solids, we have to apply that during the nongrowing season. EPA drafts state that manure cannot be applied to frozen ground. In the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the U.S. manure can only be applied during winter months. Depending on the size of the operation and quantity to be applied and precipitation received, manure can only be applied to the frozen ground or when it is frozen. If we do not have the ability to apply the manure at that time then it stockpiles and then the following year we are back in the same boat again. So that's very critical that the CAFOs or AFOs be allowed to land-apply manure when it is possible and to be utilized by crops.
Another issue, there has been discussion that off-site or CAFOs will be responsible for proper application of off-site use of manure, and the off-site user would be required to have a nutrient management plan. Does anyone have a comment on that?
MR. LINDSEY: That's correct.
MR. PARKS: How can you expect -- most of the farmers that use the manure will be reluctant to have EPA or NRCS come in and regulate their crop production and maintain the recordkeeping. So with that they will back out from using the manure on their fields because of the cost and the low nutrient quality to it, so therefore we will end up with more stockpiles of manure at the large sites.
MR. LAPE: Let me just take a stab. Basically what we have tried to say in the Strategy is that manure from a CAFO that is land-applied, not consistent with the plan and results in a discharge could be covered under the regulatory program. So we are basically saying if a CAFO takes his manure and gives it to someone else, one way to insure that there is no discharge is to land-apply that according to a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.
Quickly on the frozen ground. We have heard others suggest there may be limited conditions under which manure could be applied to frozen ground. We are certainly anxious to hear people's comments on that issue; if that's possible and under what conditions?
MR. LINDSEY: Was the point you were making relative to the frozen ground is that you can only apply manure in certain areas of frozen ground that it's okay to do so under certain conditions?
MR. PARKS: Because of the time frame. We have a three to four-month period that we can apply the manure. It is during the winter months and it is when the ground does freeze. So in order to get the manure applied you go through a dry season in the fall to a semi-wet and then frozen land to finish the application to be ready so you can till the soil in the spring as soon as you possibly can get on the field and then plant the crops.
Are you considering cow calf ranch operations as AFOs?
MR. LINDSEY: Are they pastured or confined?
MR. PARKS: Range.
MR. LINDSEY: No.
MR. PARKS: I'm representing some other folks too and that was one of their questions.
What will be the basis to determine when an operation will have an individual permit?
MR. LAPE: That would be up to the permitting authority to decide when the conditions warrant an individual permit. The examples that we give in the Strategy are basically for large operation, one of significant public interest and historical compliance problems as examples of what might warrant an individual permit. But that would be at the discretion of the permitting authority.
MR. PARKS: Can you give a definition of a large CAFO?
MR. LAPE: I think that would very from state to state. Up in the northeast a large dairy operation may be 500, 600 cows and in California it's 2,400.
MR. PARKS: Thank you four your time.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you, Ron. Other questions. Just come up from the floor and pick up the mike and see what we can do for you. Thanks.
MR. CRAIG: My question has to deal with the ongoing negotiations between NRCS and National Marine Fishery Service and their memorandum of understanding in setting aside reserves for salmon populations.
I would like to know if EPA has any negotiations similarly ongoing with NRCS for Clean Water Act negotiations, and how will either one of those fold into this AFO strategy?
MS. HUMISTON: I can't speak to Washington state, frankly, so I am going to let Washington state speak to their ongoing negotiations. The only thing I would say is that I was very active in the California negotiations and EPA Region 9 was one of the key players at the table. It's going to be a tool in the toolbox. So all of these will be interrelated. But I don't know what the status of Washington state is right now.
MR. LOISELLE: As far as EPA is concerned I do not know of any ongoing negotiations with NRCS where we are trying to establish buffer zones along waterways.
MS. HUMISTON: Are you referring to the CREP announcement made last month? I think you are.
MR. KAUFMAN: More in relation to the Endangered Species Act and how National Fisheries Service, NRCS and EPA are going to work together on their strategies. The Endangered Species Act is about to be instituted in the state in March and we wanted to see what sort of buffer requirements were going to be put forth.
MS. HUMISTON: Again, I can't speak specifically to Washington state current negotiations because, quite frankly, it varies a great deal from state to state. I can speak to the California example and given that I just left California five months to a national job I think it's going to be a bit of a model in other states too. What we were looking at there was partially the fact recognizing -- and frankly I don't know if we emphasized it enough earlier. A lot of people would like to see us get this work done earlier. Several of you commented on this. Quite frankly, if we had 20,000 employees we could have the work done next year. But part of the problem is, quite frankly, that there is a limited number of people out there who are able and qualified to truly do a technically competent, good, environmentally sound Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan. That's a limiting factor. That's part of the reason the Strategy mentions the use of trying to bring in industry leadership, environmental groups, local watershed groups, private consultants and a whole host of partners into trying to make this work. That is the way it's going to work, folks. If any of you have any illusion the federal government, even with two agencies trying to work together, is going to come in here and solve these problems you're nuts. I mean, this is a state, federal, local, public, private, all of us working together type of solution is what's going to work.
Now endangered species specifically, the negotiations going on that I'm aware of are very small. I want to make sure that it's clear that they are not part of dealing with certainty or safe harbor. What has been being discussed between National Marine Fishery Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Interior and NRCS was some programmatic review of the best management practices we're recommending to landowners so that when we do recommend them we know ahead of time that they are going to be beneficial to endangered species issues.
The final product that's going to come out of that programmatic review, quite frankly, is that certainly those practices are so obviously environmentally beneficial they would be preapproved and some are going to need some work, that's why all of the various states are working currently with upgrading our field office technical guide. Some, frankly, will never be preapproved. They may be on a project-by-project, site-by-site go to full Section 10 review by National Marine Fisheries because of the complexity or the controversy or whatever it is. That's what we were looking at. Partially it's just those management practices that are so obviously environmentally beneficial that we didn't want to waste a lot of staff time on so we could focus on the ones that needed more finite resources targeted to them.
MR. JORDAN: Let me see what I can do with that. Many of the statements and comments that have been made are accurate. But here in Washington we are the signatories of that MOU. I have set at the table trying to work and put the pieces together for which once we go out and work with producers though practicing or those systems from which we recommend have all been agreed to by the signatories of that MOU. So from that perspective there is a certain amount of certainty or safe harbor provided. But those signatory agencies, as I stated before, have been sitting around the table under negotiation to see and make sure that once we go out and work with producers to fill out the technical guide we have agreed to it and it provides some certainty to the producers. That's the Washington perspective.
MR. NELSON: Rick Nelson, President of the Washington Cattleman's Association. My family has been on the same farm. I'm the fourth generation to operate that farm. And a lot of the members of our association are mostly family owned and most of them are multigenerational operations.
We have a conservation plan that has been approved by NRCS on my particular operation that I operate. At what point is there going to be a trigger that triggers that I would be required to have NPDES permit?
MR. LOISELLE: If you have a discharge to the waters of the United States, and that discharge contains pollutants --
MR. NELSON: Even by septic tank?
MR. LOISELLE: Yes. By statute you should have to have a permit. You know, certain laws, rules and regulations that kind of trump the broad-based statement of the Clean Water Act embodies, such as what we're talking about here, the split in the CAFO designation between 0 and 300, 301 to 1,000 and stuff like that. But if you're looking at a strict liability statute and it says that you cannot dump any pollutants into waters of the United States without an NPDES permit then that's it.
MR. NELSON: We already have that law in the state of Washington.
MR. LOISELLE: That's correct, Washington is a delegated state, they are running the federal law.
MS. HUMISTON: Let me try to make a clarification that's really crucial and it might even answer a couple concerns earlier about this fire wall confidentiality issue.
You will only be required to have an NPDES permit if you fall under requirements as outlined under the Clean Water Act and perhaps state law, because some state laws are more stringent than the federal law -- Washington, evidently, is one of those. California thinks they are too but some would argue that.
Anyway, you would only be required a permit if you fell under the laws as defined in the Clean Water Act and/or your state water quality law. Now, part of what is occurring in this joint strategy is that EPA is indicating that they believe a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan prepared to specifications of NRCS would qualify as meeting your permit requirements. But please understand just because -- if you walked in the door tomorrow to NRCS and say 'I would like a conservation plan' and work with them and you get a plan, that's your business. You're working with them, you are getting a plan. That does not make you under any requirement for permit necessarily, that's a separate issue.
When we talk about the fire wall, what we are talking about there is not necessarily that you wouldn't be able to see the conservation plans. In fact, most of the landowners who have them are readily bringing in the plans themselves. What we are concerned about confidentialitywise is the very site-specific proprietary information that an individual landowner might have behind those that were used in putting them together which, again, in some cases they may voluntarily bring forward to you. We are just suggesting that we aren't turning --. We are not suggesting, it's policy. We are not turning them over and for a good reason, because the fear is that you have got several agencies out there currently doing regulation. If I don't have at least one agency somewhere that somebody can walk into and say, 'Hey listen, maybe I got a problem can you come look at it and tell me and help me?', and feel like he is not going to get turned over to the cops just because you walked in the door asking for that help, then they are going to quit walking through the door. That's why administrator Carol Browner as well as Secretary Dan Glickman have repeatedly stated how crucial they think fire wall strategy is to making this work and we think it is too.
MR. NELSON: I appreciate that Glenda, I believe that it's very critical that confidentiality be maintained with such a document; for one thing, there is liable to be some confidential financial information. And I don't expect that most people in downtown Seattle would be willing to turn over their income tax records to anybody that asked for them.
Another question I had: In lieu of the projected 42 percent reduction in farm gate value in Washington state this year, is there going to be any adjustment to the time frame that's talked about -- 2008 or 2003 -- I've kind of forgotten what year we are talking about now? Is there a possibility that that can be a sliding scale because of economic conditions? I mean, 42 percent reduction in farm gate value in this state is going to eliminate a lot of the problems because a lot of those farmers are going to go out of business. And I'm afraid that, especially on the west side of the state, that a lot of those farms will soon be developed and we'll have a lot more urban runoff. I mean, that needs to be a factor. That needs to be addressed as well.
MR. LEE: I can't say that this Strategy is going to address that factor. I can say though that there are a lot of other ongoing efforts. You heard some folks earlier talk about the sustainable liability working groups and they're very strongly bringing up the liability issues.
As far as USDA, we also have a Presidentially appointed commission on small farms and we just last month announced the opening of a brand new office on sustainable development small farms. One of the key things they are looking at is the economic viability of the smaller family-owned type farming systems, and those efforts are looking at that.
MR. NELSON: Every time we see a downturn in the cattle cycle, the price of cattle goes down, we see producers go out of business and most of them don't go back in because they get discouraged.
MR. CRAWFORD: Mr. Parks, did you have a question?
MR. PARKS: Yes, I do. For Jeff. Would you give us a definition, your definition, of "significant"?
MR. LAPE: In what context?
MR. PARKS: My question before was what would be the basis for requiring an individual permit for an operation. And you gave four reasons for that and each of them was "significant". Manure production and I believe significant contributors to water quality impairment, and I believe unacceptable conditions and significant public interest.
MR. LAPE: I think at this stage that is a level of detail we've not written into the Strategy. Let me just take a couple of examples.
Significant manure production. Basically what we've equated there is the existing definition of a CAFO at 1,000 animal units. So for purposes of significant manure production we are largely referring to 1,000 animal units or above. In terms of significant contributors to water quality impairment, that's something that we have not laid out in clear terms. If that's something that you think we should lay out in clear terms we would be very interested in your comments on that.
MR. PARKS: The word "significant" is always a stumbling block that is used in all the regulations and it's always a point of discussion. What about the significant public interest, can you explain that?
MR. LAPE: The idea --
MR. PARKS: Because that's not in your Strategy that we can find.
MS. HUMISTON: I am going to offer one thing from our discussions and listening because we had a couple EPA lawyers in the room at one point. One of the reasons we used the term significant in there without clearly defining it is that, frankly, many states have very distinctly different legal definitions of what "significant" is. And for those 43 states where the state is the regulating authority, frankly they are the ones needing to answer the question. Because it's going to be different from the state next door.
MR. KAUFMAN: We have very definite regulations with regards to what significant would be, and many different physical and chemical parameters as related to water quality. So if you want to read to it's RCW 173.20l.
MR. PARKS: I know yours. Thank you.
MS. HUMISTON: But those are the ones of Washington state.
MR. PARKS: I just wanted to know.
MS. HUMISTON: That was the challenge, trying to craft a Strategy that recognizes that different states have unbelievably vastly diverse laws and definitions.
MR. PARKS: I appreciate what you're saying. Jeff, could you find anything on that "significant"?
MR. LAPE: Let me keep looking. This is what we wrote but, gee, maybe we wrote it in our mind and through several drafts it got edited out. But before we leave we will share notes.
MR. PARKS: Because I really would like to know what "significant public interest" really means.
MR. LAPE: Okay. Before you leave let's take a couple minutes and I will do a quick scan again.
MR. CRAWFORD: We will come to you.
MR. FAWCETT-LONG: My question goes to one of the seven strategic issues which was framed as coordinated research, technical invasion compliance assistance and technology transfer. In my comments I refer to that as the research agenda. I am wondering if you can tell me more specifically how that strategy will be developed and if different stakeholders and the public will have a chance to participate in developing that agenda and criteria for that research beyond the January 19th comment period?
MS. HUMISTON: From USDA perspective I could say that several of our agencies have research functions and that, frankly, the agenda and priority for that research is an ongoing item. ERS, our Economic Research Service, and ARS our Ag Research, Service, CREES Cooperative Research -- whatever the heck, and NRCS, we have a half dozen agencies that do research constantly. They do it in cooperation with land grant universities. They do it in cooperation with local groups. So it's ongoing, research priorities. I do know that there's a lot of debate and a lot of competition for those research dollars. If you've got some suggestion or recommendations or anything from 'Gee, this should be a high priority' or whatever or how we should go ahead putting this together let us have them.
MR. FAWCETT-LONG: I would very much like to be involved in that process. And a very global comment, I would like priorities for that research to go into research and development of sustainable systems to focus on prevention as much as possible rather than mitigation.
MR. CRAWFORD: We had another person back here with a hot question.
MR. LALLY: I don't have a question, I have a quick comment. My name is Mark Lally, from Leefield Plastics (p.s.) a geotechnical engineering firm. I noticed that several people mentioned technology as far as implementation of certain laws and regulations. I am here to inform you that is available. However this just reaffirms my suspicion that the DOA, EPA and NRCS need to be informed of private as well as public companies that are able to provide the agricultural community with the assistance that they need to comply with these laws and regulations. So it might be something you should consider. Because I think they will be turning to you for help more often than any other organization or agency. So you, in turn, are going to have to go somewhere and that's why I am here.
MR. LOISELLE: You have a good point but you have to keep in mind that EPA cannot go out and advocate use.
MR. LALLY: I'm just saying everybody is going to have to have tools.
MR. LOISELLE: You may have to do your own marketing.
MR. LALLY: Certainly, no, I am not looking to you as a marketing tool at all but it's just something that you should keep in mind.
MS. LEACH: This is the question I started earlier. On page 4 and 5 you have some statistics about rivers and streams and some percentages.
And the first one under Section 2.2 is there were 53 percent of all perineal stream miles surveyed, and I'm wondering for this one and the other parts how were the statistics arrived? Were those 53 percent random in the statistical sense or were they the worse streams or were they just something else happened to have this information on hand?
MR. LINDSEY: Let me give that a shot. The analyses that were done of the stream miles were done by the states, and they have their own set of criteria for picking which streams they are going to look at when. They look at different streams every year, typically they do. To some degree in some states they may be completely randomized and other states have a schedule to try to get to all of them over a period of time, which is probably the case in most states. In some cases they may be picking what they think may be the worst ones to go look at first. So you can't necessarily take the 700,000 or 694,000 that was the database for this and extrapolate it with a 100 percent accuracy to everything, because there is somewhat different criteria.
MS. LEACH: Okay. All right. I don't know, this might be more of a state's question. But if this state has better environmental laws then many -- why are we listed in a report by Natural Resources Defense Council as being one of 30 states having badly contaminated water supply? Or is it because our laws are new or? And so it's sort of scary if we do have better laws and yours are lesser, where is that going to leave us?
MR. LOISELLE: Are you talking about Washington state and EPA's regulations as compared to ecology regulations for regulating the AFO/CAFO industry?
MS. LEACH: I read a report that was released today by the National Resources Defense Council.
MR. LINDSEY: I don't think I've seen that.
MS. LEACH: A report released today on clean water network. They listed 30 states that have polluted drinking water and Washington state was one of them, so we are curious if we have tougher laws here why is our state listed here?
MR. LINDSEY: Okay state.
MR. KAUFMAN: Before I was a dairy inspector I was an ecologist for about ten years with a background in zoology. Part of the problem has been lack of research in these areas. We are just now gathering data. And 30 states probably are not overall indicative of the water quality in the states, it's probably much worse than that; however, these are 30 states that have reported data and have begun long-term monitoring programs that look into the degradation of streams. A lot of this doesn't mean that these state's have terribly dirty water, we are just impaired to some degree or another based on different water quality parameters. Washington happens to be one of those. We have begun intensive monitoring and as he stated we have the use of the 303D list which contributes to listing of these waters as being impaired for some reason or another. That's part of the reason.
We have had problems in the past with enforcement of the laws on the books. We are changing that, by way of me being a dairy inspector for one of them. But that perspective is rapidly changing. We are having increased enforcement on water quality laws that had not been enforced to their full extent in the past.
MR. CRAWFORD: Why don't we take about one more question. I think we've worked these people pretty hard. How many more questions do we have out there? It looks like we have one. Okay. Good.
MR. ISMOND: I'm Allen Ismond. About a year ago I attended a public hearing on draft guidelines for microbial safeties of fruits and vegetables, and I'm wondering if any of those on the panel are aware of those guidelines; yes or no?
(WHEREUPON, there was no response.)
MR. ISMOND: Okay, we're not.
An integral part of those guidelines was concern about application of waste from animal operations relative to the microbial safety of fruits and vegetables, and they were suggesting how you can and can't apply animal waste and certainly the requirements before applying them.
I'd sure like to see some synergy between your draft guidelines and those draft guidelines, so we don't end up having people caught between a rock and a hard place. Where based on certain environment considerations we can do certain things with animal waste based on food safety; we can or can't do the same things. So if you are not aware of those guidelines it might be a good idea to have a look and make sure there's some synergies.
MS. HUMISTON: We are aware and they are taken into account when plans are developed.
MR. ISMOND: Thank you.
MR. CRAWFORD: Thank you very much for sticking with us. I want to thank the panel. I know this is a grueling effort. I think Jeff is off to Des Moines or someplace tonight on the red-eye -- or maybe all of them are. So we are getting our tax money out of these people.
Thanks again. This thing will be zooming on, and I hope you'll turn in your written comments.
(WHEREUPON, the proceedings were adjourned.)
C E R T I F I C A T ESTATE OF WASHINGTON, COUNTY OF KITSAP, ss.
I, the undersigned Notary Public in and for the State of Washington, do hereby certify:
That the annexed and foregoing forum of each speaker named herein was taken stenographically before me and reduced to computer-aided transcript under my direction;
I further certify that I am not a relative or employee or attorney or counsel of any of the parties to said action, or a relative or employee of any such attorney or counsel, and that I am not financially interested in the said action or the outcome thereof;.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my Official Seal this 6th day of December, 1998.
(signed) Syndie Hagardt, CSR, RPR