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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