The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the beginning of the first nationwide study of air emissions from poultry, dairy, and swine animal feeding operations.
With EPA oversight, researchers from eight universities will take part in the two-year, $14.6 million study to measure concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, ammonia, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds, and other gases from livestock facilities. The research officially began in June at 24 sites in nine states.
The EPA concluded in the late 1990s that it did not have sufficient air emissions data for animal feeding operations, which made it difficult to determine the compliance status of the operations with existing air emissions requirements. The EPA began discussions with owners of animal feeding operations in 2001.
Ultimately, the EPA developed a voluntary consent agreement with the industry for farmers to participate in a monitoring study. More than 2,600 agreements were signed, representing approximately 14,000 swine, dairy, and egg-laying and broiler chicken farms.
"There has never been an agricultural air emissions study this comprehensive or long term," said Albert J. Heber, PhD, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University and the lead scientist for the study. "We don't know enough about what is being emitted into the atmosphere. This study will give the EPA the data it needs to make science-based decisions."
The EPA intends to use the data from the monitoring study to develop an improved method for estimating emissions from individual animal feeding operations. The agency believes this innovative agreement will bring farms into compliance more quickly than could have been accomplished through traditional, case-by-case enforcement.
Along with Purdue, the universities participating in the study are the University of California-Davis, Cornell University, Iowa State University, University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, and Washington State University.
For more information about the study, visit the EPA online at www.epa.gov/agriculture/airmonitoringstudy.html.