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CAFO Rule Changes Could Impact Indiana Farms

by 5m Editor
14 January 2009, at 6:55am

US - Changes to federal concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) rules have experts waiting to see how Indiana farms will be affected when the state updates its own rules this year.

Tamilee Nennich, Purdue University assistant professor and Extension dairy specialist, said no one is sure how the state will change its rules to come into compliance with new federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements for CAFOs.

"While managing manure properly is very important, it would not be fair to existing CAFOs if the new rules resulted in financial burdens that would cause them to go out of business," Nennich said. "The rules need to protect the environment without placing unreasonable expectations on livestock producers."

There are two major changes to the federal rules, Nennich said.

Concentrated animal feeding operations can now opt out of getting a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit if they don't expect to have any manure discharges into water supplies from production or manure holding facilities or during field applications. Nennich said that some states allow a certain amount of discharge during large rainfall events, but Indiana does not allow for any, so those running CAFOs here could opt out of their permits.

"Opting out of the permit doesn't let them avoid regulation altogether," Nennich said. "They would still have to keep the same records and manage manure in the same way. The EPA or Indiana Department of Environmental Management could still check on them."

Currently, concentrated animal feeding operations must receive new permits every five years.

The second major federal change requires those who do continue to have a CAFO permit to hold a public forum on their nutrient plans, which detail how they will store manure, when they will apply it to fields and how much will be applied. Nennich said that could lead to heightened public scrutiny.

"It means that all their neighbors would be able to see their plans and comment on them," Nennich said. "It could potentially raise a lot more neighbor issues."

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management now has to revise its state rules to come into compliance with federal requirements.

Nennich said the state could roll those farms that opt out of permitting requirements into rules governing Confined Feeding Operations, or CFOs, which govern basically smaller versions of CAFOs. If that happens, Nennich said, there's concern that the smaller producers would be hit with more costly and restrictive rules, making it harder for them to stay in operation.

"The smaller operations probably need to be aware that their rules could change," Nennich said.

Federal rules were completed in late October. Indiana is expected to have its changes done before the end of this year.