EPA Cracking Down On Manure Runoff

Brent Finnegan -- March 1st, 2010

There’s a story in today’s Daily News-Record on local farmers concerned about the impact environmentalists and “well organized” animal rights groups could have on the dairy and beef industry in Virginia. The EPA’s primary concern is animal waste pollutants that make their way into the Chesapeake Bay. According to the DNR, some farmers are also afraid that animal rights activists might impact their bottom line.

[Dairyman Gerald Heatwole] cited recent proposals from the Environmental Protection Agency that could saddle farmers with additional government regulations.

Officials for the EPA spent much of December holding regional meetings about such laws, including one session at Spotswood High School, to address the need for farmers to keep livestock waste out of streams that lead to the Chesapeake Bay.

The article implies that the farmers are looking to data from Virginia Tech to help “counter animal-rights groups that attack agriculture for alleged inhumane treatment of livestock.”

I was unable to find any recent releases from animal rights groups specifically targeting Virginia cattlemen or dairy farmers — the DNR story doesn’t cite any particular animal rights initiatives — but PETA does generally oppose livestock and dairy farming.

However, stricter EPA enforcement has been making headlines this winter. The Washington Post reports that the agency is cracking down on manure runoff as one of its major “enforcement initiatives.”

The EPA, in the middle of an overhaul for the failed Chesapeake cleanup, also has threatened to tighten rules on large farms.

“We now know that we have more nutrient pollution from animals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed” than from human sewage, said J. Charles Fox, the EPA’s new Chesapeake czar. “Nutrients” is the scientific word for the main pollutants found in manure, treated sewage, and runoff from fertilized lawns. They are the bay’s chief evil, feeding unnatural algae blooms that cause dead zones.

Around the country, agricultural interests have fought back against moves like these, saying that new rules on manure could mean crushing new costs for farmers.

I’m not sure which local farms (if any) are considered “large farms” by the EPA.

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3 Responses to “EPA Cracking Down On Manure Runoff”

  1. Will says:

    I have no problem with the EPA requiring farmers to keep their livestock out of streams/rivers. I’m not sure, but I’d be willing to guess their are state regulations which require the same.

  2. There is no threat to Chesapeake drainage farmers from “Animal Rights Activists”. We do know that our drainage is full of excess livestock nutrient and that so far, agriculture has not had to do it’s share to reduce nutrification of the surface and groundwater. In fact agriculture has been given exemptions from compliance. And utility ratepayers, and groundwater users have carried the load, either through higher sewage rates, or contaminated drinking water. Our water resources are a common wealth, no industry or user has the right to dump their waste while others are compelled to pay to control their waste. This is basic fairness.

    The push to regulate ag nutrients isn’t new, and it isn’t done. All farmers now know what they need to do to limit their pollutants, and there is considerable state and local resources to assist them. For most these are modest and affordable costs of business like maintaining good fencing and fertilization schedules. But for the big CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations) that run massive poultry ops, trade on Wall Street, and generate huge amounts of manure this latest DNR promotion is an effort to again avoid being good community members. Screw ’em, they can afford it.

  3. Eli says:

    As a child growing up near Broadway, our landlord had a stocked fish pond in our backyard that we spent many happy hours fishing and playing on. Then one year our neighbor above us over-fertilized his field and turned the pond into a toxic algae wasteland. Every single fish died within a few days. The surface was covered with hundreds of corpses of bass, sunfish, and carp. It still makes me mad thinking about it.

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