SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCACTIVITIES OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY RELATED TO LIVESTOCK FEEDING OPERATIONS
WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 1998
House of Representatives; Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research; Joint with Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, Committee on Agriculture,
The subcommittees met, pursuant to notice, at 10:05 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Larry Combest (chairman of the Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research) and Hon. Richard W. Pombo (chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry) presiding.
Present: Representatives Barrett, Lucas, Hostettler, Moran, Cooksey, Dooley, Peterson, Farr, Stabenow, Clayton, Minge, Pomeroy, Holden, Berry, Goode, Bishop, Collin, Johnson, Boswell, and Stenholm [ex officio].
Staff present: Dave Ebersole, senior professional staff; Russell Laird, Christopher D'Arcy, Stacy Carey, Gregory Zerzen, Callista Bisek, Wanda Worsham, clerks; Anne Simmons, and Andy Johnson.
STATEMENT OF HON. LARRY COMBEST, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. COMBEST. Good morning. I wish to welcome everyone to this hearing.
The purpose in calling this morning's hearing is to get a handle on exactly what the EPA's intention is in issuing the Draft Strategy on Animal Feeding Operations, and what we can expect to result from this new plan. This plan was officially revealed on March 5 of this year. On that day, a news article appeared in the national media which sparked a lot of interest and discussion since my subcommittee was conducting an oversight hearing regarding the Department of Agriculture's implementation of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. To say nothing of the lack of coordination between the EPA and USDA, which was exhibited by the release of the strategy on the same day, that we were reviewing EQIP, the strategy document itself seemed to run counter to the philosophy embodied in the EQIP Program of voluntary incentive-based assistance programs as opposed to regulatory command and control programs.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to explore how current regulatory programs are working and why there is a perception that current regulations are inadequate. It seems to me that what is needed is a constructive relationship between EPA, USDA, and State regulators to enforce the existing rulesnot new regulations or requirements. If compliance with current regulations is inadequate, then that is what needs to be focused on, before any new regulatory schemes are pursued. I am glad that we have had a few of the key players in this effort in front of us today so that we can have an effective discussion as to why current rules are or are not working. I would be interested to hear any suggestions regarding what needs to be done to ensure that the current rules are appropriately enforced to protect the environment, without unduly burdening responsible operations. I think it is very important that we maintain enough flexibility to tailor site-specific solutions to operations which can vary dramatically according to size and location. Differences in geography, geology, and climatic conditions must be taken into account.
As we all know, undergirding this discussion is an ongoing debate in several State legislatures and noise in the news media regarding the perceived or real environmental threats of larger and larger operations and, in general, the changing demographics of the livestock industry. I think that we must keep the current debate on these issues properly divided regarding the credible scientific issues involved with waste management on one hand and separately, the emotional and economic issues of a changing livestock industry. If not, I fear that an ill-conceived and misguided regulatory attempt targeted at large factory-type operations will wrongly hit many medium-sized farming livestock operations.
Since this issue deals with many complexities in geography, climate, species, and size of operations as well as more than one Government agency and level of Government, it can get very technical and complicated. However, it is our duty to try to sort through all of this at our level before the livestock producer is forced to sort through it at their level.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I look forward to the discussion and hope to get a better understanding of the complex issue involved with this subject.
I would like to thank Mr. Pombo for his interest and cooperation in putting together this joint hearing between two subcommittees, and would recognize Mr. Pombo at this time for an opening statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. RICHARD W. POMBO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I'd like to thank you for agreeing to this joint hearing enabling the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry to focus, with your subcommittee, on today's important subject which is of vital interest to American's dairymen and livestock producers.
The subject of today's hearing is of great interest to me and to my district. I have spent more of my life on the farms and feedlots than in Congress, and because of that, I have a valuable working knowledge of the problems relating to livestock feeding operations. I have always found that the key to successfully and fairly regulating livestock feeding operations can basically be summed up in to two words: cooperation and coordination.
I believe it is imperative that we pursue an approach of cooperation between the farmer, State, and Federal agencies. Each of these players has an integral part to play. Coordination and communication are key to this approach. State and Federal agencies need to be clear in their expectations and their jurisdictions. Also, they need to work with local farmers and ranchers in a partnership and offer creative and workable solutions to environmental challenges.
I am concerned that much of what EPA wants to now regulate is already being addressed adequately at the State level, making the new proposed regulations a solution in search of a problem. The dilemma is that there is no way to quantify what is being done at the State level because there is no textual or comparative review of State livestock feeding operations.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I fear this leaves EPA with very little information as to what is currently being done and how the Federal approach can improve on the actions of the States rather than create a conflicting duplication of the effort. If a Federal plan cannot improve upon the State program, than it serves little purpose.
I have heard from farmers who want to help, who want to be good stewards, and who want to use the programs that the members in this room have set up for them to help with this worthy goal. The problem is that many of these same farmers are scared to use these programs out of fear that USDA and EPA cannot, and will not, keep the information confidential, thus subjecting these farmers and ranchers who are trying to using the tools of good stewardship, vulnerable to crippling litigation. Any effort to regulate livestock feeding operations must have a greater sensitivity to these legitimate concerns. I hope that EPA and USDA will be able to support such efforts to protect farmers and ranchers who are acting in good faith.
Finally, I think it is vital that EPA and USDA work in tandem at every stage of these regulations. USDA has a valuable reserve of knowledge that will prove valuable in making any solution work. I stand ready to assist the State and Federal agenciesand especially the farmers and ranchersin implementing such a partnership, and I certainly look forward to today's testimony, and I welcome our witnesses here this morning.
Mr. COMBEST. Thank you, Chairman Pombo. I recognize Mr. Dooley for an opening statement.
Mr. DOOLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for my delay, and I'll just submit my statement for the record.
Mr. COMBEST. Thank you, gentleman.
STATEMENT OF HON. COLLIN C. PETERSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to thank you and Chairman Pombo for your leadership on this important issue.
We are all concerned about protecting our natural resourcesparticularly in Minnesota, the purity of our water. Agriculture has historically taken a leadership role in soil and water conservation, and farmers have continually improved their stewardship practices as new techniques are developed. The challenges to continue to meet the demands of conservation within the changing dynamics of American agriculture are large, but not insurmountable.
I appreciate the work our national agriculture organizations have done to development, promote, and encourage better practices that will ensure a clean water supply. Federal oversight coupled with State enforcement can provide benefits desired as long as farmers are a part of that formula. We know that command and control methods of enforcement do little to promote open, fair, and beneficial action. I am cautiously optimistic about the new partnership that the administration is seeking between EPA and USDA with a Clean Water Action Plan. It is refreshing to learn that the agencies do not believe that additional legislation is needed in order to achieve the goals of the Clean Water Act. The partnership may also foster greater understanding between the two agencies. Animal feeding operations are unique enterprises that do not fit a standard industrial mold. The unique qualities should be examined and a well-developed and scientifically-based plan must be completed before issuing new standards or guidelines. The ultimate goal for everyone is the same, and that is clean water.
I look forward to today's discussion about past and current efforts to protect our resources and the plans to forge partnerships and alliances to provide even more reasonable protection in the future.
Again, I want to thank you and look forward to hearing testimony.
Mr. COMBEST. Thank you, Mr. Peterson.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All Members who have statements may enter them into the record at this point.
[The prepared statements of Members follow:]
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
Mr. COMBEST. Our first witness today is the Honorable George Miller, our colleague who represents the seventh district of California, and, Mr. Miller, we would invite you to begin.
STATEMENT OF HON. GEORGE MILLER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. MILLER. Thank you. Thank you very much for holding this hearing on what I believe, obviously, is an important issue and allowing me to testify, Mr. Chairman. And I will be quick because you have an extensive agenda. The issue of water pollution from animal feeding operations is one of obviously increasing controversy and concern as the nature of many our States change. Over the past 25 years, since the enactment of the Clean Water Act, we have made tremendous strides in addressing major sources of pollution that come from industrial and municipal outfallsso-called point source pollutionbut we have done a poor job in cleaning up the more diffuse pollution in the form of polluted runoff from farms, and urban and suburban streets. Polluted runoff is the most significant obstacle remaining to achieving the Clean Water Act's goals of fishable and swimmable waters.
A major component of polluted runoff in many watersheds is surface and ground water pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations such as large dairies, cattle feedlots, and hog and poultry farms. A series of articles last summer in the San Francisco Chronicle and recent articles in the Los Angeles Times, which I would like to submit for the record, starkly portray the extent of the pollution caused by these facilities in California.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The information appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. MILLER. The problems in Maryland, North Carolina, Iowa, and elsewhere are well-known.
Because large animal feeding operations are recognized as significant potential sources of pollution, they have long been regulated by the Clean Water Act as point sources. But as a result of outdated regulations, lax enforcement at the State and Federal levels, and a trend toward massive concentrations of animals, they have become major polluters in many watersheds.
To address the deficiencies of our current approach to large animal feeding operations, I have introduced legislation, H.R. 3232, and Senator Tom Harkin has introduced a similar piece of legislation in the Senate. And I also applaud the efforts by EPA and USDA, from whom you will hear later to work together to address polluted runoff from animal feeding operations and other sources.
The industrialization of the livestock industry has led to severe water pollution problems in California's Central Valley, on Maryland's eastern shore, in North Carolina, and many other locations. The smaller operations of the past had more land for every animal and the manure could be easily spread. But yet, many of today's gigantic operations with thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, of animals can't spread the manure on the land they own. This isn't fertilizing; it's dumping, and people are justifiably outraged. Families who have farmed for generations who can't drink their well water, who can't compete with the corporate hog and chicken operations moving into their counties want a response. Fishermen in Maryland who can't sell their catch because of fears of pfiesteria want action. Fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico who have watched the Dead Zone grow to larger than 7,000 square miles while their catch has dwindled are watching to see what we do as are the citizens of California.
We have to start by enforcing the law. These laws have been on the books for a long time, but they've been flouted by bad actors in the industry and ignored by Federal regulators and the States where the CAFOs are concerned. It is estimated that there are about 7,000 facilities that meet the current threshold of 1,000 animal units subject to Clean Water Act requirements, but less than 2,000 of these facilities have the required permits. Even fewer are regularly inspected or monitored to ensure they are operating safely. This has to change, and EPA is taking the first steps to get all of these facilities in compliance by 2005.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Cooperation between USDA and EPA has to move beyond mere rhetoric. These agencies need to share information and work together to get a handle on the scope of the problem and target the scarce resources to the biggest problem areas first. We need to protect privacy and preserve a cooperative relationship with farmers as much as possible, but cooperation has to be a two-way street. Farmers can and should expect additional assistance to reduce pollution, but it is clear that we can no longer rely exclusively on voluntary measures.
Third, the CAFO regulations are in need of an overhaul. Loopholes exclude most of the modern poultry industry from clean water requirements. The current regulations do not apply to any hog farms under 2,000 finishing hogs or dairies under 700 mature cows. That threshold just hits the tip of the iceberg and needs to be brought down. We need to establish minimum Federal guidelines so the States don't create a hodge-podge of differing regulations, and we enter into or engage in some kind of race to the bottom.
Also, the current regulations contain little in the way of waste handling and treatment technology. Technical specifications for construction and siting of waste storage and disposal systems would go a long way toward abating the animal waste pollution problems.
Perhaps most importantly, and this is a critical component of the administration's clean water strategy, we need to develop scientifically valid limits on the land applications of manure and make those binding. Application of animal waste in excess of crop nutrient requirements is just going to run off into our rivers and our streams. Developing meaningful limits will not be an easy task. It will take a lot of research, and the rules will have to be flexible to allow substantial regional variations. But runoff from over-application of animal waste to land is responsible for a major portion of the pollution of livestock operations, and we have to address it.
Last, I fully support voluntary programs and increased financial assistance to farmers to help them farm sustainably. I believe an important use of the financial assistance would be to restore animal waste to what it was in traditional agriculture: a commodity. Large livestock operations are going to have to continue to produce more waste than they can safely use onsite, so we need to promote composting, biodigestion, methane recovery, and distribution and marketing systems for waste that will minimize the pollution that now threatens the water supply in these areas.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And finally, Mr. Chairman, let me just say this. This is one of a number of issues that we can find in a State like your own, like California, as the suburbs grow in on top of agriculture. And operations that were once out of sightout of impact reallywith the growing population of a State like California, where we're 40 million, and we spent most of today and yesterday in a hearing trying to describe how we're going to get water to an additional 15 million in the next decadethese are now neighborhood issues, if you will. And good neighbors don't pollute the streams and the rivers that others use.
And recognizing that a lot of this has been dealt with with a wink and a nod in the past, that now, asking for strict enforcement is tough. I think that obviously if there's a way that this committee can construct a manner in which to help these farmers come into compliance financially and through voluntary efforts, as I mentioned, that it clearly ought to be explored.
We've done the same thing for the refiners in my district. They got access to low-interest rates; they got access to help to build, as did the municipal waste facilities in urban areas to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act. The farmers ought to be able to have access to that same kind of opportunity as they change their operations. As we see in the newspaper articles that I submit as part of my record, there are those farmers in the areas that are making the effort, some of who have already spent their money out of their pocket and made the decision to clean up and to prevent the runoff. There are others that either can't afford to or don't want to at this stage. That clearly is unacceptable in a State that's as urban as California and, as I suspect, in a number of other areas as we've seen on the eastern seaboard.
Thank you very much for this opportunity to testify and, again, for taking up this matter that's obviously of serious importance.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Miller appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Miller, thank you for your interest in this subject and testifying this morning.
Are there any questions of Mr. Miller?
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Chairman, I just had a couple of questions. George, in your opinion, should the goal be to have clean water, or fines and punishment?
Mr. MILLER. Well, the goal is always to have clean water. You know, nobody relishes fining and punishing people. But I think at some point, you have to draw the limits to what become intentional actsespecially intentional acts with knowledge of the law. Non-enforcement, is not an excuse. Just as we always go back to the speed limit, but just because they're not enforcing 65 miles an hour, doesn't give you the right to drive at 80, when you know the law. And I think that you'd prefer to have it cleaned up. I mean that's always been the first case. I mean, again, I go back to the urban experience. The urban experience was to sit down and say, ''OK, what's the plan for cleaning up the municipal waste?'' When a city like San Francisco failed for many years to respond, we had to issue cease and desist orders and levy fines because they were just flaunting the law. Everybody else in the Bay area was trying to clean up the municipal waste, and they weren't making the effort. And so they ran into fines and punishment, and cease and desist orders. But the first goal obviously is to get people intoas we've saidinto a voluntary effort, if we can provide some assistance to get it cleaned up.
Mr. POMBO. Well, I reviewed your bill that you've entered in your testimony, and I was a little bit concerned that the emphasis that you were placing on it was with the fines and punishment versus actually doing something to clean it up.
Let me ask you another question, specifically, on your legislation. Do you think that we should dictate specific technology for handling waste in dairy operations or prohibit specific technology for handling waste? Because your legislation does specifically go after different kinds of technology and say, ''This is banned.''
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MILLER. Well, I think, if we're going to that's the way. They have the wisdom here to submit my legislation to the committees of jurisdiction. If we're going to seriously go at this, then I'm willing to put everything on the table. But understand, that this is a problem that has been attacked in fits and starts at the State level and elsewhere in our State, and there are people who haven't come to the forefront who know they've had a problem. And so, trying to direct the resources toward known technology is, I think, a laudable goal and that's our intention, that it be effective.
If people want to suggest that they can get to that goal in another fashion, and the people who have the expertiseEPA and othersagree that that might work, I don't have a problem with trying that. But we are dealing here with a population, with all due respect, that has known for a considerable period of time what they've been doing. And that has raised considerable outrage, if you will, in the people on the other end of the streams and the rivers in our State.
And so, trying to direct them to get this done in the shortest possible time is certainly the purpose of my bill. If this committee, in consultations with EPA and USDA, decides that they want to provide some additional flexibility, we'll take a look at that, and that's fine. But this isn't a problem that we've just discovered. Again, as a number of the farmers and others recounted, this has been fits and starts in its regulation.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Dooley.
Mr. DOOLEY. Thank you. George, in your legislation where you have some of the thresholds in terms of who would be, I guess, exempt from some of the efforts here, is the only thing that raises some concerns. Because in the Central Valley of California, which you're familiar with, it's actually some of our larger units which are doing the best job in managing their waste and managing their operations. And at some of the levels you have, I would say you could get up in some parts of the country, in terms of their dairy operations, a good number of those would not even be subject to it. And I was just wondering, in terms of the ultimate objective, is it to try to ensure that we are going to have the greatest impact on minimizing danger of contamination of groundwater? What is the rationale behind those thresholds that you've established? Because I'm a little concerned that they're even going to get into creating false incentives or even having an impact in terms of how the industry is moving forward in terms of deficiencies.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MILLER. Well, obviously, the notion was that we were going to provide for fewer loopholes and for stricter enforcement. I had the opportunity last month to be up in Congressman Condit's district. We met with a number of people from the agriculture community, including dairy farmers, who raised this very point that you had, that they wanted to try to avoid more regulation. They didn't suggest that they had an answer at the moment, but they wanted to try to avoidhow do you phrase this? The regulations and the thresholds in legislation like mine, or perhaps like Senator Harkins', from steering the industry in the direction where the economics and other factors weren't there for that purpose. And again, the intent here, we're pretty proud of our dairy industry in California. I mean, it used to be in many ways, they're the most efficientI don't want to say that in this room, but
Mr. DOOLEY. Yes, I always do that. You get some flack for it, but go ahead.
Mr. MILLER. But anyway, they're very efficient people. But, we also know that, nationally, that dairy is a tough business, as we're hearing from different sectors of the country, and even from our own people. So, this legislation should not hasten the demise of that industry.
But again, let me say that this is a problem that can't be ignored in an urban State like ours. So, I told them at that timeand I think it's a response to your questionthat, again, we will look at that. It's not our intent to use this regulation to steer the industriesbe they poultry or dairyin a direction that's contrary to how that industry is evolving. That doesn't mean they won't have costs, and that they won't have to meet their obligations under the Clean Water Act. But again, if they want to talk about that and raise some of those concerns, we told them thereand I would say it again here this morningthat I would be open to that.
Mr. DOOLEY. Yes. My only concern is that some folks might be motivated to support this legislation in order to address a perceived problem in terms of concentration in the industry. And some of us think that's the only way we're going to be competitive in the international marketplace; and that we ought to be, if we're trying to move forward on cleaning up our water and maintaining the best operations, that we ought to require everyone to institute best management practices in how they're dealing with this. And that's my only concern, and I'll be interested in maintaining a dialogue with you on this issue.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MILLER. All right, thank you.
Mr. COMBEST. Any other members?
Mr. Miller, I just wanted to ask you one thing. Obviously, this is not an issue you just started thinking about yesterday. You've got a long history in concerns of environmental issues. But, do you think that if we were to review existing law and regulations, that there would be a way in which those could be adjusted, if necessary; or, looking at it from enforcement, that would still get to the place you would like to be without requiring new legislation and, consequently, new regulations?
Mr. MILLER. I don't want to punt on that because you never want to say you don't know, but I don't know. You're going to hear from EPA later, and they really have the expertise on whether there's other regulations that will take us in this direction or alternate enforcement mechanisms that will take us in this direction.
I, obviously, am a very, very strong supporteras my constituents areof the Clean Water Act. And, of course, my concern is that when you get all done dumping this in the rivers and streams, it flows right through the middle of my district and into San Francisco Bay, and that's when I see the urban encroachment on traditional agriculture practices. I just don't know the answer to that.
I think obviously there's been a decision by the administration that this matter is going to get serious attention, if nothing else, because it's tied into the other problems that this committee wrestles with in terms of food safety and agricultural practices, in terms of fertilizers and all, use of this material, and all the rest of it. And I'm not competent to do that.
All I would say is if you look at the urban experience where we dealt with a multitude of different types of industries, if you look at the problems dealing with street runoff and those continuing problems, we've made a great deal of progress, and we've worked out different solutions to different problems because some cities were in better positions than others. Some were newer and some were older, and some had single systems and some had dual systems, but we've made remarkable progress in San Francisco Bay and, again, that's part of the reason I'm here. We've spent billions cleaning up this waterway, and now we just cannot continue to have this other situation.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COMBEST. All right. I appreciate your candor, and you didn't hear the opening statementswell, I'll be happy to give you copies, if you like to read them, but my main thrust and interest is trying to determine there are regulations of dumping and of runoff, and how it is controlled today. And at the end of the day, where I would like to be would be to determine if, in fact, between State regulatory agencies and Federal, and the laws that are on the books, if they're adequate and simply not being adhered to. In cases in your area, that maybe there is a problem, or if, in fact, something new is needed. And I think that's kind of where we want to end up.
Mr. MILLER. Well, I would say this: that that's a good question for a lot of reasonsbecause from time to time, we've tried to address this problem many years ago. A lot of this was done with a wink and a nod toward the enforcement of the laws that were on the books. Current laws adequately enforced may, in fact, do the deal, but there's a lot of people who are upset because we've decided we are going to enforce the laws. Just that decision itself has upset people.
But that usually is the case when you have lax enforcement; a couple of State boards who didn't really want to tell their constituencies the nature of the problem or go after it. And now, even they have decided that they're going to aggressively go after it with the water quality control board in the area.
So, I think that's a legitimate question. Now that people have decided they're going to give this serious attention and enforcement, where does that take you, before you start doing a lot of other issues? But, I'm also concerned that the current law may have some thresholds that don't make sense, again, and certainly in urbanized areas like ours, where we're struggling all the time with water quality.
Mr. COMBEST. Thank you very much for coming. And you're certainly welcome to stay if you'd like.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MILLER. Thank you very much.
Mr. COMBEST. I'd like to invite our panel to the table now. Mr. Michael Cook is the Director of the Office of Wastewater Management for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. Elaine Stanley is the Director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Pearlie Reed is the Chief of the National Resources Conservation Service for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. John Baker is commissioner of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. Dr. Baker should also be recognized as the only witness to have his testimony in on time. [Laughter.]
Mr. Peter Rooney is secretary for the California Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr. Cook, you may proceed when ready. And if the panel would, just in the order of the way they were introduced, proceed. I don't want to cut anyone off, and would want you to feel comfortable in making your case. We do have, I think, finally have all of the testimony, and it will be a part of the record, and to the extent that you can summarize that and giving the maximum amount of time for questions and dialogue would certainly be appreciated. Mr. Cook, please proceed.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL COOK, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF WASTEWATER MANAGEMENT, OFFICE OF WATER, U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Mr. COOK. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I certainly appreciate the subcommittee's interest in this important issue. My name is Michael Cook. I'm Director of the Office of Wastewater Management at EPA, and with me is Elaine Stanley, who is director of our Office of Compliance.
I have proposed to talk generally about EPA's plans for protecting and enhancing water quality across the United States, and then describe in some detail our part of the strategy that deals with animal feeding operations and those concerns.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We're now just a little ways past the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. It was enacted in 1972. And in thinking about where we stood, I think our sense was that we made tremendous progress in cleaning up the Nation's waters, but that there was still quite a remaining task that had to be done. Our assessments, based on information from the States and from other kinds of monitoring, suggests that some 40 percent of the assessed waters are impaired or in some fashion in danger of a situation where they don't support fishing, or swimming, or something of that kind.
And when we looked at the kinds of remaining issues that were a concern, they tended to be primarily those related to wet weather kinds of events. They include things like combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows in the urban areas, storm water runoff in the urban areas and other areas, certain kinds of mining problems that exist across the United States, septic tanks which drain, wet weather tended to create problems, and animal feeding operations.
And it's this combination of wet weather sources that is the principal focus of the Clean Water Action Plan that the administration came out with recently, and I have a copy here. But it is a plan to work across the Federal Government, the major Federal agencies, to try to address these sources with all the various tools that are available to these agencies.
The general approach that's laid out here focuses on a watershed by watershed assessment of the problems, and then a targeting of resources at those watersheds that are impaired or threatened as the highest priorities for attention. There's a strong focus on the interagency cooperation and working closely with State and local governments, and with stakeholders of all kinds in the process.
We want to strengthen our existing programs. We want to provide additional dollars, and, in fact, have pledged additional funds in 1999 and expect to have additional funds beyond that for the Federal agencies involved. And we want to strengthen enforcement. And so those are some of the major components of our overall Clean Water Action Plan.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, getting to how that relates to animal feeding operationswhich is one of these wet weather problems of concernwe have a great deal of evidence which is summarized in my testimony that there are problems associated with animal feeding operations across the country. And one that I will just mention is that in the States, in evaluating and assessing their water bodies, 22 of those States actually broke out agricultural sources and determined that animal feeding operations and animal management of one kind or another were associated with some 20 percent of the problems associated with agriculture more generally. And generally, agriculture is associated with some 70 percent of the impacted water bodies that were found in the States' surveys. So you can see that there is a significant problem out there.
One of the other major factors that has led us to take a look at the industryand you've already been discussing itis the changing nature of the industry. And it has changed considerably since we first put our regulatory program in place for animal feeding operations. That program dates back to 1974. You may not realize that we have had a longstanding program in place. But since that time, several things have changed.
First, the industry as a whole has become much more concentrated. Every species that are raised in the United States, there's been considerable concentration.
Second, the total number of animal feeding operations has declined, I think associated with the general decline in number of farms, as well, across the country.
And the third change is that there is a change in technologies that are used, particularly in manure management in the poultry industry, but there have been developments and changes elsewhere. What this has meant, in practice, is that the regulatory program that we designed in 1974 is not adequate to deal with the modern industry and needs adjustment. And so, that is what we have in mind as we work on a new strategy.
Now the agency itself developed a draft strategythe one that you referred tothat we put out on March 5. We've been working on that for about a year. We did work on that strategy with USDA, and if you'll look at it carefully, you'll find there are components in it that provide for USDA participation in that strategy. But I think since we started working on that and came out with the Clean Water Action Plan, it became apparent to us that, to do what really needs to be done with animal feeding operations, there has to be a very close partnership between the EPA and USDA. And it was that point that we injected into the overall Clean Water Action Plan a provision that said we were going to have a joint unified USDA/EPA strategy. We were going to come out with that in draft form in July, and come out with it in final in November, and that is currently our plan.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We do not anticipate having a separate EPA strategy. We expect to have a unified Government strategy for dealing with animal feeding operations. And let me just mention some of the components of this strategy.
There are about 450,000 animal feeding operations across the country, if you take them down to very, very small operations of one kind or another. We anticipate that most of the progress, in dealing with whatever environmental impacts associated with these operations have, will come from cooperative efforts through technical assistance, and information, and financial assistance, and other kinds of support that are provided by EPA, USDA, the States, and other interested parties. There is no way that our regulatory reach of our programs would ever go to 450,000 entities. It's out of the question, and it is not something that we have in mind.
What we do have in mind is having a strong and strengthened regulatory program focused at the larger animal feeding operations, and also at those operations in watershed where, collectively, smaller activities of one kind or another are clearly having a severe impact on water quality. But even putting in all those together, we anticipate that it will be only a small percentage subject to regulatory programs of the total of 450,000. And we will have all these other activities that will be targeted at trying to reach out with these people.
We also are workingand have been working for some timewith some of the stakeholders, the industry representatives themselves, on ways in which they can come forward to improve management of manure within their own industry. And I think you know about the highly successful outcome of the pork dialogue that we supported and participated in with the Department of Agriculture, and the States, and others. We're, right as of today, having a meeting with the poultry industry to continue discussions with them. And we hope to open these kinds of dialogues with the other major industry groups as time perceives. And we feel that this is absolutely a key to making progress in environmental protection.
Now another element in this unified strategy will be a strong Enforcement and Compliance Program. And to discuss that, I wanted to turn it over to Elaine Stanley.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF ELAINE STANLEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF COMPLIANCE, OFFICE OF ENFORCEMENT AND COMPLIANCE ASSURANCE, U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Ms. STANLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Elaine Stanley, the Director of the Office of Compliance, within the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, at EPA. And I'd like to talk to you about our CAFO Compliance Program.
EPA supports voluntary programs to achieve compliance and has devoted significant efforts to working with USDA and the farming community to improve compliance. For example, we have an Agricultural Compliance Assistance Center, located in Kansas City, that provides information to the farming community about its legal obligations. That center, which has been up and running for over 2 years, works with USDA and the land grant universities as major partners.
Inspection and enforcement efforts, however, will also have to play a role in improving the management of livestock waste. Many operations are complying with the regulations and should be commended and supported for their good performance. Our enforcement efforts are designed to address those facilities that are not complying voluntarily. Our goal is to level the playing field for all producers by supporting farmers doing the right thing and meeting their legal obligations and removing the economic advantage of those who fail to comply.
I'd like to spend a moment describing some recent work that our EPA office in Seattle has conducted which shows how Federal enforcement can work with States and producers to promote compliance and improve the environment. In Washington State, CAFOs were impairing water bodies, as evidenced by the high number of streams contaminated by fecal coliform bacteria, shellfish bed closures, increased complaints from citizens and tribes, and EPA's own observations and supporting sampling data.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We initiated a CAFO effort with Washington State to support and supplement the State's program. During the course of this effort, the Washington State Dairy Federation and EPA found a number of dairy farmers were unclear as to which management practices would result in violations. The Washington State Dairy Federation decided that a pictorial review, of which I have a copy here, ''Dairy Waste Pictorial,'' of various waste management problems that were found on dairy farms, would be beneficial. EPA found that the brochure was instrumental in creating support for the dairy waste compliance efforts. And we feel the Dairy Waste Federation should be commended for taking this step forward in identifying problems within its own industry.
Throughout this process, EPA maintained close contact and communications with the Washington Dairy Federation, the Lummi and Nooksack Indian Tribes, the NRCS, and the Washington State Department of Ecology.
The response by the public to EPA's Washington State CAFO efforts has been very positive. For example, dairy operators, as well as the dairy Federation representatives, interviewed and quoted by local newspapers have characterized EPA's program, and in particular the inspection and enforcement aspects, as being timely, appropriate, and fair.
In Idaho, the EPA has the authority for NPDES program administration. In response to a proposal by the State, EPA negotiated a precedential agreement with the Idaho Dairymen's Association, the Idaho Department of Agriculture, and the Idaho State Division of Environmental Quality. Under this agreement, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture now conducts dairy waste inspections of dairies on behalf of EPA, along with their own State's Sanitary Milk Inspection Program. As a result of this arrangement, the number of dairy waste inspections have significantly increased. Moreover, because the two types of inspections are conducted at once, the dairy operators are less inconvenienced. Although it's too early to gauge the overall success of this agreement in terms of environmental protection, the results in terms of improved nutrient management practices, thus far, are encouraging.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, voluntary programs and enforcement are tools for achieving compliance and improving the environment. The Federal Enforcement Program can work successfully with USDA, the State's, and producers to support those who comply the law.
I thank the subcommittee for this opportunity.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cook and Ms. Stanley appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. COMBEST. Thank you, Mr. Cook and Ms. Stanley.
Mr. Reed, if I could impose on you for just a moment, the Chair would like to recognize the ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Stenholm, if the gentleman has any comments.
Mr. STENHOLM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have a statement that I would like to insert into the record at the appropriate time at the beginning of the hearing. I commend you for holding these hearingsvery timely, very important.
Mr. COMBEST. I thank the gentleman.
Thank you very much, Mr. Reed, for your indulgence and please proceed.
STATEMENT OF PEARLIE REED, NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Mr. REED. Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittees, thank you for holding this hearing and inviting the Department of Agriculture to discuss the issue of animal waste management. I am Pearlie S. Reed, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The issue of concentrated animal feeding operations and their impact on natural resources is an important matter. We are aware of the threats that excess nutrients pose to water resources and to public health. We also recognize the difficulties that farmers must face in trying to stay competitive and to make a living in agriculture. As a result, we need to find ways to protect water, soil, and air quality, while also ensuring the productivity of our farmers and ranchers.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the past 20 years or so, we have seen a substantial change in the animal agriculture industry. Operations are more concentrated. As a result of this trend, the major challenge we have, of course, facing us is managing manure. Data produced by NRCS indicate that several areas of the United States have a supply of nutrients that exceed the need of crops. In these areas, an accumulation of elements in the soil create a potential for surface and groundwater pollution. Our challenge and goal of the Department is to address the environmental issues while assisting producers with managing nutrients.
USDA is fully engaged in an effort to find solutions for animal agriculture. Many are listed in my written statement so I will not repeat them here. However, I would like to make two observations: One is that we believe, whatever is done, it be based on good, solid science coupled with common sense, and also we believe that we need to continue to emphasize voluntary incentives as one of the best ways to help farmers help themselves.
The challenge of providing assistance to producers is a difficult task. It is my hope that as we develop strategies on animal feeding operations, technical and financial resources will also be a part of the equation. You should know that as we work on this strategy, we hear comments from EPA, the farmers, and ranchers, and others, centered around the need for the Department of Agriculture to be more engaged in the policy, as well as the program delivery aspects of this issue. It is my view that one of the best ways that the Congress can help USDA help American farmers is to ensure that we make the appropriate investment in technical assistance, research, and education as we work with EPA and others on these issues.
Mr. Chairman, we received the letter from this committee that you sent to the Secretary, I believe last week, related to the USDA's staffing workload. We are working through that, and our plans are to have the appropriate staff work done and available for the Secretary by May 22. And I am sure, shortly after that, he will respond to your inquiry.
In conclusion, I would like to simply say that, with the appropriate investment of resources, USDA can assist farmers with manure storage facilities, nutrient management plans, and to comply with regulations at the national, State, and local level.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One thing that I'd like to say is that we at USDA believe that the producers deserve two things: One is to have a clear and concise policy so that the farmers understand what is required. And to that end, we are committed to working with EPA as appropriate to ensure that the animal waste management problem is dealt with as efficiently and as effectively as possible.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Reed appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. COMBEST. Thank you very much, Mr. Reed.
STATEMENT OF JOHN BAKER, COMMISSIONER, TEXAS NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION COMMISSION
Mr. BAKER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. My name is John Baker; I am one of the commissioners at the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission in Texas. We are a multimedia agency with permitting authority over air, water, and waste, and we have jurisdiction over CAFOs.
I appreciate this opportunity this morning to give you a brief overview of the critical issues and concerns that we have about this industry. It is a significant industry in our State. We rank No. 1 in beef cattle, No. 6 in dairy, No. 6 in poultry, and No. 17 in swine. And we expect, our projections are that we will increase significantly in those latter two categories in the next several years.
We've been regulating CAFOs since 1971, and in fact, we have 821 authorizations in the State today. I would like you to keep in mind thatjust briefly, because I will make reference to it again in a moment. In my written comments I have provided you with an attachment comparing all of the EPA region VI States as well as several other significant CAFO States, comparing the requirements in all of those States. The thing that struck me, as I read that chart, is that our regulations in Texas equal or exceed those of most other States, and we are, in fact, one of the few States that have multimedia authorizations covering both air and water.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I was also impressed with the extent of the administrative and technical requirements of all of the States that we included in that review. There is a perception that CAFOs are not regulated, but I would submit to you that is not true, and it is not true in most of the other region VI States. We have stiff regulations currently, and in fact, in Texas we have our rules currently under revision, where we are adding additional requirements as the result of some findings that we've had relatively recent. In our State and region, we have stiff requirements, yet there is significant growth of this industry in this area.
There is a perception that CAFOs are shopping from State to State looking for those States with the weakest regulations, the softest requirements. But I would ask you, where is the race to the bottom? There is a large influx of CAFOs into our State, as I've indicated. We're not a NPDES-delegated State. That means that those who come to our State are not only required to have a State permit, but also a Federal permit subjecting them to the compliance and enforcements of both of those agencies. Yet the CAFOs are still coming.
In fact, it is my perception, as I visit with those industries, that regulations are probably secondary to their siting decisions. They will tell you that they've been there and done that, and inadequate regs are no panacea to them. Siting is much more sensitive now in their efforts to try to find sites where there is less vulnerability to the environment, areas where there is low rainfall, good soils, that lend themselves to the construction of lagoons that will not leak, and available land for the application of animal waste. They will tell you that regulations are important. They need to be fair; they need to be consistent, and maybe more importantly, they need to be predictable.
I bring this up because there is a growing hysteria, as I said, that CAFOs are not regulated, and that Congress should set new standards, or EPA should develop new regs and standards. And there is considerable concern among the industry, as I am, about this one-size-fits-all national standards effort that seems to be underway. Again, I would submit to you that there already is sufficient authority available to States to regulate this industry.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the recent AFO strategy that has been referenced, it states that less than 25 percent of those CAFOs6,600 of themare under any kind of a permit today. And I just mentioned to you that we have over 800 in Texas that are under an authorization. Somehow I find it amazing that we have over half of them in Texas. It makes me somewhat skeptical about the numbers, but I will admit that probably that percentage is lower than it should be. That being the case, it begs the question: why are we so concerned about new standards when so little effort is being made to meet the present requirements?
I'll not try to convince you that we've been 100 percent successful in Texas. As this industry evolves, new problems evolve. Twelve years ago, we had waste containment problems in a particular section of our State. We've aggressively addressed that problem with our partners, NRCS, with incentive-based solutionsoutreach at first, very strong compliance enforcement now. And today, we rarely have a problem with waste containment structures.
The two areas where we continue to be challenged are with odors, where it is extremely difficult to decide how much is appropriate, first, and then how to quantify that. It is not a lack of authorization to deal with that problem, but a lack of the science that will allow us to deal with it. In our rules, we are proposing to go from a quarter-of-a-mile buffer zone to a half-mile buffer zone and/or maybe the requirement of a odor management plan which will ask that industry operator to tell us just exactly what kind of structures and technical practices he will have in place to address odors. This problem has evolved as people have moved from the urban areas to the rural areas with very high expectations about pristine conditions. It is frustrating to the regulators, neighbors, and CAFOsall threebut I'm optimistic that solutions will develop as the science develops.
And there is an extensive effort being made with research on lagoon additives, feed additives, structural solutions, as well as analytical tools to deal with this problem. It is not, again, a lack of authority, but a lack of ability to quantify and decide what is appropriate. It often brings to question the land use/siting issues. I would submit to you that is a State/local issue. And a Federal solution is not appropriate.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The other challenge I mentioned is land applications, and that occurs mostly in the high rainfall areas of the State where we have sloping terrain. The problem has evolved because of the growing evidence that phosphorus is a problem, where we had always assumed that nitrogen would be the main criteria. Our new rules do add additional sampling requirements. Science is developing soil testing today. It has been developed to decide how much is enough, and not how much is too much. But some of the research that is being conducted, partially funded by EPA, I believe will bring much better definition within the next couple or 3 years.
Let's not lose sight that animal waste is a valuable resource. The real goal should be beneficial use. And if we become too restrictive, we will be left with a disposal problem, and a loss of this tremendous economic resource would be unfortunate. Stockpiling is not a solution; beneficial use is.
It is with some irony that we've noted the different attitude, with EPA particularly, about the beneficial use of municipal sludge as opposed to animal waste. I would submit to you that the potential harmthough I'm an advocate of municipal waste being beneficially usedis probably greater with municipal waste than with animal waste. And we should see the same kind of efforts in promoting the use of animal wastes beneficially as we've seen with municipal biosolids.
I would like to close with just a brief summary. No. 1, authority exists to adequately regulate CAFOs today. Why the concern with new one-size-fits-all standards if we're only compliant with 25 percent of the present requirements? No. 2, beneficial land use of waste should be encouraged rather than restricted. No. 3, much of the present debate is driven by nuisance odor rather than environmental impact. No. 4, land use/siting is a State, local issue and not a Federal issue.
And one issue that I've added, that I did not mention as I made my remarks, is that corporate farm versus the family farm issue is not one that can be solved with environmental regs. Those are two separate issues, and we only make the complexity of each of those much greater by confounding them.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That concludes my remarks, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Baker appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. COMBEST. Thank you, Dr. Baker.
STATEMENT OF PETER ROONEY, SECRETARY, CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Mr. ROONEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to both of the subcommittees today.
I think you well knowCalifornia does have a large and very productive agriculture industry, but it also presents complex waste management, wastewater management challenges. As it was alluded earlier, California is a major agriculture producer with some $24 billion worth of farm-gate value, of which $3.7 billion is from the dairy sector. Dairy does represent our largest single agriculture sector, and so it is extremely important to our State. We do have some 2,300 dairies with 1.3 million cows. And you can imagine the lifestyle of 1.3 million cows does present a challenge to wastewater handling.
Nevertheless, the primary strategy for dairy waste management is to contain all waste onsite, and to use wastes as fertilizer on fields and pastures. The water quality concerns do center on both surface water runoff and groundwater impacts.
The regulation of confined animal facilities in California is the responsibility of the State Water Resources Control Board and its nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards, authorized to enforce both State law and Federal law. But also, we have additional authority in our Department of Fish and Game and through their various authorities. One telling difference thoughand I think we've heard reference to it several times this morningis that unlike Federal law, California law does not differentiate regulatory requirements based on herd size. And part of the rationale for that is that a number of small facilities can lead to a cumulative impact, and so therefore, it is everyone's responsibility to participate in good standards.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As part of the Federal program, the NPDES Program, we do have a General Industrial Storm Water Permit for dairies of over 700 head. This involves a Notice of Intent to comply in preparation of an implementation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan. But we also focus our efforts on watershed approaches and strategies to deal with all types of activities and discharges which affect water quality in each watershed.
The elements of our program are many, starting with compliance assistance, in which we do a number of outreach efforts. We work with the National Resource Conservation Service and the University of California to develop training seminars for livestock operators, so that they may best understand and appreciate the difficulty of their task, but, also, to come to some solution.
We've also preparedand I had submitted with our written testimonya brochure to all dairymen, and mailed to all dairymen in the past several months, explaining the rules and the answers to various questions. I was certainly intrigued by the data that was produced by Washington State and would like to get a copy, if I could, for our dairy people.
The watershed approach, for example, in my testimony, goes into great detail about an area, Sonoma-Marin, which is basically north of the city of San Francisco, in which dairymen have come together with the Cooperative Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and our various Water Boards to work on voluntary programs to develop the control of animal waste. That group has prepared a model dairy plan that focuses on structural facilities, nutrient management, and upland management to ensure that runoff from lands that are not affected by dairy waste are not then introduced into the waste stream, also, to determine how much wastewater is being produced in order to properly size the containment pond and properly apply it to land.
Another publication, ''The Sequence,'' and its titleit's a long title, but I think it tells the story of the ''Sequence of Events Leading to Enforcement by the Regional Water Board and What These Enforcement Orders Mean.'' The document is to clearly lay out for the dairy operators what is expected from the regulatory side.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We do have compliance assurance. And this particular year, the Central Valley Board, as Congressman Miller referred to, has stepped up itsand divertedsome of its staff from other programs to focus on dairy compliance and has to get a baseline picture of where we are. We have a permitting program that is varying throughout the State and is explained in more detail, and then our enforcement program.
On the enforcement side, we have created a multi-agency task force to look at the areas of discharge of surface water by dairies. These task forces include the U.S. EPA, our Fish and Game Department, our own Central Board staff, and local authorities. The task force has two functions: one, to coordinate their field activities of the staff members in investigating these situations, but second, to coordinate enforcement which has resulted this year in various enforcement actions at each level of government, the Federal level, the State level, and also some settlement agreements with local district attorneys, and basically resulting in cleaning up on abatement orders that will spell out time schedules for dairy improvements.
Two new dairy program elements I'd like to talk aboutthe State Water Board has undertaken the development of a State-wide Confined Animal Program. They did start with a brochure that was completed in 1994, spelling out a voluntary program. And one of the things that was pointed out in there is that the dairymen themselves have to realize they have a problem and have to be willing to step up and solve that problem. I think we're now getting to the point with some of the enforcement actions that have occurred that everyone is quite aware of the problem, and that people of goodwill are coming forth to participate in a solution.
The Department of Food and Agriculture is working not only with U.S. EPA, Cal/EPA, but with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the university, and the dairy industry, in particular, is developing a Compliance Assistance Program where industry support can be channeled towards the developing and updating the needs of waste management. We think that under such a program, manure and waster generation can be matched with proper agronomic use of the products.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We do believe that there is sufficient authority now that exists at the State level, including our delegated authority in the Federal regulations to be carried out by the States to effectively regulate this industry without further expansion of U.S. EPA's role in this area. We do think that Federal initiatives should complement watershed approaches and should be cast in realistic terms, and with respect to burdens imposed by Federal funding support when available.
California does work in tandem with U.S. EPA and across the whole spectrum of environmental protection, and the dairy area is no different. To the extent possible, weand I think theyprefer environmental protection through voluntary measures rather than enforcement. However, as recent investigations have demonstrated, enforcement is a necessary tool to stimulate individual responsibility, and I appreciated the chairman's question this morning of Congressman Miller about the difference between what the goals are. Enforcement is a tool; the goal is on environmental protection. So I think we should always keep that in mind.
In conclusion, let me just say that environmental problems with confined animal facilities didn't occur overnight; solutions are not going to be found overnight. They will take time. The solution is not in more regulation, as such, but rather in the day-to-day contact of those members of our society that are conducting animal confinement operations. Our success hinges on motivation from within the dairy industry. We do have successful model dairies; we heard some of that alluded to this morning. We see more moving in that direction. Our goal is compliance; our goal is environmental protection. The leadership of the dairy industry concurs in that objective. And I have every confidence that, with the help of all parties, backed up by a strong enforcement ability, the dairy industry will be known as good stewards of the environment.
And thank you very much for having this hearing.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rooney appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COMBEST. Thank you very much.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Rooney, you just stated that enforcement is a tool. Does your agency find it necessary to make an example out of certain operators on occasion to show the other operators how to get in line, or else this is going to happen to them?
Mr. ROONEY. I think what everyone has to realize, it is not a question of making an example. But the question is; do we have a level playing field? Is there an expectation that enforcement will occur? And, where egregious situations occur, enforcement actions do follow. And there is no doubt that that knowledge that there is predictable enforcement does induce all of us to be more stimulated into finding ways to conduct our activities in such a way that we do not find ourselves in violation of regulation.
Mr. POMBO. The goal is, as statedand I believe everybody on the panel would agree, and if you disagree, please tell meis clean water. And to have everybody in compliance with existing laws.
Mr. ROONEY. Absolutely.
Mr. POMBO. Having said that, we have a number of programs at the State and local level; we have a number of programs at the Federal level that are designed to help people come into compliance, operations that arewhether they be old or newto design and develop technology so that they are in compliance and that we have clean water. A lot of producers are afraid to participate in programs, whether they be State or Federal programs, because they are afraid that if they approach EPAif they approach Cal/EPAand say, ''I've got a problem, can you help me fix it?'', that that information is going to be shared with outside groups, and they're going to be the subject of litigation.
Mr. ROONEY. Yes, and that is a problem. I think it occurs across government. In the one hand, we have a basic philosophy that citizens have the right to know what their government is doing. On the other hand, we have the very point that you raised, that people may be resistive to come forward if they feel that whatever they voluntarily divulge is later going to be used against them. And that is a difficult situation.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would hopeand let me say that there is a counterpart in other parts of Environment Protection in that our Department of Toxic Substance Control, for example, works with people to bring industrial sectors into compliance, and that within that program, we would expect compliance to be arranged within a reasonable period of time. And if it isn't, that we would enforce against those people. In this sector, certainly to the extent that we could work with a dairy operator to find solutions to their problems and, at the same time, realize that they were exercising good faith and working to try and solve their problems, that we shouldn't, therefore, be enforcing against them.
As you well know, this particular year we've been working closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to work with the dairy people. I was interested to hear the Idaho comment about Food and Agriculture Department doing both environmental and milk safety inspections at the same time. It's an idea that I've approached to CDFA Secretary Veneman about. I think we could work with the Department of Food and Agriculture.
As I understand, CDFA does inspections twice a year of every dairy in California. If that inspector could at the same time be doing environmental inspections, I think both the dairy and the society, as a whole, could rest assured that improvements would be caught at a time when things perhaps are at an early stage.
Mr. POMBO. Let me ask you, just not specifically on working with you and the fear of enforcement of the law, I don't think that's necessarily the problem, at least not with the operators that I've talked to. The problem becomes the confidentiality of the information they share with you and what you do with that particular set of information
Mr. ROONEY. Yes.
Mr. POMBO. Let me tell you thisand I'd like you to comment on it as well as EPA. I have a case in front of me where a request was made of the California Department of Food and Agriculture for the largest dairy producers in the Central Valley of California. That request was turned down because the information was privileged and confidential manner. After pressure from U.S. EPA, that information was shared with U.S. EPA, who then turned around and released that information which had been obtained as privileged and confidential. It was packagedU.S. EPA claimed it was packaged and dated differently and subsequently under a fora of protection released the names, addresses, TPS location, herd sizes, and other regulatory information to an outside groupan outside group that frequently enters into litigation. That kind of story is probably the biggest detriment to cooperation amongst the ranchers and farmers that are out there in working with both Cal/EPA and U.S. EPA.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROONEY. And unfortunately, with California Department of Food and Agriculture as well. And I can't disagree with your premise that clearly brings into focus the contradictory position we're in on the one hand of having a policy of Freedom of Information to citizens, and on the other hand, the trying to deliver Government services.
In that particular case, as I understand it, the Department of Food and Agriculture had developed that list for a very legitimate voluntary program that they have within their program of Brucellosis control, and that they, in a spirit of cooperation both with Cal/EPA and U.S. EPA, did provide that material under the impression that there was an ongoing law enforcement investigation and the material would not be passed on. Obviously, we at the State level aren't experts on FOIA and certainly defer to U.S. EPA, but it does bring clearly into mind the difficulties that government agencies have in working with each other when their programs can be compromised in theirin this case, in Department of Food and Agriculture's mind, by this revelation of the material, when they had acquired the material on a voluntary basis from the producers who, acting in good faith, were showing their good citizenship in trying to eliminate this particular disease. So, the point's well taken. It is an obvious conflict in our system of values that we have within this Nation.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Cook, would you like to respond to that?
Ms. STANLEY. Mr. Chairman, if I could respond?
Mr. POMBO. Please.
Ms. STANLEY. I think Mr. Rooney has stated the issue very well. There is obviously a tension between both our agencies, a very clear desire to respect the relationship between the farmer and the agencies, particularly in USDA, that provide the type of assistance that they need to operate in compliance. And EPA would plan to continue to respect and try to do everything we can working with USDA to preserve that relationship. I think there is a tension between that and the general need for us to not unnecessarily shield information that ought to be made publicly available, and this
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. In this particular case, we were talking about someone who was requesting herd sizes and locations of those herds. And it was given on a voluntary basis, as part of another program, to a California Department of Food and Agriculture. The EPA took it upon themselves to release that information.
Ms. STANLEY. I understand, and my information is that that was in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. And as I said, I think it points up an area where the two agencies need to more specifically address what would happen in the handling of that information before that information is handed over between the two agencies.
If I could just add one other point in response to the issue of trying to balance the need for confidentiality and the need for getting the advice that will allow farmers to come into compliancewe have recently at EPA put forth a Small Business Compliance Incentives Policy that tries to address both of these goals by allowing farmers and other small businessmen to seek compliance assistance and receive that compliance assistance in order to determine whether they are in violation of the law, and then to come forward voluntarily to disclose their violations and correct them promptly. And under the provisions of this policy, with that disclosure and commitment to address, the agency is willing and able to mitigate all penalties that we would normally access in that situation. And his is a policy that we think can go a long way towards promoting the goal that you, yourself, have stated we all have, which is improved compliance, and not necessarily merely the taking of enforcement actions.
Mr. POMBO. I realize my time is up, Mr. Chairman. The problem is not, again, in complying with the law necessarily and dealing with Cal/EPA and U.S. EPA. What the problem becomes is you setting them up for lawsuits from outside groups, which are many times more expensive to deal with than just dealing with EPA and meeting the law. And you may be able to mitigate their fines and compliance in order for them to work with you. At the same time, you're setting them up for a lawsuit that's going to put them out of business.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Dooley.
Mr. DOOLEY. My question would be to either Mr. Cook or Ms. Stacey. It really gets at the issue of the role that EPA is going to be playing, whether it's one of an enforcement or one of trying to facilitate complianceI guess would be my description. When I'm talking to a lot of my dairy farmers in my district, I'm struck that they really are interested in working as well as they can in order to come into compliance. But at the same time, they have a great concern about EPA primarily being an enforcement agency, and, thus, there's a reluctance to participate because they feel they'll be subject solely to fines and penalties versus EPA playing a role of being a facilitator and bringing them into compliance. And I guess my question is, if you can just elaborate how are you going to overcome this hurdle? Or, are you intending to overcome this problem?
Mr. COOK. We, I think, expect to working with USDA and the States to have very, very clear expectations outlined for animal feeding operations, not just those that might be subject to some kind of regulatory control like a permit, but also for others as well, so that they understand what good stewardship of their feeding operations would be. And then, we would hope working again with the States and USDA to provide that information through technical assistance, provide financial supportand we have financial programs of our own that we can support that compliance with, as well as USDA has them.
And it's only after that effort of establishing the clear expectations and trying to work with the farmers that we might, then, come in and take some kind of enforcement actions. And those actions are very much graduated actions. The initial action, even after all those efforts to bring about voluntary compliance, the initial action may be a very simple one of a warning letter or something like that. And we actually haven't established policy for escalating those actions later on. So I do not believe that a farmer that is proceeding in good faith to comply with the expectations that we have for them has anything to fear from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLEY. I would just make just one point to just elaborate on what Mr. Pombo was saying. What has undermined a little bit of the confidence with some of the dairy farmers was this issue of this FOIA request is because the CRLA, the California Rural Legal Assistance was making a request just on size of dairies. And the concern is that that information was provided to an entity that is not necessarily interested in being a facilitator in terms of compliance, but rather seeking actions in the legal course in order to, if not seek monetary damages, but certainly to, under the Clean Water Act. And that's where I just want to make sure you understand just what the impact of that type of action in terms of maintaining a confidence of the industry in the actions of the EPA.
Mr. COOK. And I understand the concern about third-party suits. I would note here that, to the extent that our regulatory program does result in permits issued, they provide a shield against third party actions. As long as they're complying with the terms of the permit, they have nothing to fear from third party actions. And that shield, actually, if you follow the law, extends on into some areas of nuisance suits, and whatnot, that are plaguing some of these animal feeding operations right now.
Mr. DOOLEY. I guess where I'm a little bit still confused, and I think it should be helpful after we finish this hearing if we can maybe even have some type of a written document. Because we got a situation now where you have a decentralized regulations system, because you've delegated it to the States. You're talking about the EPA now who's putting forth a new plan, also, being involved in a cooperative venture with, I assume, USDA in terms of getting to compliance. So, my dairy farmers are out there saying, ''OK, I've got EPA that's initiating a new action,'' which they're concerned is more of an enforcement action. They have been dealing traditionally with the decentralization through the State which has been administering this. What is their role in this?
And then there is also the commitment now that we're hearing from EPA to be a facilitator, in terms of bringing into compliance, and also USDA having some role in this, too. I'm confused in terms of, if I'm a dairy farmer out there or if I'm making recommendations to my dairy farmers who do they go to in order to voluntarily get into compliance without putting themselves in jeopardy, being subject to an enforcement action by EPA?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOK. Yes, let me just give you a quick outline; 43 States are authorized to operate our permit program on behalf of the Federal Government. In the other States, we operate that program directly, and we've heard mention of one of those States here, the State of Idaho. The States have to have a program that is at least as stringent as the Federal regulations. So if we revise our regulations, they have to revise their regulations to be at least as stringent. Now they can always be more stringent or more demanding.
Our principal focus, I think, in our strategy, and the one we're working on with USDA, is going to be to try to support State implementation of these programs, not only the regulatory program that is authorized, but also the technical assistance and outreach and information that is channeled, both through our offices and also through the USDA channels, of one kind or another. And we hope, ultimately, the States will take leadership in coordinating the implementation.
Just to speak to one specific area that I know of concern, and this is, where does the EPA enforcement come into the picture? We view our enforcement activities, primarily, as a backup. I might just say that, for the most part, inspections of compliance with our requirements is done by the States. The vast majority of the inspection, we do relatively small number of inspections of our own. We occasionally are asked, as we had been recently in Texas, to step in and help them with their Inspection Program because of a lack of resources that they have. And so we serve as a backup, primarily. And we also serve as a backup if, for some reason or another, there is not a strong enforcement program going on at the State level in one or another aspect of our programs. But for the most part, we depend very heavily on the States, and will be depending very heavily on the Department of Agriculture and their activities to bring about compliance to the vast number of animal feeding operations out there.
Mr. DOOLEY. Yes, Mr. Rooney, do you want to comment?
Mr. ROONEY. From the Environmental Protection side, generally, we certainly have adopted the concept of working in task forces in California with local, as well as Federal agencies. And, you have to realize that there are two other players of this scenario that are not at this table, and that's the local district attorneys and the U.S. Attorneys' offices. And they do have an ultimate responsibility in their jurisdictions to look at violations of law on the criminal side.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And so, as an enforcement agency, our Water Boards, for example, are authorized on the civil side to have administrative fines or to order clean up in abatement orders. So we do have another level of government that is charged with the responsibility of exercising their duties, and it could be that, in a given fact situation, these prosecutors feel that facts are so egregious that they have to move forward.
We are going to see from time to time situations in where theand I don't know 100 percent the relationship between the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. EPA, but certainly with our own local district attorneys, we'll seek criminal action on any given environmental crime situation. So I think that may not clarify the issue, but I think it's put in perspective of reality and how the world works.
Mr. COMBEST. It's my understanding that under current regulations that an operation is not required to have a permit simply to exist of raising cattle, hogs, chickens, or whatever, in a confined situation, but has to be permitted in order to discharge; that, if an operator does not have a permit to discharge, but does discharge, then they are subject to fines of up to a million dollars, or huge amounts of money.
And from what I understand, Mr. Cook, the desire tothat there are problems out there that others, even though you'd indicated that certainly nowhere near the entire number of 450,000 feeding operations would be brought under, but it is a desire to bring others under. What is lacking in the regulations and authorities today that you can't reach out and grasp that problem? What is it, new, that is necessary that you don't have?
Mr. COOK. Let me, first, address the legal structure. I think that the basic legal structure of the Clean Water Act is adequate, so that we're not, at this point, seeking amendments to that law.
What we are talking about is modifying our regulations. I mentioned earlier these major trends in the industries that are involved in animal husbandry, and one of these that is directly relevant in answering your question is the change in the poultry industry. Our regulations that we put out in the mid1970s were designed for wet waste management, wet manure management for the poultry industry. And, in fact, now most of the industry uses a dry litter approach to management. That means that the regulatory structure that we have is not relevant.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And the way we structured our regulations, we said that these types of facilities, if they did not have wet manure management, did not have to have a permit unless somebody went on site, did an inspection, and determined that there was a problem that required a permit. And it's because of that kind of inadequacy that we feel we need to modify our regulatory program to reflect the modern industry as it is.
Mr. COMBEST. Well, I have to try to get your response to a question that I think was in Dr. Baker's testimony. And let me just read this 1 paragraph because I think it is very interesting and would like to have a response. The paragraph says,
I read in EPA's recent AFO strategy document that less than 25 percent of the CAFOs in the Nation have permits. Again, I cannot speak for other States, but all CAFOs in our State are covered by some type of authorization or permit, even some of the animal feeding operations, AFOs, that are not large enough to meet CAFO definitions. I would like for EPA to share with us how they arrive at the numbers in 25 percent.
It begs a question: Are there States or EPA regional offices that are not providing the oversight or regulatory framework of CAFOs under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program? And if so, who are they?
Mr. COOK. Let me, first, cite the definition of a CAFO. It's basically an animal feeding operation that has a 1,000 animal units or more. We can reach out to smaller ones under certain circumstances. The last number that we have confidence in suggests that there are about 6,600 confined animal feeding operations by that definition across the country, and that about a quarter to a third of those have Federal NPDES permits. Now these permits might be issued by authorized States in our program, but they would be NPDES permits. Other States who have not issued these NPDES permits, such as Texas which doesn't even have the NPDES authority, have issued their own State permits for these facilities, and that's what Mr. Baker was referring to. And there are quite a number of these State-issued permits over and above the national NPDES-issued permits across the country.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of the interests that we have here is to try to make sure that the permit programs across the country in the NPDES Program have at least a minimum level playing field for all, that at least there is a minimum set of requirements in place that make sense for all. And it's because of that that we're now pushing to issue NPDES permits to all confined animal
Mr. COMBEST. Well, let me just ask you, are the permits that would be provided in Texas less than would be required by EPA?
Mr. COOK. I don't know the exact details. My understanding is that the regulatory requirements in place are quite good. And hopefully, within less than 60 days, the State of Texas will be authorized to run the NPDES Program, at which point they would have to have at least as stringent requirements in place as we do. And they would be expected to issue NPDES permits to all of the confined animal feeding operations. This is a new development that will take place quite soon if all goes well.
Mr. COMBEST. Dr. Baker, did you wish to comment on that?
Mr. BAKER. I would just say that our State permits are consistent with the region VI general permit, and in fact, require everything it requires, plus some in addition to that.
Mr. COMBEST. So, while your numbers, Mr. Cook, may indicate that not all are under the national, that does not indicate that they're not under some permitting or regulations, and, in some cases, maybe even exceed the national standards?
Mr. COOK. That's correct.
Mr. COMBEST. Well, that might be a little better indicator of actually how many potential problem areas there are rather than by simply stating that they do not happen to all be under national. Is that data available?
Mr. COOK. I understand what you're asking for. That is, how many animal feeding operations are under some kind of permit. Mr. COMBEST. Come under a permit to protect the water
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOK. Yes.
Mr. COMBEST. Right. Regardless of whose permit it is.
Mr. COOK. We do not have that data. I'll see what we do have and provide that to the committee as well as we can.
Mr. COMBEST. Yes, I think that gets at the root, of what our concern is really, how many potential problems do we have? Not the fact that they don't happen to fall under a national permit. And it's sort of back to the reason for that I was interested in having this hearing to try to determine, obviously with an interest in having clean water, is it necessary to create additional Federal regulation? Or, is there regulation that currently is on the books, be it State or national, that is addressing the problem sufficiently?
Mr. COOK. Right. Let me just mention two things here that I think have led us to feel that some supplementation to what's going on in the Federal program is appropriate; one of them is that we think that a number of the programs across the country, be they Federal or State-run programs, have not been updated sufficiently to reflect the current conditions. And I have only to suggest to you that there are many States, probably as many as half or more of the States that are currently modifying their approaches to dealing with animal feeding operations to reflect the current industry, to demonstrate to you that there is a very widespread feeling that there is a need for updating the basic regulatory programs.
The second thing has to do with implementation. The existence of a good solid, sound regulatory program doesn't mean much unless it's well implemented. And it's that aspect that we are also giving a great deal of attention to, again, with a great deal of effort given to trying to get voluntary compliance through a variety of means.
Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Stenholm.
Mr. STENHOLM Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
A general statement before a couple of questions. And your last statement, Mr. Cook, is one I want to build on, because I think we've seen in the last 2 or 3 weeks some very encouraging rhetoric now, coming first with the change in the tenure of the implementation of the Food Quality Protection Actvery, very healthful signs there, building on a partnership between USDA and EPA. Again, a very positive sign, and one of which many of us are taking a lot of hope that we're about to go from the confrontation to cooperation stages of which you, yourself, have just stated. Voluntary compliance will bring a lot more success than some of the regulatory top-down procedures that we've been accustomed to, particularly from your agency. But that's in the past. The four general themes of sound science, transparency, public input, and transition time that work extremely well with FQPA also fits the subject we're talking today. And I've heard this through the tenure of the two States and the two agencies here. That we're saying that now.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And then you go to the next step, and if we are going to solve a problemand no one disputes that there are problems, and, in some cases, serious problems that have to be addressed to do that. It is extremely important for the general public to accept, and our agencies and implementors to accept, that if we are going to solve them, first, we're going to need to have research to find the best answers before we attempt to mandate that solutions occur because of someone's theory. We're going to have to start saying, ''OK, we have a problem.'' And I like to phrase it way.
EPA should be the flag-thrower. But in the partnership, once the flag is thrown, then, you have got to turn to USDA in cooperation with our States to say, ''OK, we have a problem. How can we best solve that problem?'' How can we bring the voluntary compliance of, in the agriculture States, the NRCS, in which we have ample evidence and past solutions to where we can solve problems, where you know there's a problem, and you have a common-sense way to get there?
But, the first thing we've got to do is acknowledge it may take a little bit of time; hence, the transition time, and also, the expenditure of research dollars into those general problem areas. And then we get into cost-share. We've run into serious problems because we have, and I know in Texas and Dr. Baker would acknowledge, we've made some mistakes in attempting to solve a problem before we had the solution. Someone said we had a problem; we had to solve it, and we've caused a lot of producers to spend a lot of unnecessary money in which we've still not solved the problem.
But to kind of sum up the statement here, I take is very positive and look forward to working with you. And I know this committee states the same because that's been the statements today, of recognizing that we're going to solve these problems with a partnership based on sound science. And then, we, as a Congress, are going to need to look at making sure that we fund those necessary research and sound science approaches, and encourage the legal, as has been brought in by Mr. Rooney a moment ago, the legal implications of some of this is going to have to be addressed, also. And I think the sooner we do the cooperativeness that you have indicated in your testimony today, the sooner we can perhaps bring restraint to those that believe that litigation is the only way to solve problems; it is not.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And with that general statement, a couple of questions. To EPA, today, how much of your compliance and enforcement activities are actually carried out by full-time EPA employees versus contract employees?
Ms. STANLEY. Congressman, I can't give you a precise answer at this time. And I'll provide that information for you.
Mr. STENHOLM Also a part of that question, can you tell us how much you spend on contracting out for these activities? Do these contract employees undergo any kind of training before they are sent out into the field? I would appreciate an answer submitted back to that.
Ms. STANLEY. We'll provide that.
Mr. STENHOLM And also, as weand again, I don't want to ask my questions or make statements in a negative, because I sincerely believe that we have the opportunity to move in a positive direction, both with the FQPA and in regard to the Clean Water Act, that we've talked. And I believe that if we have sincere dedicated efforts, as you have testified, that we can make some very, very significant progress.
There is great concern, though, being raised by farmers and ranchers about EPA's Office of Enforcement efforts to seek out and collect information from trade associations, USDA and States, regarding environmental data farmers and ranchers have voluntarily shared with government officials. If that is being doneand I understand it is being doneI would sincerely ask EPA to reexamine that policy in light of what you are now acknowledging is your new stated goal. And to recognize that if, in fact, we have farmers and ranchers who have entered into voluntary agreements under the farm Fair Act of 1986, that information was shared under one set of criteria. If that is to be used for another reason and purpose, it's going to be very difficult ever to get farmers and ranchers to comply with what we are now talking about doing. So I would encourage you, if you are doing that, to seize and desist. And the question is then will Administrator Browner enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with Secretary Glickman to protect that information? So I guess, you don't have to answer that now unless you can answer that affirmatively at this stage.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And since she is not here, I would gather you would wait. [Laughter.]
But it will be very important that you do enter into that Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretary regarding this information to protect it until we can come up with a mutually agreeable plan that will, in fact, preserve this extremely important question of privacy and of information, and suspicion about what it might be used for.
Mr. COOK. Mr. Stenholm, let me respond generally to your remarks. I very much appreciate what you have said. And I do feel, based on the work that we've done thus far in the unified animal feeding operation strategy with Department of Agriculture, that you will find that it addresses your concerns about research and about transition times and cost sharing and things like that to the extent that we can possibly. And as far as the specific issue goes of information-sharing, I think we also will try to deal with it in the unified strategy. The Department of Agriculture has a tremendous amount of information that is important to understanding how to deal with animal feeding operations, apart from what they have on individual farms which I think is your concern. And so we want to try to sort out that, which appropriately should be shared, from that which appropriately should remain in some separate category. And hopefully, we can address that as part of the strategyand I do expect that both the administrator and the secretary will sign that strategy.
Mr. STENHOLM That is very critical. And, Mr. Chairman, I know that you and Chairman Pombo and other members of this committee feel very, very strongly along the same lines. And if we are, in fact, going to proceed in a positive way, that's going to be very, very critical.
And one last observation; unfortunatelybut I respect their right to believe thatthere are those among us, both within government and outside that believe that we can produce food in abundance without technology. They believe it honestly and sincerely, and I quarrel not with them. But that is a minority view. We cannot feed ourselves and the world without the utilization of technology. And the question is how to use the technology that has presented America with the most abundant quantity, best quality, safest food supply, at the lowest cost to our people of any other country in the world.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And when we start talking about compliance with regulations, what we do that adds costs to our producers that does not solve the problem is guaranteeing that we will not have those statements be able to be made by future people at this table or future members at this desk. That's the question we have. But there should be no misreading of my statements or anyone else. We do have a problem. But the best way to solve it is the tone of the conversation and the statement that we've had today. But at the same time, it is important for everybody to understand, we've got to deliver on this rhetoric. We do not have the luxury of slipping back into the problems that have gotten us to the point we are today.
And we've got to look for ways to put research and to find solutions, and when people have innovative ideas, to listen to them and try them before we pass rules and regulations that impose costs without any real hope of doing anything other than satisfying somebodies philosophy.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Barrett.
Mr. BARRETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, perhaps a general comment.
I believe that the Clean Water Act states that it's the policy of Congress to recognize, and preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and the rights of our Statesand I emphasis Statesto eliminate pollution. And I was particularly interested in Commissioner Baker's comments in this regard. Because my State of Nebraska, like Texas and many others, has a very strong risk-based regulatory approach to livestock feeding operationsone of 43 States perhapsthat are issuing permits, doing an excellent job. And it just doesn't appear to a lot of people that the draft strategy is taking into account, adequately, the existing programs that are out thereas the Commissioner has saidand is building on the successes of the programs that are actually underway out there and working very, very, very well.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It appears to a lot of people that the EPA is going in one direction, and that direction is entirely counter to Congress' intent. So just a general comment on this, not necessarily my own belief, but a perception out there in the country with a lot of people. Farmers and ranchers are very much in agreement, I think, with that very, very general statement.
My question would build on what Chairman Combest was talking about a moment ago, and that is the fact that the Clean Water Act does not require all feeding operations to have permits. So in other words, feeding operations that don't discharge don't have to have permits; that's generally an acceptable statement, I believe. Well, the draft strategy repeatedly states that the EPA will significantly expand the number of facilities that need permits. Since the Clean Water Act doesn't require permits, why does the EPA believe, then, that more permits are going to solve the water quality problems out there? Would you respond to that, please?
Mr. COOK. Yes, thank you. Let me just note here that we agreed that Nebraska has as strong a program, and we congratulate them and we want to work closely with the States that have good programs and not only the State Environmental Protection officials, but also the State agricultural people who we think have an enormous amount to contribute to this.
On the specific question, we actually have the authority to issue permits where there is a discharge or a potential for a discharge. And so the question is; where is there potential for a discharge? And I think one of the things that we're finding is that potential is far more widespread than there are permits actually issued, in many cases. As we look at the actual concerns that exist with discharges and problems across the country, we find a number of these facilities have not had permits. And we need to extend the reach of the permit programs so that we are imposing requirements on these facilities so that they will not discharge as they have in the past.
Mr. BARRETT. Well, you make it very clear that you do plan to considerably expand the facilities that need permits.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOK. That's correct, except it willeven with an expansionstill represent only a few percent of the total number of animal feeding operations across the country.
Mr. BARRETT. Any comments, Ms. Stanley? Would you agree?
Ms. STANLEY. No.
Mr. BARRETT. Any comments?
Ms. STANLEY. No.
Mr. BARRETT. I don't want to neglect the gentleman on the end down here. Mr. Reed, is it?
Mr. REED. Yes, it is.
And I don't mind being neglected. [Laughter.]
Mr. BARRETT. Let's talk to you a little bit.
I'm a little concerned about the USDA's involvement in this strategy, this draft strategy. When the EPA first announced this back in March. Mr. Combest and Mr. Stenholm were absolutely on target when they asked the question; where is the USDA? And my question is; where is the USDA? What is the involvement now in the draft strategy? How are you going about it? Is this staff, at the staff level? Is it administrative people? Give us a little idea of where you have been, and why not?
Mr. REED. OK. At the staff level, to a certain degree, we've always been involved. But now, at the policy level, and now with the Secretary officially designating the NRCS as the lead agency in USDA we will ensure that all of the appropriate coordination is done.
Mr. BARRETT. The Secretary, excuse me, then is providing some guidance?
Mr. REED. Absolutely. And he is watching this thing personally, almost daily. And as we proceed in working with EPA, the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, and all of the appropriate leadership at USDA, will be, and are, actively engaged in the decisionmaking process. The Secretary wants to make sure that whatever's done, that USDA is doing all that it can to make sure that, from an agricultural perspective, that decisions are made based on the best science and common sense. And that we do everything that we can to help farmers in a voluntary mode.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BARRETT. I think there was a concern early on, Mr. Bayerand I hope that it is no longer a concern about some minor turf issues, battles, some minor labor disputes, and so forth? Whether or not that's fair, respond to that if you will.
Mr. REED. You mean, within USDA?
Mr. BARRETT. Within USDA.
Mr. REED. Yes, and I would not characterize it as minor. It's major, and I think the Secretary, however, is dealing with that appropriately. And by his involvement and the involvement of the deputy secretary, I think we can work through those turf issues.
Mr. BARRETT. One final question: Is funding adequate?
Mr. REED. No. Indeed, it is not.
Mr. BARRETT. I expected that answer. Thank you very much. [Laughter.]
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. COMBEST. Mr. Farr.
Mr. FARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Rooney's from California and I'm from California. And let me give you a situation that's happening out there, and I'd just kind of like to clarify what has to be done.
A big, large dairy operation next to an artichoke fieldrunoffs from both of them have gotten into the drainage ditches. The drainage ditches run into a national marine estuary, and the estuary runs into a national marine sanctuary. As I understand it, in order to get the permits necessary to control the discharge, we have to have the Corp of Engineers, because we have it into a waterway. And Mr. Rooney, you can tell me in California, we have to have the California EPA; we have to have the U.S. EPA; we have to have the California Water Quality Control Board involved. We have to have Fish and Wildlife at the State level and probably at the Federal level; we have to have the county health official, the agriculture commissioner, and maybe the planning department, zoningthe code enforcement, local? Is that fair? Do we also have to have the NRCS there?
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROONEY. first, we can lump a number of the California groups together. And the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the State Water Quality Board, and Cal/EPA are one family, and
Mr. FARR. But each of them require that a paper has to be processed
Mr. ROONEY. Well Cal/EPA, itself, as an agency wouldn't, but its functional arm if we're talking about quality, water quality, the Regional Board would probably be the lead agency in this situation. Water quantity is handled by the State Board, and there is an appeals process from the Regional Board decision to the State Board. So basically, from the Cal/EPA family, the point of contact, I would think would be with the Regional Board.
Mr. FARR. Oh, you have the Coastal in there, also.
Mr. ROONEY. Now the Coastal Commission as a key land-use planning agency isand you're absolutely rightbrings the next level of intrigue in California Government.
Mr. FARR. OK.
Mr. ROONEY. And that is that the Coastal Commission, Fish and Game, are part of the resources agency and they would have a role to play. I assume this is in the Monterey area?
Mr. FARR. Yes, and this has happened. Now, you said that you've had a coordinating effort. Can you tell me one place in California where all of these agencies have ever agreed on anything?
Mr. ROONEY. Oh, I think whether they agree, well, they finally come to
Mr. FARR. No, I mean, you agreed because you've got a problem that the farmers had been doing the same thing they've always been doing. The new laws have now required them to get permits. Whether there are going to be cease and desist orders are going to be on them.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROONEY. Well, as you well know, that people coming and enforcing different laws come to the table with different perspectives. In the general sector, we have a system of permit assistance centers, for example, which are designedand they have not, I will say, probably focused on agriculture issues but on general issues.
Mr. FARR. See, but this is the problem, and I'm going to avouch every one of you at the table; I'm probably the most green member of this committee. And I think that, we, in Government, Federal, localscrewed it up worse than anything. There is no such place in America where there is one-stop shopping. A farmer cannot because he's got to go to every one of these agencies, and they don't have the time to do it. Nobody comes there. They see they have to get the permit. We got permit assistance; you can come file it in, but that's not going to cover you for the Coastal Commission; that's not going to cover you for the county planning agency. That's not going to cover you for the feds.
Mr. ROONEY. The permit assistance process comprises 13 centers that are established in California are to coordinate local and State agencies of allwe do not have the Federal side, but we do
Mr. FARR. Yes, but here you're in the Federal building. We're talking aboutand this is a Federal problem, so where is that assistance center?
Mr. ROONEY. The nearest one to you would be San Jose.
Mr. FARR. OK, so the farmer has to take a day off, drive to San Jose, and sit down and go through this permitand it's probably going toany filing fees required?
Mr. ROONEY. None.
Mr. FARR. OK. They're going to get permit assistance, and then they're going to find out that this doesn't even cover everything. That it's got to go to the feds, and they have different regulations.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do this all the time. I spend more time, Mr. Chairman, in my district sitting around the table with everybody in there who's paid for by GovernmentFederal, State, and localand I cannot get your administrators, who all work for your departments, to agree on things. One side will say, ''That's fine with me. That meets all my conditions.'' And the other one says, ''No, that's not enough.''
So what happens is you end up with ayou say, all right, here's the perfect solution that we can all agree on. Now, this usually takes 6 months of paperwork and meeting. And then what the solution is, it's going to cost you $50,000, $100,000 to do it.
Now there's a bill on the floor today called unfunded mandate. And I'm almost to the point where, if our best regulations cannot come up with a cost-affordable solution, we ought not to be doing it. I think that it's an embarrassment that we have laws for the right purposes, but we're screwing up the administration of these laws. And I think that that's why this concern is here today. I challenge you, I challenge you to find one place in America where all the governments who do regulation of our environmental purposesfor agriculture, for soil erosion.
Let me tell you what's happened right now, Mr. Chairman. In this same district, which has the El Nino, we've blown out all the rivers; we've had the worst floods in history, more rain and everything, all the rivers have justwe have soil deposits coming down in the Moss Landing Harbor in Elkhorn Sloop. Some of those soil deposits have old DDT. We haven't used DDT in years. The U.S. EPAhas told them that they cannot dump those trudge materials in the ocean.
Now outside the ocean, we have all the marine scientists who have said this ocean has been dumpedrivers have been dumping this stuff in there for years, and they have no negative affect, no negative affect on the marine. But because there's DDT in the mud, you can't do it. You have to dispose of them on land. All right, the Harbor District says, ''Fine, we'll do that.'' They find a site; now it's going to cost them $10 million to dispose that. So, what I'm saying, they got a $2 million budget. And everybody says, ''Well, that's not our problem.''
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We're not finding solutions, we're just telling me people, ''You've covered my responsibility, my jurisdiction.'' I've covered my self, because you got a permit from me. But if it's not affordable to do, it's not cost effective to do, and it's not covering other agencies, I think that we ought toif we're going to really move to one-stop shopping, we've got to be accountable for every agencies along the line. I don't care whether it's the feds, the State, or the local. You've all got to be at the same table, because you're all paid for by the same people. And I don't think we're doing a very good job of it. And if you don't believe me, come to my district and come to these meetings.
Mr. ROONEY. No, I think your district is a good example, and your predecessor fought hard for the Paharo River, for example. There was an obvious need for the Paharo River outfall to the ocean to be cleared. We have a situation in which a river was designed to carry a certain water flow, and in 1995 it didn't because that flow was impacted in
Mr. FARR. I know and that was after my predecessor had left and I inherited that because the river had not been cleaned up.
Mr. ROONEY. And that's exactlyand your point about permits was certainly a telling factor in that process.
Mr. FARR. Why we got that done? Because it was a presidentially-declared disaster. And the only times you guys can ever move on something in a uniform fashion is when you have a presidentially-declared disaster which gives you the ability to make administrative decisions that you wouldn't otherwise be able to make.
Mr. ROONEY. It might be helpful to remind the subcommittee that Governor Wilson had requested a disaster declaration and had issued a general permit for Fish and Game, so that the Fish and Game portion could be addressed.
Mr. FARR. But that's my point.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROONEY. And we all admit it was after the fact. And that was a telling demonstration of how
Mr. FARR. Well, my point is, again, that you could only do that when you had a presidentially-and gubernatorially-declared disaster. Is that what it's going to take? I hope not, because these are going to mount up.
I'm probably in a more environmentally-sensitive area than most of the members of the committee. And we probably have more government regulation than most members of this committee. And my constituents don't know where to go. They're fed up. And the farmers have challenged them. They said, ''I'll do all the stuff you want me to do. I'll cooperate in all the watershed management. I'll be the cleanest farmer in the world. Just tell me I only have to deal with you once. I don't want to go around in circles and get one commitment from one and get busted by another.''
Mr. ROONEY. Yes, well the point that was raised of having two sovereigns in one landmassthe Federal system and the State systemdoes complicate the problem. On top of that, we have years of an intricate web of regulations that have been built up, all with well meaning objectives and
Mr. FARR. How much time would it take for us, for you, if you made a commitment to this committee to get all that webthose two sovereigns to be under one system like you've done in Cal/EPA? You talked about your family of States agencies.
Mr. ROONEY. Yes.
Mr. FARR. What would it take to get the family of Federal agencies all at that table? I think we ought to start in our appropriations bills demanding this happen, that we either get a result of governments being able to collaborate or we have some penalties on people that won't cooperate, that are on the government-side, that won't get it done.
Mr. ROONEY. I'm not in the position to opine about the Federal process, but certainly we in the permit assistance center side would certainly welcome a Federal presence in those one-stop shopping concepts so that we could, when we have base utilization, reutilization of base issues and we would
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FARR. Would it be a helpful if we put in report language that where those assistance centers exist that the feds would have to be there?
Mr. ROONEY. We would certainly welcome them.
Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, that might be something our committee might consider.
Mr. COMBEST. We'd appreciate it.
Mr. FARR. Thank you.
We'll, I hope we're notand this is to admonish my Federal friends that we have really got to move on some of these decisions. Post Highway 1this isn't your responsibility, but it took me a whole weekend of getting everybody on a list longer than the one I just read to agree on whether you could dump dirt.
Mr. ROONEY. Yes.
Mr. FARR. I mean the whole highway was built by dumping dirt in the ocean, and now we can't dump dirt in the ocean. And we had 275,000 cubic yards of dirt to move. A dump truck moves 8 cubic yards; you can imagine how many dump trucks. Highways have been closed since February 2, and it's still not open. And it's all because of these regulations that say you can't dump the dirt overboard. Or if you dump it on land, you've got to go through all these permitting agencies. Even the people who want the dirt can't get it because they can't get the permit because there's too many regulatory bodies that can't make a decision.
So, I'm frustrated because I want these laws to work. And I think we ought to start by pushing you all to make sure they work, that we go to an end at one stop. It doesn't guarantee that everybody gets a permit, but at least we don't have to confuse them with bureaucratic runaround. Just think if you had to get your driver's license by having every party or car checked by a different agency. [Laughter.]
Mr. ROONEY. One other piece I might inform the committee about on the permit assistance centers, hopefully, starting on Friday the 15th, we're going to extend this process to the Internet, so that people can log on, identify the nature of the business for business permits, the nature of business they wish to conduct, and that the computer will generate a list of the permits they'll need and who to contact. The eventual goal of this process is to, then, allow the person to input the data directly on their initial start-up contact. And if the situation is so confusing that that isn't going to be possible, then to set up an appointment to sit down and meet with the regulators to move ahead. The project we've had in a test form for several months now, and we're hoping to release it to the public in June. And to try and, again, bring some semblance of simplification to the citizens of the State.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, again, I appreciate your comments about the Federal participation. It could be helpful.
Mr. COMBEST. Sort of connected with Congressman Stenholm's earlier questions in regards to the contracting out, and the cost and expense, and so forth, I would be very interested in, I'm sure there's not an answer to this todayand continuing to pursue and to follow the shared cost and, I agree, I think a cooperative program between USDA and EPA is certainly in the right direction. Obviously, USDA has a great number of people in the field and on the ground, and I would expect that as EPA becomes more involved in implementing whatever comes from the draft strategy that those personnel will be used. But we don't have any authorization, rights, or privileges for EPA's budget, but we do for USDA's budget, and we recognize how strapped that it is and would want to pursue how payment of the USDA personnel is absorbed or whether it comes out of USDA's budget, see specifically monies that have been requested for this purpose, either by EPA or USDA so that we don't just absorb that as we move forward and utilize more of USDA's personnel that is there.
In comments in response to the draft strategy, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association stated that, in regard to recent allegations of water contamination from CAFOs, they made this quote in their letter or in their comments, quote, ''Many of the recent problems attributed by the media to the growth of the CAFO industry occurred before many of the States where the problems occurred, No. 1, had adequate regulations in place, or two, were adequately enforcing existing regulations. In nearly every case concerning CAFOs, either environmental requirements did not meet NPDES standards or the standards were not enforced,'' end quote. Would you agree with that statement?
Mr. COOK. I do agree. I think that we have had many situations of concern across the country where, when we've looked into them, we found that the facilities have not met the standards and, of course, they've not been enforced in those circumstances. We also have other situations where there weren't necessarily requirements that had been imposed. For example, a collection of very small feeding operations that together were creating problems for water quality, and those would only require permit in the Federal program. And if someone had gone in and made a determination that they should have permits because of their impacts. And also, because there are other situations where impacts have come because of shortcomings of the Federal program. And even if they were in compliance, those shortcomings made it so that there were still impacts on water quality.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COMBEST. Does the EPA plan to require application plans for fertilizer application by crop producers who apply fertilizers other than manure to their land?
Mr. COOK. We're working with USDA to try to figure out what the best solution is to the nutrient management problem. I think that USDA has a lot of expertise in preparation of nutrient management plans. That's something we want to encourage, and it is possibly something that we would require in permits as we move along the line. But we would expect that there would be some kind of assistance provided to develop those plans if they were required.
Mr. COMBEST. So it would be possible that a farmer would have to have a permit to apply fertilizer? I mean, that is a possibility?
Mr. COMBEST. I was talking about waste management here, I'm sorry. Are you talking about
Mr. COMBEST. Do you plan to require application plans for fertilizer application by crop producers who apply fertilizers other than manure?
Mr. COOK. Other than manure. No, we would not, other than where manure was applied, if there was a combination of the two, I think we'd want the nutrient management plans to take account of both.
Mr. COMBEST. All right. But in the case, then, where a farmer does apply manure to their land, there would potentially be a permit required? Or if it's manure and other types of fertilizer?
Mr. COOK. Right.
Mr. COMBEST. I would be very interested in seeing how we're going to assure that in a timely fashion, a permit could be requested and received with the normal course of planting a crop, and how or who is going to be the agency on hand for that farmer to be able to apply for that permit. Those kinds of things sort of in regards to what Mr. Farr was talking about do concern, obviously, us a great deal, is that it is something that, No. 1, it can be handled and without creating an entirely new need to have a new Federal agencies in every county in the country, and it certainly would have to be something, I think, that seems to be workable. You had mentioned when I was talkingor mentioned it talking earlier about thewhat do you need that you don't have today? And one of the things you'd mentioned was specifically a change in the way that poultry production was versus how it was 20 years ago. That is understandable; I don't think that your proposedthat your regulatory changes are going to simply be limited to that, but I would want to encourage you to the extent possible in solving the problems that are existing, or perceived to exist, and try to do everything possible to look at existing regulation today that may not simply be implemented, rather than strictly coming up with a new regulation to cover a regulation that is already there that's not being enforced so that we don't end up with a whole entirely new list of regulations to comply with the optionI mean with the optimum being that we satisfy the need and the concern and the problem, but that we don't create an entirely new regulatory burdens that we have to deal with.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. Stabenow.
Ms. STABENOW. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would first apologize for coming in late to the hearing, but I was in a mark-up in the House Science Committee, where we were, in fact, passing a bill on technology transfer which I believe relates very much to potential solutions of what we're talking about today. We have an agriculture research bill that this subcommittee and committee worked very hard on that is, hopefully, going to be moving to the President very shortly with some increased dollars for agricultural research, and if we can couple that with being able to transfer that technology so we put more tools in the hands of producers, I think that that is a critical part of the way we address this.
I would like to share, though, just an experience in Michigan. As we talk about cooperative efforts occurring at the Federal level, I would urge you to look at our Department of Environment Quality and Department of Agriculture in Michigan that has formed a partnership with the State's agricultural community to develop an action plan for addressing environmental concerns. And after working on this for a year, they have produced the Non-Point Source Solution Strategy. This last January, they announced it. It contains a number of points on which the departments are working together cooperatively with the agriculture community. They have an education program for producers, and environmental assurance program facilitated by Cooperative Extension Service, and a certification program for producers who complete training in a variety of environmental issues. And I also know that the industry, the agriculture industry, and a number of different portions of that I think particularly of the pork producers who develop their own environmental initiative. And we have over 200 producers in Michigan that have received training as a part of this program.
So I would encourage the effort to work together cooperatively to look at opportunities for training, for education, and creating incentives to be able to get the job done. These are critical issues that need to be addressed. Hopefully, by focusing on research and technology transfer, we can provide the tools to help make that possible more quickly. But I would say, also, it's very important that our agencies be working together, as the agencies at the State levels are in order to do this in a way that is productive, cost effective, and ultimately will be solve the problem.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I don't know if anyone would want to comment on that, but would hope you'd move in that direction.
Mr. COOK. Well, I just would say we strongly feel the same way. We hope that, not only can we duplicate the cooperation between the State departments in other States, but also we hope to have a similar relationship with USDA and EPA. And we're certainly working hard on it now.
Ms. STABENOW. Good. Thank you.
Mr. COMBEST. And thank you very much, Ms. Stabenow.
Dr. Baker, on page 4 of your testimony, you've indicated that ''We are not an NPDES-designated Statethat is a whole other storyand therefore, have dual-permitting system with some of the toughest regulations in the country.'' What is that other story?
Mr. BAKER. Mr. Chairman, we've been in negotiations for a number of years and probably are further down that road today than we have ever been. We've just had our
Mr. COMBEST. Further down the road to designation?
Mr. BAKER. For designation as an NPDES State. We just had our application declared complete. And so we are very hopeful that we will be receiving that delegation sometime within the next several days.
Mr. COMBEST. And that's what you spoke of earlier, Mr. Cook? In an incidence such as that where you have stricter requirements, just in a normal practical course of business, if I had a confined llama breeding facility in Texas, who would I have towhose regulations would I have to met?
In a State where you had more stringent requirements, the lesser Federal or the more stringent State?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COOK. Well, once the State is authorized, you only have to meet the State requirements.
Mr. COMBEST. Does the State requirement in an area where it happens to be more stringent reduce to the national standard?
Mr. COMBEST. No.
Mr. COMBEST. It stays the same.
Mr. COOK. Under the Clean Water Act, the State has the authority to be more stringent. They cannot be less stringent. So whatever the approved State program is, is all that has to be complied with. There is no Federal programs superimposed.
Mr. COMBEST. All right.
Mr. BAKER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that we have had the kind of a working relationship that the Congresswoman from Michigan has mentioned with our industry where we've been able to implement those kind of regulations that go beyond the minimum requirements of the feds.
Mr. COMBEST. Right.
Mr. BAKER. And we've had good buy-in from our industry for the most part. I would like to say that I was a little surprised by Mr. Cook's mention that we had requested assistance from Federal EPA on inspections within the State. That came as some surprise, Mr. Cook. I was not aware of that.
In fact, it was just within the last few days that we even became aware of some of the contract inspectors being in the State. We understand that, since we are not a delegated State, that that is completely within your purview, but we were surprised by thator at least I was. I was just not aware of it.
Mr. COOK. I would just confirm, my understanding is that we were requested to provide inspectors, particularly in west Texas.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BAKER. I intend to make a phone call as soon as I'm out of here about that. [Laughter.]
Mr. COMBEST. I can tell them some good places out there in west Texas.
Mr. BAKER. May I make another comment?
Mr. COMBEST. Yes, you may.
Mr. BAKER. The mention has been made, again, about a minimum set of requirements. And I'm not sure what the destination looks like once we go down that road, but I will tell you that I am some concerned that that means that the requirements of the high plains of Texas or the western Nebraska that Mr. Barrett talked about, are the same that is required in some high rainfall area of the southeastern part of the United States. I don't think that can be validated by the science today. It does not represent good risk analysis. And I hope that's not the track that we're about to go down.
Mr. COMBEST. Well, that's a good point. And I hope that point is taken, because obviously, it is important to recognize the differences in geology, geography, and rainfall, and those things which have attributed to runoff. And those of us who don't get, we get about this much water a year in rainfall, obviously, we think there should be some differences in that in areas that come under a lot heavier.
Mr. COOK. We try as much as possible in designing our regulatory requirements to have performance standards which can be met on a basis that is flexible and adaptable to local circumstances. And for example, the basic requirement that's in place now for CAFOs is that they control the runoff from their facilities up to the 24-hour, 25-year storm. Now exactly how they do that, we don't spell out. There are some shortcomings even with that performance standard because it's more appropriate for some rainfall conditions than it is for others. And that's one of the things that we're revisiting. But that will give you a sense for how we try to structure our regulations to deal with the very, very great differences from one part of the country to another.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COMBEST. Thank you all for being here. And there was some questions asked that obviously you had some followup that would come on. There may be others as well. And as you move forward with implementation, we will continue to have very much concern. But I do appreciate your willingness to spend some time with us and answer some questions.
And I will just end, I guess, with what Mr. Reed started with originally. That our hope is that all of the efforts that are made in trying to deal with this problem are all based upon good science. And I think in doing so, we would recognize in that the effort that many people have taken on their own with great expenseand some of those I am very personally familiar with, with some heavily confined feeding operations in my part of the State of Texasand recognize again what I think has been exemplary in many areas of their efforts to make sure that there was not a problem. And I think if it does have a good scientific basis, that some of the fears that our constituents have as well as many of us may have will all be for nil.
Thank you very much for coming, and the hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:28 p.m., the subcommittees adjourned subject to the call of the Chairs.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
Statement of Michael Cook
Members of the subcommittees, I am Mike Cook, director of the Office of Wastewater Management and with me is Elaine Stanley, Director of the Office of Compliance at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
We very much appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today about the administration's efforts to restore and protect America's waters and the role that animal feeding operations (AFOs) can play in improving water quality.
We are very pleased to be joined by our colleagues from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We realize how critical cooperation between our agencies is to meeting our Nation's natural resource goals. Just last week, Administrator Carol Browner and Secretary Dan Glickman addressed a national meeting on AFO issues and expressed their commitment to work together to develop an effective common sense approach to animal manure management.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have three major goals in speaking with you today:
We want to briefly outline the big picture for clean waterwhat are the problems and how do we propose to solve the problems;
We want to describe how animal feeding operations fit into the clean water picture; and we want to describe how we at EPA plan to work hand-in-hand with USDA to develop a joint, unified strategy to minimize the threats to the environment and public health posed by animal feeding operations.
I.Clean Waterthe Big Picture
On February 19, 1998, at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, President Clinton and Vice President Gore announced the administration's Clean Water Action Plan. This Action Plan, initiated on the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act (CWA), expresses our intent to finish the job of cleaning up America's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters to protect the environment and the health of all Americans.
Clean WaterSuccesses and Remaining Challenges
The Action Plan recognizes that the quality of our waters has improved dramatically as a result of a cooperative effort by Federal, State and local governments to reduce water pollution and protect natural resources. All Americans can be proud of the progress the Nation has made toward clean water over the past 25 years.
Twenty-five years ago, sewage treatment facilities served only 85 million people. Today, the number of people served by adequate sewage treatment has more than doubled to 173 million.
Industrial pollution controls established since 1972 prevent billions of pounds of pollutants from being discharged each year.
Twenty-five years ago, wetland losses were estimated at 460,000 acres per year but today, wetland losses have been reduced significantly.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Since 1982, soil erosion from cropland has been reduced by more than one-third, saving over a billion tons of soil each year and substantially reducing sediments, nutrients and other pollutants to waters.
Despite significant progress in reducing water pollution, serious water quality problems persist throughout the country. Recent State reports of water quality conditions indicate that: 36 percent of monitored rivers and streams are impaired and another 8 percent are threatened; 39 percent of assessed lakes are impaired and another 10 percent are threatened; and 38 percent of assessed estuaries are impaired and another 4 percent are threatened.
Based on this monitoring information, States identified about 15,000 individual waterbodies in 1996 that do not now meet clean water goals. States are updating these figures and are now developing revised, more accurate lists.
Last year, EPA worked with other Federal agencies, including USDA, States, Tribes, citizens, and private organizations to develop an information system to present diverse data about the health of aquatic systems in each of the over 2,000 watersheds in the country. This information system, called the Index of Watershed Indicators, also provides initial assessments of overall aquatic conditions in the watersheds. These assessments indicate that:
16 percent of watersheds in the continental U.S. have good water quality;
36 percent have moderate water quality problems;
21 percent have serious water quality problems; and
27 percent lack sufficient data to make an overall assessment.
The Remaining Water Pollution Problems
Speaking in very general terms, much of our progress in reducing water pollution has been the result of improving controls over discharges of sewage and industrial wastes. We need to continue to address these significant pollution sources, but today, the major challenge we face is to better manage polluted runoff from urban areas, construction sites, forest harvesting operations, and agriculture.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC States report that the leading causes of water quality impairments include siltation, nutrients, bacteria, oxygen-depleting substances, metals, habitat alteration, pesticides, and organic toxic chemicals. These pollutants come from a wide variety of sources, including sewage treatment plants, urban runoff, combined sewers, storm water discharges, resource extraction, removal of streamside vegetation, forestry, and agriculture.
While many diverse sources contribute to water pollution, States report that agriculture is the most widespread source of pollution in the Nation's surveyed rivers. Based on these reports from all 50 States, we estimate that agriculture generates pollutants that degrade aquatic life or interfere with public use of 173,629 river miles (i.e. 25 percent of all river miles surveyed) and contributes to 70 percent of all water quality problems identified in rivers and streams.
Twenty-two States reported on the impacts of specific types of agriculture. Nonirrigated crop production leads the list of agricultural activities, affecting 36 percent of impaired river miles in these 22 States, followed by irrigated crop production, affecting 22 percent of impaired river miles. Taken as a group, animal operations, including feedlots and animal holding areas, affect 20 percent of impaired river miles, or about 35,000 river miles in these 22 States. Rangeland and pasture land are identified as affecting 12 percent and 11 percent of impaired river miles respectively.
Consequences of Water Pollution
Water pollution clearly degrades environmental quality, but it also diminishes recreational and economic opportunities and poses clear threats to public health.
In the Gulf of Mexico, a hypoxic or ''dead'' zone (an area with low levels of oxygen), threatens the livelihood of fishermen. The area has excess amounts of nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed.
In some Maryland and Virginia tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay and in the Neuse River in North Carolina, the microorganism Pfiesteria has killed fish and posed a risk to people. Other harmful algal blooms and biotoxins have also affected the health of people, in addition to harming fish, shellfish, and other wildlife. Pfiesteria and harmful algal blooms have been associated with excessive nutrients in water.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Of the Nation's 382 million acres of croplands, over 70 million acres suffer erosion rates that threaten long-term productivity. Poor land management and agricultural practices directly affect surface waters throughout the country.
Polluted runoff from urban and agricultural areas adds sediment into waters that carry it downstream and deposit it into harbors or reservoirs. Federal and non-Federal dredging in coastal areas and the disposal of dredged materials costs about $1 billion per year.
In 1996, 2,193 fish consumption advisories were issued in 48 States. The presence of mercury, PCBs, chlordane, dioxin, and DDT was responsible for the majority of fish consumption advisories in 1996.
Coastal States report unhealthy levels of pollution-related bacteria at swimming beaches. More than 2,500 beach closings and advisories were posted in 1996. Illnesses caused by these bacteria are of particular concern to families with children.
A New Approach to Restoring and Protecting Water Quality
After 25 years of progress, the Nations's clean water program is at a crossroads. Implementation of existing programs will not stop serious new threats to public health, living resources and the Nation's waterways. We have made tremendous progress, but our existing programs lack the strength, resources, and framework to fully restore rivers, lakes and coastal waters. To fulfill the original goal of the Clean Water Act''fishable and swimmable'' water for every Americanthe Nation must chart a new course for clean water.
The Clean Water Action Plan announced by the President in February outlines a blueprint for the future clean water program including over 100 key actions organized around four key tools to achieve clean water goals.
A Watershed Approach: The Action Plan envisions a new, collaborative effort by Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments, the public, and the private sector to restore and sustain the health of the Nation's watersheds. The watershed approach is the key to setting priorities and taking action to clean up waters.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Strong Federal and State Standards: The Action Plan calls for Federal, State, and Tribal agencies to revise standards where needed and make existing programs more effective. Effective standards are key to protecting public health, preventing polluted runoff, and ensuring accountability.
Natural Resource Stewardship: Most of the land in the Nation's watersheds is cropland, pasture, rangeland, or forests, and most of the water that ends up in rivers, lakes, and coastal waters falls on these lands first. Clean water depends on the conservation and stewardship of these natural resources. The Action Plan calls on Federal natural resource and conservation agencies to apply their resources and technical expertise to State and local watershed restoration and protection.
Informed Citizens and Officials: Clear, accurate, and timely information is the foundation of a sound and accountable water quality program. Informed citizens and officials make better decisions about their watersheds. The Action Plan calls on Federal agencies to improve the information available to the public, governments, and others about the health of their watersheds and the safety of their beaches, drinking water, and fish.
To support the Action Plan's expanded program to restore and protect the Nation's waters, the President's FY 1999 budget proposes a Clean Water and Watershed Restoration Budget Initiative. The funding provided in this budget initiative will increase Federal financial support for clean water programs in FY 1999 by $568 million and by over $2.3 billion over the FY 19992003 period. Specifically, the Clean Water and Watershed Restoration Budget Initiative would:
increase direct grant support to States and Tribes to carry out a watershed approach to clean water;
increase technical and financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and foresters to reduce polluted runoff and enhance the natural resources on their lands;
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC fund watershed assistance programs and grants to engage local communities and citizens in leadership roles in restoring their watersheds;
accelerate progress in addressing critical water quality problems on Federal lands, including those related to roads, abandoned mines, riparian areas, and rangelands;
expand and coordinate water quality monitoring programs; and
increase efforts to restore nationally significant watersheds, such as the Florida Everglades and the San Francisco Bay-Delta.
II. Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs)
The term ''animal feeding operation'' refers to a wide range of animal operations, including large facilities raising thousands, or tens of thousands, of animals. These large facilities are referred to as ''concentrated animal feeding operations' or CAFOs and generally have in excess of 1,000 animal units (i.e. 1,000 slaughter cattle or a comparable number of other animals). In cases where an animal feeding operation poses a direct threat to water quality, EPA or State agencies has addressed facilities with less than 1,000 animal units.
An Evolving Industry
The nature of the animal feeding industry has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Advances in technologies for raising and feeding animals, decreases in transportation costs, and organizational changes in agricultural businesses and corporations have transformed the industry. The data overwhelmingly shows a shift in the industry from smaller to much larger operations.
The total number of animal feeding operations has declined in every sectorbeef cattle, dairy, poultry (including layers, broilers, and turkeys), and swine. During this same time period, the total number of animals in each facility has increased (see Figure 1).
While figure 1 shows changes in national averages, examples from specific States are illustrative of current trends.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In Illinois, the average number of turkeys per turkey farm increased by 2,686 percent between 1982 and 1992. Other States with large shifts toward consolidation include North Dakota (1,194 percent over the same time period), Kansas (868 percent), and South Dakota (767 percent). The number of turkey farms in these States declined by 37 percent, 66 percent, 30 percent, and 71 percent, respectively. (Source: 1992 Census of Agriculture).
In North Carolina, the average number of hogs per hog farm increased by 578 percent between 1982 and 1992. Similarly, Arkansas experienced a 271 percent increase, and California and Virginia each experienced a 202 percent increase. These increases in the number of hogs per hog farm occurred while each State experienced a decline in the number of hog farms by 62 percent, 50 percent, 54 percent, and 71 percent, respectively. (Source: 1992 Census of Agriculture)
Water Quality Impacts
As noted above, State reports of water quality conditions indicate that agriculture is the single largest source of water pollution in rivers and lakes, and these reports suggest that animal feeding operations are a significant part of this problem. As noted above, 22 States reported on the impacts of specific types of agriculture, and identified animal operationsincluding feedlots and animal holding areasas the third largest type of agricultural activity affecting water quality and impacting 20 percent of impaired river miles, or about 35,000 river miles, in these 22 States.
Animal feeding operations can impair water quality in a number of ways. If not collected and treated properly, animal manure can pollute surface and/or ground water with excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Animal manure is commonly spread on agricultural land for its nutrient and organic value for both crops and the soil. If the manure is not spread in accordance with a nutrient management plan (which applies nutrients at the rates which crops can use them), nitrogen and phosphorus will leave farms and enter waterbodies, causing depletion of dissolved oxygen and eutrophication. In addition, grazing animals can cause streambank erosion and erosion from fields which have been overgrazed.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Studies have shown that animal feeding operations, and particularly when several of these facilities are concentrated in a single watershed, can increase nutrient pollution to a river or stream. For example, a study of Herrings Marsh Run in the coastal plain of North Carolina showed that nitrate levels in stream and ground water were highest in areas with the greatest concentration of swine and poultry production. (Hunt, P.G., et. al. 1995. Impact of animal waste on water quality in an eastern coastal plain watershed. Animal Waste and the Land-Water Interface, Kenneth Steele, Ed., Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL, 589 pp.)
Illinois EPA studies and field investigations have confirmed that runoff from confined animal feeding operations can adversely impact surface water resources in Illinois. Observed effects include increases in ammonia-nitrogen concentrations resulting from animal wastes and fish kills as a result of manure application on frozen ground. (Ackerman and Taylor, 1995, Stream Impacts due to Feedlot Runoff. Animal Waste and the Land-Water Interface, Kenneth Steele, Ed., Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL, 589 pp.)
South Dakota monitored nine feedlots to document the water quality benefits of installing animal waste management systems. Most feedlots studied had a negative effect on water quality through increased loadings of nutrients. After installation of animal waste management systems, several feedlots exhibited evidence of improving water quality in streams. (South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts, S.D. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, 1996, Final Report - Animal Waste Management Team).
AFOs can also cause catastrophic effects locally. In June 1995, animal waste contained in an eight-acre lagoon in North Carolina burst through its dike, spilling approximately 22 million gallons of animal waste into the New River. The spill was twice the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and reportedly killed fish along a 19-mile downstream area. It was the worst of six reported spills in the State during the summer of 1995 (EPA Office of Inspector General, March 1997, Animal Waste Disposal Issues, Audit Report No. E1XWF71300857100142).
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Past Efforts to Address Water Quality Impacts of AFOs
The serious water quality impacts of large AFOs have been recognized for many years. In 1974, EPA issued a national effluent guideline that established national minimum discharge standards for large operations (i.e. feedlots). These large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are defined as ''point sources'' by the Clean Water Act (Section 502) and, as such, are subject to the permitting requirements of the Act.
In the 25 years since the Clean Water Act's passage, EPA and the States have emphasized the more traditional point sources of pollution such as municipal wastewater treatment plants, and industrial discharges. Of the approximately 6,600 CAFOs in the United States, about one-quarter are covered by Clean Water Act discharge permits today.
EPA has developed a number of programs to support animal feeding operations and to address the potential environmental and public health impacts from these facilities:
Under section 319 of the Clean Water Act, EPA provides just over $100 million in grants to States each year to help implement nonpoint source programs and fund nonpoint source projects designed to demonstrate controls and document effectiveness of best management practices in different settings, including animal feeding operations. The President's FY 1999 Budget Initiative for the Clean Water Action Plan would almost double this funding to $200 million per year.
EPA's Nonpoint Source Control Program also works with nonprofit organizations, States, commodity groups and the public to promote voluntary implementation of nonpoint source controls.
The State Revolving Loan Funds created by each State under authority in the Clean Water Act can provide loans for projects that address pollution from nonpoint sources, including animal feeding operations. State loan funds make loans worth over $2 billion each year, and a number of States have funded projects related to animal waste, such as waste storage ponds and composting facilities.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC EPA maintains a national agricultural assistance center in Kansas City and is currently working with USDA and the Land Grant Universities to develop a livestock focus at the Center.
In addition, EPA has worked closely with USDA to develop a number of efforts related to animal feeding operations including the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, the Buffer Initiative, and other conservation activities. EPA was also an active participant in the National Environmental Dialogue on Pork Production.
EPA's Draft Animal Feeding Operation Strategy
EPA recently released a draft Strategy for Addressing Environmental and Public Health Impacts from Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs).
Under development for over a year, the EPA draft AFO Strategy is the product of extensive discussions with our Federal and State partners, and livestock, environmental, and public interest groups. The draft EPA AFO Strategy includes specific short-term and long-term activities to substantially expand existing efforts to minimize the environmental and public health threats of AFOs. The draft Strategy establishes five overall objectives:
Expand Compliance and Enforcement Efforts: EPA will work with States to expand the use of compliance assistance and enforcement to ensure that existing CWA requirements are implemented. EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) has developed a Compliance Assurance Implementation Plan for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), the first product identified in EPA's draft AFO Strategy. We elaborate on these efforts on the next page.
Improve Clean Water Act Permits: EPA will work with States to significantly expand the number of facilities that currently have CWA permits, and to include permit conditions that address water pollution problems associated with animal manure management.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Focus on Priority Watersheds: EPA and States, with the assistance of USDA and other partners, will summarize data on the location of AFOs and CAFOs to identify watersheds that are a priority for action.
Revise Existing Regulations: EPA will work with States, the regulated community, and citizens to revise both the CWA permit program regulations and the existing effluent limitations guidelines for feedlots.
Increase EPA/USDA Coordination: EPA, USDA, and other partners will coordinate more closely on the full range of AFO-related activities.
Improving Compliance with Existing CAFO Requirements
EPA supports voluntary programs to achieve compliance and has devoted significant efforts recently to working with USDA and the farming community to improve compliance. For example, we have an agriculture compliance assistance center providing information to the farming community about its legal obligations. USDA and the land grant universities are the center's major partners. Inspection and enforcement efforts, however, will also have to play a role in improving the management of livestock waste. Many operations are complying with the regulations and must be commended and supported for their good performance. Our enforcement efforts are designed to address those facilities that are not complying voluntarily. Our goal is to level the playing field of all producers by supporting farmers doing the right thing and meeting their legal obligations and removing the economic advantage of those who fail to comply.
The vast majority of the 450,000 animal feeding operations in the United States are not the focus of our compliance and enforcement activity. Our focus is rather the larger operations that meet the regulatory definition of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and other facilities that are designated as CAFOs because of their impact on the environment. As we address these facilities, we are prioritizing our activity in those watersheds where CAFOs are potentially causing the greatest environmental harm. In addition to utilizing our CAFO authorities, EPA plans to use its emergency authorities to address imminent and substantial endangerments to human and health and the environment posed by feedlot operations. EPA's Compliance Assurance Implementation Plan for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, released on March 5, 1998, provides for:
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC coordination with States and other Federal Agencies such as USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Cooperative State Research and Education Service;
coordination with stakeholders to identify and provide compliance assistance information;
increased compliance assistance to CAFOs to provide better information, including efforts by the EPA's Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center to this segment of the agriculture sector;
development of State-specific compliance and enforcement strategies which take into account existing State programs and State and Federal priorities using risk-based targeting;
feedback from inspections which can be used for improvements in targeting compliance assistance, inspections, and permitting activities, including designating facilities as CAFOs; and,
an active risk-based compliance monitoring program to assure CAFO compliance with the existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements. An enhanced Federal/State field presence (i.e., inspections and compliance assistance activities) will foster compliance, as will enforcement actions when violations are found.
The bulk of the compliance and enforcement activity will clearly be conducted by our State partners, forty-three of which are authorized to implement the Clean Water Act permitting and enforcement programs. Following a national meeting last May in Kansas City with the States, we issued our CAFO Compliance Assurance Plan. A key element of that Plan which the States encouraged is the development of the State- specific compliance and enforcement strategies to achieve compliance. EPA recognizes that many States have broader authorities (e.g., operator certification, plan review, siting, odor, nuisance, etc.) than does EPA which allows a comprehensive approach to addressing animal waste issues. We support States in their efforts to use these authorities. EPA believes that an active inspection and enforcement program, whether it is State or federally administered, is critical to improve compliance in this area. Attachment 1 to this testimony provides a brief summary of EPA region 10 efforts to develop partnerships with the States and others to improve compliance by CAFOs with existing requirements.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC III. A Joint USDA/EPA National AFO Strategy
EPA worked closely with USDA in developing the EPA draft AFO Strategy. Through this process, we at EPA gained an appreciation of the significant benefits that would result from expanding EPA/USDA coordination and cooperation on issues related to AFOs. In addition, over the past several months, EPA and USDA worked very closely and effectively to develop the Clean Water Action Plan. We concluded that the best approach to addressing water quality problems resulting from AFOs was to establish a joint, USDA/EPA strategy. The Clean Water Action Plan includes a clear commitment to the creation and implementation of a joint USDA-EPA national AFO strategy to minimize the environmental and public health impacts of AFOs. Our goal is to develop a single unified strategy and to fold the draft EPA AFO Strategy into a single unified national strategy.
On May 5, Administrator Browner and Secretary Glickman laid out their vision for ways that USDA and EPA can achieve a ''marriage'' of the knowledge, resources and programs of the Federal Government to help livestock producers ensure effective waste management and protect water quality and public health. The Joint AFO Strategy is about putting in place the tools and resources to ensure that livestock producers understand what is expected and have the information to implement management practices that foster their historical stewardship role.
For the vast majority of the 450,000 AFOs nationwide, we expect to rely heavily on the voluntary actions by livestock producers to effectively manage animal wastes and to protect water quality. EPA and USDA need to be sure that the joint strategy facilitates effective delivery of appropriate technical and financial assistance. Clean Water Act permits from EPA and the States are best tailored to address the largest operations and other, smaller operations that have been designated as CAFOs because of impacts to water quality. EPA welcomes input from USDA to ensure that current and future regulatory programs are effectively targeted and to help CAFOs ensure they are in compliance. Industry led efforts such as the Pork Environmental Dialogue and the subsequent onsite environmental assistance program and the current Poultry Dialogue are also critical to our collective success.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Joint EPA/USDA AFO StrategyKey Elements
The EPA and USDA have agreed on the key elements of a joint AFO Strategy. These key elements are described in the Clean Water Action Plan and include:
Coordinate program and interagency cooperation. USDA and EPA will work together in common areas of interest, including data collection and management, technical standards development, monitoring, and establishment and tracking of appropriate environmental performance measures. For example, USDA will continue to review and revise comprehensive technical standards and educational programs for AFOs in cooperation with other Federal agencies. In addition, USDA and EPA will develop a plan seeking to ensure that appropriate management systems are incorporated into Clean Water Act permits by States and EPA.
Develop and implement comprehensive management systems for AFOs. USDA and EPA will work to establish environmentally sustainable systems that will offer practical and cost-effective approaches to managing manures and carcasses. For example, USDA and EPA will establish comprehensive and verifiable management systems for AFOs by 2002, engage stakeholders to achieve use of farm-specific nutrient budgets for at least 50 percent of AFOs by 2005, and promote development of marketable products from animal wastes and carcasses from 1998 onward. EPA and States will seek to incorporate comprehensive management systems should be incorporated into Clean Water Act discharge permits. EPA will work with States to issue Clean Water Act permits to all CAFOs by 2005, consistent with any new regulations the Agency will have promulgated.
Revise and strengthen existing permit regulations. EPA will work with USDA and States to: revise the Clean Water Act discharge regulations, including comprehensive management measures (e.g., land application), by 2002; revise the existing feedlots effluent limitations guideline for poultry and swine by 2001 and for beef and dairy cattle by 2002; and, develop improved tools for writing discharge permits under current regulations (e.g., case-by-case designation guidance and guidance on establishing best management practices by 1998.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Provide incentives to enhance environmental protection. Federal agencies will encourage environmental protection beyond that required by regulatory controls through new initiatives such as an awards program recognizing efforts by AFOs to reduce pollution (by 2000); through the provision of incentives for the conversion of animal wastes into marketable products (by 2004); and through the formation of a public/private partnership to create market incentives to improve environmental performance.
Develop a coordinated plan for research. Federal agencies will, in coordination with stakeholders, develop a coordinated plan for research, development, and assessment that establishes priorities for developing ways to better manage nutrients, pathogens, and other pollutants; modify animal diets to reduce nutrients in manure; mitigate sites with excess pollutants; and assess impacts of best management practices from farm and watershed perspectives.
Develop watershed nutrient budgets. Federal agencies will determine the relative contributions of nutrients in watersheds from all sources. USDA will publish by 1998 data on counties having potential nutrient excess from animal manure. EPA and USDA will estimate by 2000 a baseline of nutrient loads to the watersheds identified above from animal data, fertilizer sales, Census of Agriculture, permit limits, and other estimates. USDA will revise the Census of Agriculture to include waste management practices by the 2002 Census.
Target activities to priority watersheds. Federal and State agencies should ensure that activities such as permitting, inspections, enforcement, funding, education, outreach, and technical assistance for AFOs are targeted to priority watersheds. For example, EPA, with support from USDA, States, and Tribes, will identify by 1999 watersheds at greatest risk from AFOs. EPA and USDA will develop criteria for and demonstrate the effectiveness of targeting coordinated assistance and Federal environmental subsidies to States and AFOs by 2000. EPA will also increase enforcement of existing permits and unpermitted discharges, require new permits where appropriate, and use emergency powers to address situations presenting an imminent and substantial endangerment, where appropriate.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Encourage establishment of a certification program. The Strategy will encourage establishment of a certification program to ensure effective development and implementation of management systems for unpermitted AFOs.
Joint AFO Strategy Development Process
EPA and USDA have already begun to develop this joint AFO Strategy. An interagency workgroup has met several times to begin drafting the joint Strategy.
After the draft joint strategy is released in July, EPA and USDA plan to hold public meetings and otherwise solicit public input on the draft strategy. All of these activities are expected to culminate in a final USDA/EPA AFO Strategy in November 1998.
Farmers were among the first stewards of our Nation's natural resources and farmers consistently recognize the value of protecting water quality and the environment. By working with the farm community and others, I am confident that USDA and EPA can jointly develop a sound, common sense approach to reducing the environmental and public health threats posed by large animal feeding operations.
Attachment 1the CAFO Program in region 10
EPA region 10 consists of the States of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. CAFOs in region 10 are varied and include poultry, sheep, beef, dairy as well as other types of operations. However, the majority of CAFO operations in region 10 are dairies. Accordingly, the remainder of the region 10 discussion will focus on dairies.
Over the past few years, serious environmental impacts resulting from discharges of manure from dairy operations have directed a portion of our resources to dairy compliance activities. Compliance activities have thus far consisted of education, outreach, compliance assistance, and appropriate enforcement. Dairy waste impacts include instances such as the November 1996 fish kill in northwest Washington resulting from an overflow of manure from a dairy to a nearby slough and the closure of a commercial shellfish bed belonging to the Lummi Indian Nation in Whatcom County, Washington. Other impacts include elevated nitrate levels in ground water, algae blooms in lakes and rivers, and the release of harmful bacteria such as E. Coli to water bodies.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The key environmental concern associated with dairy operations is the large volume of wastes that are generated. For instance, a 1000 cow dairy can produce approximately 120,000 pounds of waste per day. This is the functional equivalent to the amount of sanitary waste produced by a town of twenty thousand people. This concern is compounded by the fact that many dairies with untreated manure discharges are concentrated in small areas and they impact and degrade sensitive water bodies. For example, in Whatcom County, Washington alone there are approximately 250 dairies and some of the manure discharges from those dairies have contributed to the closure of the Lummi Indian Nation commercial shellfish beds as mentioned above.
The Federal rules currently governing CAFOs, including dairies, have been in place since 1974. These rules require zero discharge of pollutants, including manure, from CAFO dairy operations. Typically, this can be achieved at most dairies through the use of a closed-loop waste management system. Specifically, this means that dairies should utilize a system such as a waste storage pond to contain the generated manure and associated wastewater. In most cases the manure mixture can be contained throughout the nongrowing season and subsequently used as fertilizer during the growing season. If the dairy is maintained and operated properly, there should be no manure entering surface waters or migrating downward and degrading valuable ground water resources. From our extensive field experience, many dairy operations are complying with regulations and they have been commended on their well maintained operations. Unfortunately, it is also our experience that several of the dairies that are CAFOs fail to meet these existing 1974 requirements. Such dairies discharge untreated manure to surface and/or ground water on a routine basis. This fact, coupled with the large amount of manure and wastewater generated, creates a significant potential for impacts to human health and the environment.
EPA region 10's strategy for promoting compliance by the dairies with the CAFO regulations is multifaceted. It addition to the traditional permitting and enforcement components, the region focused its efforts toward working in cooperation and in partnership with the regulated industry, such as the Washington Dairy Federation, the Idaho Department of Agriculture, as well as involved Indian Tribes, the general public, and other State and Federal agencies. Our efforts with the States of Washington and Idaho and others are good examples of ''partnerships''.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In Washington State, CAFOs were impairing water bodies as evidenced by the high number of streams impaired by fecal coliform bacteria, shellfish bed closures, complaints from citizens and Tribes, and EPA's own observations and supporting sampling data. EPA and the State believed that the State law was lacking sufficient resources to properly implement the CAFO program. Moreover, the State of Washington faced the issue of unavailable resources ''head on'' and stated that its CAFO management program was in fact lacking in several areas.
EPA initiated a CAFO effort with Washington State to support and supplement the State's. During the course of EPA efforts, the Washington State Dairy Federation, in conjunction with EPA found that a number of dairy farmers were unclear as to which management practices would result in violations. The Washington State Dairy Federation decided that a pictorial review (Dairy Waste Pictorial) of various waste management problems that were found on dairy farms would be beneficial. EPA found that the brochure was instrumental in creating support for the dairy waste compliance efforts. Throughout this process, EPA maintained close contact and communications with the Washington Dairy Federation, the Lummi and Nooksack Indian Tribes, the NRCS, and the Washington State Department of Ecology.
The response by the public to EPA's Washington State CAFO efforts has been very positive. Newspaper articles indicate support of EPA's efforts. For example, dairy operators as well as the Washington Dairy Federation representatives interviewed and quoted by local newspapers and in discussion with us have characterized EPA's program, and in particular the inspection and enforcement aspects, as being timely and appropriate and fair. EPA believes this popular response is due to the fact that a significant percentage of the dairy operators are in fact putting forth efforts necessary to properly operate their facilities. They are concerned with the dairies that are not good environmental stewards.
Subsequently, the Washington Dairy Federation, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Washington Department of Agriculture, EPA, and other parties collaborated in successfully strengthening the State law which has provided additional resources for Washington State's dairy waste management program. The environmental gains by the initiative can be measured by anecdotal information. For example, after EPA's efforts began, a local office of the NRCS reported an increase of requests for assistance by dairy operators from about three per month to approximately 50. The local construction contractors servicing dairies also reported a dramatic increase in requests for services. The public involvement and awareness with this environmental issue has also increased.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unlike Washington State, the State of Idaho is not an authorized NPDES State. Accordingly, the EPA has the authority for NPDES program administration. As part of region 10's Idaho program administration EPA negotiated a precedential agreement with the Idaho Dairymen Association, Idaho Department of Agriculture, and the Idaho State Division of Environmental Quality. Pursuant to this agreement, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture now conducts inspections of dairies on behalf of EPA.
This agreement utilizes the already existing State sanitary milk inspection program and incorporates the dairy waste inspection component. In addition, under this agreement Idaho suggested that the existing authority of the Idaho Department of Agriculture to suspend milk licenses and/or downgrade milk be extended to cover dairy manure management problems through a State regulatory modification. When appropriate, these actions can be immediately implemented.
As a result of this arrangement, the number of dairy waste inspections has significantly increased. Moreover, because the two types of inspections are conducted at once, the dairy operators are less inconvenienced. Although it is too early to gauge the overall success of this agreement, in terms of environmental protection, the results thus far are very encouraging.
Statement of Pearlie S. Reed
Mr. Chairmen, members of the subcommittees, thank you for inviting me to represent the Department of Agriculture and discuss the issue of animal waste management. I am Pearlie Reed, Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
USDA knows that the issue of pollution from Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) is of great concern to Members of Congress and the public. Family farmers share with everyone a common interest in protecting and improving our nation's natural resources and it is important to work with them to set goals and develop plans to solve these problems, and we are committed to doing that. Before I begin the substance of my remarks, I would like to thank Mr. Combest, and Mr. Pombo for holding this hearing and for bringing attention to this important issue.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Background
Animal agriculture is an important factor in the U.S. economy. Poultry, beef, dairy, and swine convert forage and grain into value added products. These products are important components of our domestic food, fiber, and pharmaceutical industries. Animal products are the most rapidly growing segment of our agricultural export market, allowing the U.S. to export value added animal products rather than lower value grain. Production, processing, and marketing animal products for domestic and export markets also represents jobs for U.S. workers.
The past two decades have seen a substantial change in America's animal production industries, largely due to market forces, technological advances, and institutional changes. These forces have promoted shifts in geographic locations where specific species of animals are produced; expansion of confinement production techniques; integration of production, processing, and marketing activities; geographic concentration of much of the industry; and geographic separation of animal production and feed production operations. Most livestock today are produced in total or finished in animal feeding operations (AFOs).
Manure is an important by-product of these operations. Some view manure as a resource and some as a waste. As a resource, manure can provide nutrients for crop growth and organic matter to maintain soil health. As a waste, manure is a disposal problem operators have to deal with on a daily basis. If manure is not managed properly it can cause water pollution and pose health problems for communities. AFOs are an environmental concern because of the potential contamination of water resources by nutrients, organic material, and biological organisms; transmission of disease to humans; and odor. Conflicts between livestock producers, rural neighbors, and communities over AFOs often arise as a result of these and other environmental issues.
Data produced by the NRCS indicate that several areas of the United States have a supply of nutrients that exceed crop nutrient requirements. This is largely due to the concentration of production in a few geographic areas, effectively separating areas where the animals are fed from areas where the grain is produced. In areas where the nutrients in manure exceed crop needs, an accumulation of elements in the soil create a potential for surface and ground water pollution.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The potential for environmental problems arising is dependent upon the nutrients that are present in the soil and the manure, and the rate, timing, and method of application. In the past, as nutrient management plans were developed, nitrogen was our main concern because it not only leaches into groundwater, but also runs off into surface water. Therefore, we focused on establishing a nitrogen balance based upon what crops actually needed. We presumed that phosphorus would attach to soil particles and therefore, if we controlled erosion, we would prevent phosphorus leaching. However, this proved not to be the case because new research indicates that soils are showing phosphorus saturation. The studies indicate that if excess phosphorus is added to soil, it will not be absorbed, and is likely to run off into waterways. As will be explained later, NRCS now proposes to change its nutrient management information and practices to reflect these findings.
While most attention paid to animal manure focuses on environmental impacts, it is important to note that the organic matter and nutrients produced in confined animal operations has had many positive effects. Row crops and forage production in the Southeast has increased because manure applied to the land increased soil organic matter and supplied needed nutrients. The organic matter in manure benefits soils that have inherent productivity problems such as being shallow, or those with a high sand or clay content. Animal manure has also been used as a bioremediation tool on soils affected by naturally occurring chemicals, chemical spills, and mining.
Our challenge, and a goal of the Department, is to address the environmental issues while at the same time sustaining the positive attributes of animal agriculture.
USDA is fully engaged in developing effective solutions for the environment and our farmers. As USDA moves forward, we will examine existing initiatives to determine how they can assist farmers to better achieve environmental goals. I am proud of our work in this area, which I would like to summarize:
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary's Review of all USDA activities regarding animal waste: Last year, Secretary Glickman directed all USDA agencies to prepare a status report of their work that may relate to animal agriculture. Our objective was to go beyond conservation activities and programs that relate directly to planning, technical, and financial assistance with operators, and look also at how research, rural development programs, and other Department programs interact. The review was completed in December and has helped shape our approach and strategies for assisting producers improve their environmental stewardship.
Nutrient Management Policy and StandardsNRCS has reviewed its nutrient management policies and technical standards to make sure they are consistent with new science and new realities of animal agriculture. NRCS published a draft nutrient management policy in the Federal Register on April 22, based on that review. The policy will guide the agency's field staff who develop nutrient management plans as part of the conservation planning process. It establishes technical references, clarification of technical terminology, and identifies factors and variables that must be considered when assisting animal agriculture operations. We want to ensure that nutrient management plans are sound, and that they follow a set of consistent guidelines. The draft policy will be revised based upon the comments we receive from the public and will be finalized later this year. We feel it is an important step toward providing the operators of animal feeding lots the very best technical assistance available.
Pork DialogueUSDA was a key participant in the National Environmental Dialogue on Pork Production (NEDPP) that was convened in May of 1997 by America's Clean Water Foundation. The purpose of the dialogue was to create a national framework designed to promote sound environmental performance by the pork production industry. The forum endeavored to construct a framework to: 1) ensure that the environment is protected; and 2) provide pork producers with more certainty and consistency in regulatory programs. The NEDPP was an excellent forum for sharing knowledge and expertise on existing and emerging issues. Through the dialogue, participants developed recommendations on how the issues should be addressed. We are now participating in a similar dialogue initiated by the poultry industry. We will use what we have learned from our participation in these dialogues as we develop our strategies to assist AFOs to meet environmental goals.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Summit on Animal WasteUSDA participated in a National Summit on Animal Waste Issues hosted by Senator Harkin on May 5, 1998. The forum was an opportunity for USDA and EPA to discuss the Administration's efforts to develop a unified national AFO strategy, and to listen to the views of several agricultural organizations, environmental groups, and State agencies.
Implementation of EQIP, Buffer Initiative, and WRPAs part of our efforts in conservation on private lands, we continue to offer assistance and programs to producers who want to participate. Demand for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), established by the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (1996 Act) is nearly three times what is available. The program offers planning and financial assistance to solve a broad range of animal agriculture problems. Half of the program assistance must be devoted to livestock issues, including those faced by AFOs. Also, the Department's Conservation Buffer Initiative is moving forward with great success and seeks to achieve 2 million miles of buffers by the year 2002. We also seek to enroll 975,000 acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) by 2002. This program protects the important functions and values of wetlands, many of which contribute toward solving water quality issues associated with AFOs.
Technical Assistance and FY 1999 Budget InitiativeWe also continue to promote local planning on a watershed basis to help solve water quality concerns. The Department's budget request for FY 1999 contains $20 million for partnership grants designed to comprehensively improve water quality. The partnership grants will enable State and local organizations to hire watershed coordinators to assist in locally-led watershed planning. An additional $3 million has been requested to improve natural resource inventory evaluation, which will enable NRCS to have the best data available to assist farmers and communities. These budget initiatives are needed to enhance technical assistance at the local level.
Technology and NRCS InstitutesNRCS institutes bring together experts in individual disciplines to a center which is dedicated to excellence in that area of technology. This allows a particular institute to service the agency on a national basis, and provides a single resource for field staff on technical information. In addition, institutes serve as a single point of contact with the research community. This enables NRCS to keep fully apprised of the latest developments in research and technology and support useful application for NRCS field staff.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On Animal Feeding Operation issues, the Watershed Science Institute, Social Sciences Institute, Grazing Lands Technology Institute, and the National Water Management Center have performed key functions in providing technical resources to staff and customers alike. Examples include contributing to the revised policy for nutrient management planning, revision of the Animal Waste Management Handbook, development of guidance and practice standards for the Conservation Buffer Initiative, development of the Phosphorus Index and other tools to assess problems that may be associated with phosphorus build-up in soils. National training workshops have also been conducted in support of the buffer initiative and new training materials have been developed for nutrient management.
Technology TransferA technology application team has been formed with staff from different technology Institutes and Centers to focus on four core conservation practices on cropland. These practices are nutrient and pest management to ensure that the right amount of manure, fertilizer, or pesticide is applied; conservation tillage to reduce the risk that any material applied will move to the edge of the field; and conservation buffers as insurance to capture any pollutants that move off of the field. This team is available at a State's request to assist in planning efforts, to provide training, and to help evaluate results.
Research and EducationThe Agricultural Experiment Stations and the Cooperative Extension Service system, coordinated by USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) and headquartered at State land grant universities, along with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have been very active in technology development that applies to AFOs. ARS recently held a nationwide conference to assess current research work being done by the agency, to improve coordination among research efforts, and to plan future activities. Fourteen Land Grant Universities have formed a nationwide research and extension consortium to focus on animal manure management issues. Most State extension programs have developed handbooks, training materials, and offer training on manure management for AFO operators.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Contract work with outside vendors On April 22, 1998, NRCS signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the American Society of Agronomy Certified Crop Advisers (CCA). Certified CCA members will provide assistance to the nation's farmers and ranchers in nutrient, pest, and residue management, mostly to prepare nutrient management plans. These plans will become part of the overall conservation plan for a given agricultural operation. The vendors will work closely with NRCS to ensure that the assistance they provide meets appropriate agency technical standards and specifications, as well as policy requirements.
Unified National Strategy on AFOsOne of USDA's most important AFO-related efforts is our ongoing work with EPA to develop a unified national strategy to address the environmental and public health impacts of AFOs. The unified strategy will set out the roles and responsibilities and operational details for both USDA and EPA programs dealing with animal feeding operations. USDA's primary role will focus on voluntary, incentive based technical assistance provided to landowners at their request, while EPA's primary role will be the effective implementation of programs called for in the Clean Water Act. An important expected result of the strategy will be defining the relationship that exists between the voluntary and regulatory programs in a way that results in complimentary efforts to help AFOs meet environmental goals. The strategy will also address ways that USDA and EPA can cooperate and coordinate research, education, technical assistance, and data gathering. USDA and EPA have convened a working group to draft a document for public comment by early July of this year. We are making steady progress toward that date. Some of the ideas may require a considerable amount of time to fully implement. We will reach out to stakeholders and other parties as we continue to work with EPA developing this process. After public comment, a final Strategy will be produced by November 1998.
I look forward to working closely with the EPA Administrator and others in the development of this strategy. I also welcome input and ideas of the House Agriculture Committee.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Issues
I must alert you that the challenge of providing assistance to the number of AFOs is a daunting task. A large share of this task is providing technical and financial assistance that implements national conservation policy, but also ensures the viability of production agriculture. USDA has a good record of providing research based technology, education, and voluntary, incentives-based technical assistance that nurtures agricultural productivity. It is my hope that as we continue in the process of developing strategies on animal feeding operations, the needed technical and financial resources will be available to assist farmers.
The potential Animal Feeding Operation workload poses an enormous challenge to USDA to meet the research, education, and conservation assistance needs of livestock producers across the Nation. There will be need for expanded Extension Service assistance, training, as well as research into innovative ways to handle manure on the farm and process manure in areas where land application is not feasible.
We received the letter from the Committee dated May 7, 1998 requesting an assessment of the specific impact that the animal feeding operation strategy will have on USDA's staffing workload. We have the necessary analysis underway and will provide our findings to the Committee as soon as possible. Even at this stage, it is clear that the potential workload would require significant budget support from the Administration and Congress.
Given necessary resources, USDA can assist farmers with manure storage facilities, nutrient management plans, management of land where manure is applied, and to comply with the regulations and permit requirements at the national, state, and local levels.
In addition, USDA will maintain conservation policies and practice standards that are technically sound and provide technical review of policies developed by other agencies. USDA research laboratories and the land grant universities will also provide the research-based knowledge necessary to support the goals, standards, and rules that are developed, and the Cooperative Extension System will help disseminate it through effective technology transfer programs.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to again thank both subcommittee Chairs for their interest and leadership in addressing issues associated with management of AFOs. No doubt, this is an issue that will require our continued dialogue, exchange of information, and concerted effort. I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
Statement of John Baker
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I am Dr. John Baker, commissioner, Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). I have a background in agriculture, in fact owned and operated a central Texas grain farm prior to being appointed to the three-member commission of TNRCC. Also, I had the privilege of serving as the Agricultural Advisor to William K. Reilly, U.S. EPA Administrator 199092. My academic background is in soil science in which I have a Ph.D. specializing in soil fertility/nutrient management. Earlier, I was on the staff at Oklahoma State University as a State Extension Specialist working in these areas. Also, I recently participated in the National Environmental Diaglogue on Pork Production.
TNRCC is a multi-media permitting agency with jurisdiction over air, water, and waste including oversight of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Issues associated with CAFOs have caught the attention of the media and therefore the American public over the past several years. I hope today to give you a brief overview of what we see in Texas as some of the critical issues and concerns.
In Texas, we rank first in beef cattle feeding production, sixth in dairy production, sixth in poultry production, and seventh in swine production. Over the past several years our poultry and swine production has increased substantially. In the future, we anticipate that swine and poultry will continue to be a growing agricultural industry in our State.
We have been issuing permits and regulating the CAFOs in our State since the early 1970s, and currently have issued or approved over 821 authorizations for such facilities.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In your packets, I have provided you a comparison of CAFO requirements for Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas. This is a comparison that we recently did for the benefit of an interim committee of our Legislature to inform them of where our State stood in relation to CAFO regulations in other States in our EPA region and other States with significant CAFO populations. As you can see in this document, our regulations are equal to or exceed what most other States have in almost every category. In fact, we are one of the few States that issues a multi-media authorization covering both water and air quality. The other reason I wanted to provide you with this information is for you to see the extent of the administrative and technical requirements that a CAFO must meet in the States we compared. There is a perception that CAFOs are not being regulated across the country. I can not speak for other States, but I know that in our State and in EPA region VI CAFOs have to meet some stiff requirements in order to operate. We are currently in the process of revising our current rules and regulations that will add additional requirements on those seeking authorization.
Even though our State and region have some of the stiffest requirements, we still see significant growth of the CAFOs in our area of the country. Why would that be, if we have some of the toughest regulatory requirements in the nation? The perception across the country is that CAFOs are shopping from one State to the next to find the easiest or softest requirements. Where is the race to the bottom seeking the weakest regulations? As I stated earlier we have had a large influx of CAFOs into our State over the past several years. We are not a NPDES delegated State (that is a whole other story) and therefore have a dual permitting system with some of the toughest regulations in the country. Yet CAFOs are still coming to Texas and our general region. When we have talked with the larger CAFOs moving into our State, they have indicated that what they found appealing was a more arid climate, good soils, available land that provided siting opportunities with less potential impact to the environment, and that although the environmental requirements were some of the most restrictive in the nation, they were fair, reasonable and consistent.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I bring all this up for several reasons. One, there seems to be a hysteria developing that CAFOs are not being regulated and that Congress needs to pass a bill that requires a whole new set of standards to be imposed on the industry. On the other hand, some feel that EPA needs to develop a whole new set of standards and requirements for the CAFO industry. From our vantage point, there is sufficient authority to regulate the industry, and EPA at least in region VI has worked with its states, CAFO community and the public in developing a tough but reasonable set of regulatory requirements to effectively deal with the environmental issues associated with these facilities. Quite simply, we should not over react. Our experience is that all this will accomplish is the building of barriers, not bridges, to the solutions we all seek. Instead, we should set the wheels in motion to have EPA work proactively with the States, regulated community and the public within its existing regulatory mechanism to develop the necessary tools to solve the problem.
I read in EPA's recent ''AFO Strategy'' document that less than 25 percent of the CAFOs in the Nation have permits. Again, I cannot speak for other States, but all CAFOs in our State are covered by some type of authorization or permit even some of the animal feeding operations (AFOs) not large enough to meet CAFO definitions. I would like for EPA to share with us how they arrived at their numbers. It begs the question. Are there States or EPA regional offices that are not providing the oversight or regulatory framework of CAFOs under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program? If there are, who are they? And, why not?
I am not going to sit here today and try and convince you that we have been 100 percent percent successful in our State and region in solving all the problems associated with CAFOs. This industry is like any other industry in the country. They are continuing to evolve and with this evolution we see new and sometimes unique problems or issues that must be addressed. About twelve years ago we had some problems associated with waste containment at CAFOs. Most of these problems were in the more humid areas of our State, as opposed to more the arid parts. We put together the experts and modified our requirements and today we very seldom have a problem with waste containment structures.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Two areas that we are continuing to work on at the present are odor and land application of both waste and wastewater. Odor is one of those difficult issues that every State is dealing with. How much odor is too much? At what point does odor become a nuisance condition? In the rule revisions I mentioned, we are looking at increasing our buffer requirement for new CAFOs from one-quarter to one-half mile and/or requiring that each facility develop a site specific odor control plan. This plan would require the owner of the facility to describe those structural and non-structural measures that they will put in place to manage the odors to acceptable levelsnote, I said acceptable. Some of the public believe that there should be no odors associated with CAFOs. I would suggest that we will never be able to eliminate the odors, but a lot can be done to manage them so that neighbors will not be inappropriately impacted. We have found that under certain weather conditions not even the best of structural and non-structural measures are sufficient. However, these conditions do not occur very often nor are they of long endurance. Some critics claim that we do not have the authority to regulate odors but that is not the case in Texas. There is already sufficient authority to deal with this issue. Lack of authority, is not the problem. Determining acceptable levels and quantification is much more problematic.
Fifteen to 20 years ago our agency had very few complaints filed in relation to odor from CAFOs. Today, in a few areas of our State, odor complaints in relation to CAFOs is one of our biggest issues. Why the change? Well, over that time frame there have been more and more people migrating from the urban areas to the suburban and rural areas. With that migration comes an expectation of open spaces and clean pristine air. Whether a CAFO was already in place or moves in near them, this upsets that expectation. To illustrate this point, in the Panhandle area of our State, we have seen a yearly increase in the number of complaints we receive related to odor. In this past year we responded to more than 180 odor complaints and were not able to confirm even one odor nuisance condition. Most of the time the complaint is centered around the dislike of having a CAFO near them. The point I want to make here is that most of what we have seen with the odor issue is centered around land use. Land use and land use control is an issue that is best left to the State and local governments to resolve and not the Federal Government.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One other issue is management of land application areas for the beneficial reuse of manure and wastewater from CAFOs. Our experience is that we are still having some problems with runoff from land application areas. However, most of our problems are in areas of the State where we have greater rainfall, more sloping terrain and with application areas utilized as grassland. Most of the problem is centered around the build up of phosphorus on the land application areas and from there the soluble phosphorus discharging into streams. We are making headway with our new rules in requiring better sampling of sites that topically apply manure. In addition, we have been working with our crop and soil scientists in Texas and other neighboring States to develop the necessary performance measures and sampling protocols to better address this issue. The science is still developing and we believe that we are two to three years away from having the data and research necessary for putting the final adjustments to this issue. Most of the soil laboratories in the country are set up to provide you with the amount of nutrients needed to optimize production through a normal growing season. They are not set up to predict when phosphorus will have the potential to leave a land application site and enter a stream. There has been some recent research in this area, but more needs to be done to provide the necessary relationship between soil testing to determine the amount of phosphorus available for crop use and the potential of the phosphorus building up in the soil structure and leaving the site.
On this issue of land application areas we must not lose sight of the real goal behind this process; and that is beneficial use of manure and wastewater. Both the manure and wastewater from a CAFO have tremendous economic value. If we are too reactive to the problems being experienced with these two products, it will be difficult if not impossible for CAFO owners to find land application areas, or off-site farmers or ranchers to utilize these valuable resources. If it becomes too restrictive to beneficially use manure and wastewater, we will see more and more operators begin to stockpile manure. This will be counter-productive.
It is with some irony that EPA has put quite an effort into promoting the beneficial use of municipal sludge or biosolids as it is now called. Yet, very little effort is being made by EPA to promote the same for animal waste. EPA has not put the same level of effort into testing and research on animal manure as they have for biosolids. Both biosolids and CAFO manure are animal wastes and from most of the analyses that I have seen biosolids will tend to have more constituents or inorganic elements than CAFO manure. More effort should be made by EPA to promote the use of animal manure just as they have for biosolids.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In closing, I would like to summarize with the following:
(1) Authority exists to adequately regulate the CAFOs.
(2) Why the concern with new standards if we are only compliant with 25 percent of present requirements?
(3) Beneficial land use of waste should be encouraged, rather than restricted to the extent that it becomes a disposal issue.
(4) Much of the present debate is driven by nuisance odor rather than environmental impact.
(5) Land use/siting is a State/local issue, and not a Federal issue.
Thank you for your attention. I am available for questions.
Statement of Peter M. Rooney
California has a large and very productive agricultural industry that presents complex wastewater management challenges, particularly in the area of confined animals. The magnitude and complexity of the dairy industry in California is significant.
At $24.5 billion farm-gate value, California is the largest food and agricultural producer in the United States based on 1996 California Department of Food and Agriculture data. The same data shows that California livestock, dairy, poultry, and apiary were valued annually at more than $6 billion, including almost $3.7 billion for milk and cream, the largest in the nation.
The delivery system for California dairy products consists of over 2,300 dairy farms feeding approximately 1.3 million cows. A majority of dairies, approximately 1600, are located in the Central Valley. The Chino Basin in southern California and the northern San Francisco Bay Area are also major dairy centers. While the total number of dairies has declined somewhat, the industry as a whole is expanding in California with a trend toward fewer, larger dairies.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The primary strategy for dairy waste management is to contain all waste on-site and to use wastes as fertilizer on fields and pastures. Typical facilities consist of waste ponds or lagoons, a distribution and application system to utilize waste at agronomic rates, and a return system to convey runoff back to containment ponds. Water quality concerns center on surface water runoff and groundwater impacts.
California's Approach to Regulation
Regulation of confined animal facilities (CAFs) in California is the responsibility of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs). Primary authority derives from the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Porter-Cologne Act) and Title 27 of the California Code of Regulations. Additional authority is contained in Fish and Game Code section 5650 and, as a State with designated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) authority under the Federal Clean Water Act, all of the provisions of CFR Part 122 and related code sections. Unlike Federal law, California law does not differentiate regulatory requirements based on herd size.
California's approach to the regulation of dairies falls under our nonpoint source program and is contained in our Nonpoint Source Management Plan (1988). The Plan sets out a three tiered regulatory approach as follows:
Tier I: Voluntary implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs),
Tier II: Regulatory based encouragement of BMPs, for example, conditional waivers of Waste Discharge Requirements, and
Tier III: Effluent limitations, including the full regulatory and enforcement authorities under Porter-Cologne Act, such as discharge prohibitions, issuance of Waste Discharge Requirements, and various kinds of enforcement (described below).
The goal of this three-tiered approach is to achieve protection of beneficial uses at the lowest possible level of regulation.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As part of the Federal NPDES Program, the SWRCB has adopted a General Industrial Storm Water (NPDES) Permit for all dairies with over 700 head. All dairies subject to the permit are expected to comply through submission of a Notice of Intent and preparation and implementation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan.
In addition to the tiered regulatory approach, California is implementing a watershed approach and strategies to deal with all types of activities and discharges which affect water quality in each watershed. Attendant with the watershed approach, a great amount of stakeholder input and execution of measures is involved. Again, we are focusing on getting the most out of voluntary efforts.
Elements of California's Program
The threats to water quality from confined animal facilities, both surface and ground waters, vary throughout the State. These facilities are located throughout the State under diverse environmental conditions such as high rainfall and sloping topography areas in the North Coast and flat and arid areas in the San Joaquin Valley. Potential impacts of discharges from these facilities to water quality and beneficial uses are increased in sensitive watersheds and where facilities are highly concentrated. Such conditions exist in the north and south coastal regions and the San Joaquin Valley.
The SWRCB and regional boards have deployed all tiers of regulation to address these varying situations. Specific elements of the California program include:
Compliance Assistance: Outreach to the dairy community is being conducted on several fronts. We have prepared an information brochure (copy attached) on State requirements for dairies and mailed it to every dairy operator in the State, and many our regional boards have conducted outreach and training programs. The University of California is providing training in dairy waste management in workshops throughout the State. Workshops provide an overview of the regulations, training in the principles of waste management, and assistance in preparation of dairy waste management plans. Further outreach and training is conducted or supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the industry itself. Such training is vital to an effective waste management program due to the complexity of the regulations affecting confined animal facilities.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC An example at the watershed-approach level is the Sonoma-Marin Animal Waste Committee. The committee consists of a local group of dairy operators, the Cooperative Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, San Francisco Bay and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Boards, and other entities working together to control animal waste through voluntary cooperative efforts. It cooperates with the Farm Bureau and the regional boards which send representatives out to the farms to assist them in making their operations more self-regulating and accountable. The Committee has developed a Complaint Resolution Procedure that enables it, working with the appropriate agency (RWQCBs and the California Department of Fish and Game) to respond to complaints and incidents in a timely manner.
The Committee publishes a newsletter to keep interested parties informed of the activities of the Committee as well as various educational materials, including ''Appropriate Animal Waste Management Guidelines'' for local dairies. A model dairy plan has been developed. It has three components: (1) structural facilities management and wastewater management, (2) nutrient management, and (3) upland management. The idea is to have a checklist to enable dairy operators to determine how much wastewater is being produced in order to properly size a containment pond and properly apply it to land. The Committee also holds conferences and annual tours of demonstration practices.
The Committee has also published, in cooperation with the regional boards, ''Sequence of Events Leading To Enforcement By The Regional Board And What These Enforcement Orders Mean.'' This document clarifies the enforcement responsibilities of the regional boards and what actions dairies can expect to occur if compliance with the animal waste regulations does not occur.
Local-based watershed efforts such as those being conducted by the Committee underscores the importance of maintaing regulatory flexibility for site specific situations and partnering with all stakeholders.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Compliance Assurance - There has been a general trend toward increased use of all regulatory components, but particularly compliance assurance and enforcement. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has diverted staff from other programs to focus on dairy compliance. This has resulted in documentation of numerous surface and ground water threats and led to enforcement actions against several dairies.
Permitting - The General Industrial Storm Water Permit applies statewide. Regional boards adopt general (areawide) or individual NPDES permits or Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs). Dairies in the Santa Ana and Colorado River Regions are all under general NPDES permits/areawide WDRs. The San Diego region has written individual WDRs for all facilities. Some regions are operating under a combination of individual permits and waivers. In the Central Valley region, approximately 10 percent of the 1600 dairies are under individual WDRs with the balance under conditional waivers.
Enforcement - The Porter-Cologne Act provides several enforcement tools, including Cease and Desist Orders, Cleanup and Abatement Orders, and Administrative Civil Liability (fines). The unusually wet conditions of this past winter have resulted in more violations and enforcement actions.
A multi-agency task force was formed in the Fall of 1997 specifically to address the discharge to surface water by dairies. The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) has been instrumental in the formation and operation of this task force. It has two major functions:
First, it aids in coordination of the field activities of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Department of Fish and Game, and region 9 of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The field activities have been very successful, documenting many surface water violations ranging from minor to serious.
Second, the task force is coordinating the enforcement actions by a number of agencies. Many of the enforcement cases are still under review and formal actions are pending, but several have been completed. These include a $50,000 fine against one dairy, 90 days in jail and a $100,000 fine by the U.S. Attorney against another, and several settlement agreements for corrective action and fines by the District Attorneys. Violation notices have been sent to many dairies and the regional board has issued several Cleanup and Abatement Orders prescribing time schedules for dairy improvements over this summer. Failure to comply with these Orders can result in fines and other enforcement action.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC New Program Elements - The SWRCB has undertaken development of a statewide confined animal program with an overall goal of enhancing the effectiveness of the individual programs of the regional boards through coordination and communication among all stakeholders. This will include the formation of a round table committee consisting of the dairy program staff of each regional board. This work serves to assist in the resolution of issues coming out of watershed efforts. The purpose of this group is to provide overall direction and support in the development of the statewide program. A second element of the statewide program is the formation of a stakeholder task force including representatives from industry, the environmental and academic communities, and State and Federal resource and regulatory agencies. The purpose of this group is to provide input to the development of the statewide program and to assist with its implementation through support and outreach. The third new element is the commitment of $100,000 per year at the SWRCB for program support. This will include support for outreach and training, and development of BMPs. A dairy program manager directs this effort at the SWRCB.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture, working with Cal/EPA and the dairy industry is formulating a compliance assistance program whereby industry support will be channeled toward updating the infrastructure needs of dairy waste management. Under such a program, manure and waste generation will be matched with proper agronomic use of these products.
Relationship to the U.S. EPA Approach. U.S. EPA has undertaken, based on the Vice President's Clean Water Action Plan, the development of an Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) strategy with the stated purpose being ''a significant expansion of U.S. EPA's regulatory and voluntary efforts related to AFOs.'' Cal/EPA is preparing comments on the draft strategy at this time. Without commenting here on specific provisions of the strategy, it is our position that sufficient authority now exists at the State level in California, including existing Federal regulations carried out by the State, to effectively regulate CAFs without further expansion of U.S. EPA's role in this area.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC CAFs are only one of many possible sources of concern in a watershed. Our watershed strategy is designed to address water quality issues, including groundwater issues outside U.S. EPA authority, in California's watersheds as a whole and to integrate the regulation and remediation of discharges on a watershed scale, not a program scale. Consequently, we are concerned about overly prescriptive regulatory intervention at the Federal level, either through U.S. EPA's draft strategy or either of the confined animal bills pending in the House and Senate. Federal initiatives should complement watershed approaches and should be cast in realistic terms with respect to burdens imposed and Federal funding support available.
We advocate a balanced approach, not only in terms of the program elements described above, but also in context with all sources of impairments on a watershed scale. We have made significant advances in these areas in the last three years and feel that their best chance of success is if the process is allowed to function with assistance, not prescription from Washington.
The primary role of U.S. EPA (and U.S. Department of Agriculture) should be to provide technical and financial support to the industry and the State in the area of compliance assistance. Increased funding is needed for the technical assistance programs at these agencies to help them fulfill this role.
California works in tandem with U.S. EPA and local agencies to provide environmental protection across the spectrum, including the dairy area. We recognize that there has been some confusion among the dairy operators in California due to the sudden appearance of U.S. EPA staff in the field making compliance inspections. However, these inspections were coordinated through a multi-agency task force. To the extent possible, government prefers environmental protection through voluntary measures rather than enforcement. As recent investigations have demonstrated, however, enforcement is a necessary tool to stimulate individual responsibility.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Summary
California is the largest agricultural producer and the No. 1 dairy State in the nation. The conditions under which these commodities are produced are diverse, and the potential for environmental impacts from the operations is significant. A flexible regulatory program is needed under these diverse conditions. A top-down, ''one size fits all'' regulatory approach will not work under the diverse conditions that exist in California, much less in the Nation.
We have a need to optimize our resources in the regulation and management of CAFs. A balanced program, based on watershed strategies, holds the best chances of success. Outreach, education, and technical assistance is needed. Where these efforts fail, focused regulation needs to be applied. This will enable compliance with regulatory requirements at the least cost to the industry, the State, and the nation, without compromising our ability to bring swift and effective enforcement against the bad actors.
Environmental problems with confined animal facilities in California did not happen overnight and implementing solutions will take time. The solution to these problems is not in regulatory programs; it is in the day to day conduct of animal confinement operations. While there has been a recent need for enforcement activities, this disruption to the dairy industry in California will dissipate as operators causing problems demonstrate awareness and step up attention to environmental needs. Our success hinges on actions motivated from within the dairy industry. We have successful model dairies to draw from in California and we are seeing more moving in that direction. Our goal is full compliance. The leadership of the dairy industry concurs in this objective. I have every confidence that with the help of all parties, both public and private, backed up by a strong enforcement ability, the dairy industry will be known as good stewards of the environment.
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