Regulatory Brief

 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Reporting Rule (October 2011)


Formal title: Docket Number [EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0188] National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Reporting Rule

The purpose of this co-proposal is to improve and restore water quality by collecting facility-specific information, including addresses and GPS points, of CAFOs for a public database, which EPA suggests would improve its ability to effectively implement the NPDES program and to ensure that CAFOs are complying with the requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also requests comment on three alternative approaches to gather information about CAFOs, which could be used to achieve the objectives of this proposed action in protecting water quality.


Brief Description:

The EPA co-proposes two options for obtaining for a public database basic information, including addresses and GPS points, from CAFOs. However, EPA would make every reasonable effort to assess the utility of existing publicly available data and programs to obtain identifying information about CAFOs by working with partners at the Federal, state, and local level before determining whether an information collection request is necessary.

AVMA Response:

The AVMA supports the basic premises of current federal and state legislation and regulations enacted to prevent negative environmental impacts from wastes generated by animal production. We support education, outreach, and extension programs to assist producers in meeting or exceeding current federal and state requirements, including establishing and implementing nutrient management plans and effective waste management facilities to prevent contamination of the environment. We are a proponent of scientific studies of the impact of pathogens and chemicals from animal/human waste sources on the environment and means to mitigate such. Similarly, the AVMA supports science based research on animal waste management systems and procedures which foster the utilization of animal waste materials as nutrient sources for sustainable agriculture systems.

AVMA opposes both of the EPA's current co-proposed rules because neither enhances environmental or public health efforts beyond what already exists, and yet both clearly increase the risks to the animals, the producers, and the public. Additionally, the co-proposed rules do not fully utilize pre-existing State and Federal data, have controversial justifications, and create redundancies. Below is a brief summary of selected concerns conveyed by the AVMA to the EPA. Please see the full AVMA response for all the concerns voiced and for more detail.

Increased Risks
Compiling specific site location and contact information of CAFOs in a format accessible by the public will place the farms' biosecurity at risk and risks the security of the U.S. food supply from the impacts of a foreign animal disease and malicious adulterations.

The EPA would in effect provide a roadmap to the nation's CAFOs, and by doing so would dramatically undermine concurrent antiterrorism, biosecurity, and food defense efforts by the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, farmers, food processors, and other stakeholders.

Providing such a public listing or roadmap of CAFOs will result in increased incidences of trespassing, vandalism, animal harm, and human risks from activists.

No Discernible Enhancement to Existing Environmental or Public Health Efforts
Under the CWA, permits are required for facilities to discharge pollutants to the water of the U.S. Under the CAFO rule and this current co-proposed rule, the requirements remain the same.

Currently under the CWA, the EPA has the authority to inspect any discharging facility, its records, and its effluents. The current co-proposed rules do not limit or enhance the inspection or regulatory enforcement authority.

All CAFOs that discharge currently have recordkeeping and reporting requirements that are far more detailed than the reporting included in the co-proposed rules.

Pre-Existing State and Federal Data
The AVMA strongly recommends as an alternative that the EPA utilize pre-existing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Census of Agriculture (http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/), which is publically available, has already established means to collect and report farm locations, types, sizes, and much more without jeopardizing security information.

Other pre-existing State and Federal data recommended by the AVMA to the EPA for use in the Agency's efforts include:

Background Documents:

Full AVMA Response (PDF)

Federal Register Notice (PDF)

EPA’s July 20, 2012 withdrawal of the proposed rule (PDF)