UME survey: Ag wary of legislation, regulations
(Dec. 5, 2017) A recent survey by University of Maryland Extension found, not surprisingly to many, that farmers, on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay and across 16 counties unanimously believe that regulations and legislation are their top concern for farm viability.
That rose above issues of changing climate and weather, farm management, and even agricultural production and yield.
That’s hardly a surprise, particularly to many Delmarva poultry growers.
Poultry and livestock farmers, not only here but across the nation, are awaiting instructions from the federal court system as to whether they have to regularly report noxious emissions from their poultry houses or barns.
Under issue here are two pieces of federal legislation, CERCLA and EPCRA — the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, often referred to as “Superfund,” and the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act.
They require facilities to report releases of hazardous substances that are equal to or greater than previously established limits within any 24-hour period.
For poultry and animal farmers, those “hazardous substances” are ammonia air emissions rising from manure.
The measurement of those emissions would depend on the size and number of the chickens in the house.
A study at the University of Kentucky indicated that 20,000 birds would produce of 100 pounds of ammonia per day.
The Environmental Protection Agency ruled that poultry and animal farmers were exempt from CERCLA’s regulations. Environmentalists countered that they are not.
The debate is making its way through the courts.
Paul Goeringer, University of Maryland Extension legal specialist, has these observations:
The smells of livestock are common if you live on or next to a farm.
If livestock numbers reach certain sizes, and the smells become evident, CERCLA and EPCRA kick in and may require the producer to report the release of hazardous substances to the National Response Center.
With animal operations, Goeringer said, the hazardous substance releases have been focused on ammonia and hydrogen sulfide produced as manure is broken down.
Notably, in 2008, the EPA developed an exemption from the reporting requirements from CERCLA and EPCRA for all animal feeding operations but required larger operations to continue reporting under EPCRA.
Waterkeepers and other environmental and animal welfare activist groups challenged the exemption and in April, a U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the environmentalists and gave EPA a Nov. 15, 2017 deadline to start requiring all animal farmers to submit telephone and written reports.
The EPA has filed for an extension to move the reporting deadline to Jan. 17, 2018.
Officials await word on whether that request has been granted. Goeringer suspects however, “it could be weeks or months until the court issues a final ruling.”
Farmers, seeking updated information or instructions on what may be required, are encouraged to visit the Delmarva Poultry Industry website at www.dpichicken.org and click on “CERCLA Reporting” at the top of the screen, or under “Resources.”
County ag agents, the CERCLA website and Goeringer’s blogs will also supply updated information as it occurs and links to EPA’s guidance as well as information from the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.
Goeringer contends that the court’s ruling, if it stands, “will have major implications for CAFOs across the country, not just in Maryland.
“As the court and EPA have pointed out, measuring releases from an animal feeding operation is not always convenient, and currently, there is no clear resolution on how best to monitor them.”
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