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Ag groups back EPA in CAFO suit

Agricultural groups have joined the Environmental Protection Agency in a lawsuit against environmentalists pushing for additional permits on large livestock farms.

“It could have an incredibly massive impact on farms across the country.”

American Farm Bureau Federation deputy general counsel Travis Cushman tells Brownfield this is the third time EPA’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO, rule has faced legal challenges.

“If those first two big cases Courts of Appeals found that EPA does not presume that CAFOs are discharging,” he explains. “You can’t assume that someone is doing a bad thing if there’s a discharge. There are significant civil and criminal penalties against that.”

Petitioners in this case claim EPA’s existing regulations are too “minimal” and too difficult to verify compliance.

Cushman says the organization, along with the National Pork Producers Council, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, and United Egg Producers, are defending the EPA interpretation of the Clean Water Act’s agricultural storm water exemption.

“Environmental groups want there to be a presumption of discharge for CAFOs and they want the storm water exemption to go away,” he says.

The groups say the petitioners ignore the extensive EPA requirements are for both permitted and unpermitted CAFOs. Farms currently can face penalties of nearly $67,000 per violation per day.

Under existing regulations, any CAFO that fails to follow nutrient management practices when land applying manure do not qualify for the agricultural stormwater exclusion.

Cushman expects oral arguments will be heard in the fall with a decision being made on the case by the beginning of next year.

AUDIO: Travis Cushman, American Farm Bureau Federation

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