Pork, dairy, poultry and egg producers have until May 1 to decide
whether to sign a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental
After a series of court cases, the EPA announced in January that federal
air quality laws would retroactively apply to certain livestock
production facilities. Applicable regulations include the Clean Air Act;
Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and Liability Act;
and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act provisions.
Livestock producers need to be aware of this consent agreement with the
EPA and familiarize themselves with existing EPA air quality
regulations, said Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska livestock
"This issue may not be on producers' radar screens and could have
significant ramifications," the Institute of Agriculture and Natural
Resources engineer said. "Producers need to make an informed decision
which should not be taken lightly and should be reviewed by an
"These (EPA) laws were originally meant for the smokestack industry,"
said John Thorne, a consultant with C&M Capitolink in Washington. Thorne
and other livestock industry and government representatives spoke at a
recent air quality consent agreement information meeting sponsored by
Nebraska Cooperative Extension and livestock industry representatives.
The meeting can be viewed on the Web at http://webvideo.unl.edu/airquality.shtml.
The EPA is now applying these regulations to the livestock industry
based upon recent court decisions involving livestock and poultry
What's needed is a clearer understanding of how these regulations apply
to animal production, he said.
To find that out, the consent agreement will allow the livestock
industry and others to conduct a two-year air quality study. After the
study, the EPA will produce air emission factors that will be used to
compare emissions from animal facilities to existing regulatory
thresholds in the Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Responses,
Compensation and Liability Act; and Environmental Planning and Community
Emissions that will be studied include particulate matter, such as dust,
hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. The consent
agreement was negotiated by pork, dairy, poultry and egg industry
representatives and the EPA. The beef industry believes the Clean Air
Act regulations do not apply to emissions from feedlots and have pursued
alternative discussions with the EPA, Koelsch said.
Pork, dairy, poultry and egg producers who decide to fill out the
consent agreement form, must send it to the EPA postmarked no later than
May 1. Forms are available at www.epa.gov/airlinks/airlinks1.html.
The EPA will review the consent agreement and return it to the producer.
At that time, the producer will pay a penalty ranging from $200 to
$100,000, depending on size and number of farms a producer owns. This
penalty would range from $200 to $1,000 for a single farm.
In addition, fees must be paid to cover the two-year study. National
commodity associations for the pork and egg industries are paying this
cost through check-off funds.
The consent agreement will protect producers from liability for past air
quality violations and violations during the EPA study period. Producers
who do not sign the consent agreement will be liable for past violations
and still will be required to comply in the future. Completion of the
emissions study and development of emission factors for animal
production will be completed in the next five years, said Karen Flournoy
of EPA Region 7.
"The fundamental question is whether or not a producer wants to sign
this consent agreement with the EPA," Koelsch said.
Signing the agreement admits no wrong doing, Thorne said. However, it
isn't clear who is in violation of these laws because air quality
emissions from livestock and poultry facilities are unknown at this
The Clean Air Act includes only particulate matter and volatile organic
compounds, said Joe Francis with the Nebraska Department of
Environmental Quality. However, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide soon could
Under the Comprehensive Environmental Responses, Compensation and
Liability Act, and Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know
Act, no more than 100 pounds of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile
organic compounds or particulate matter can be emitted per day. "Right
now, we think the Clean Air Act will only apply to the very large
producers," said Rick Stowell, a university animal environmental
engineer. However, the Comprehensive Environmental Responses,
Compensation and Liability Act, and Environmental Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act requirements may apply to smaller farms.
"Right now we don't know where the thresholds are," Stowell said."Only
estimates can be made."
The two-year study will determine what the emission factors will be.
Stowell estimated a livestock facility that holds 2,000 swine could emit
more than 100 pounds of ammonia per day under these two acts. However,
it would likely take 10,000 to 15,000 hogs to violate the Clean Air Act
provisions. These are estimates only and the actual animal thresholds
determined from the two-year study could be different.
For more information about what the EPA air quality consent agreement,
visit EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/agreements/caa/cafo-agr-0501.html.
For more information from Nebraska Cooperative Extension, including
information from the recent meeting, consult Nebraska's Comprehensive
Nutrient Management Planning Web site at http://cnmp.unl.edu and click
on "EPA consent agreement" or contact a local extension office. —