Are farmers protected from PFAS?

A lawyer says the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent classification of two forever chemicals as hazardous substances could have a significant impact on the agricultural industry.

Minneapolis-based Stoel Rives Environmental Partner Thomas Braun tells Brownfield farmers and agribusinesses could be held responsible for potential perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination.

“The most common scenario being a farmer that permits the land application of biosolids from a wastewater treatment facility,” he says. “Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in this new rule, farmers could be responsible for cleaning up PFOS releases connected to the land application of those biosolids, even though they had nothing to do with the PFAS and those biosolids.”

Braun says EPA did issue a separate enforcement discretion policy that could protect farmers, but it only applies to land application of biosolids and in situations that support discretion.

“Now it really would be a good time for folks to take a look at their systems to figure out what their potential exposure is, what their new requirements are and things of that nature,” he suggests. “It’s still early on.”

AUDIO: Thomas Braun, Stoel Rives

Senior Director of Public Policy RJ Karney with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture says their members are collaborating with federal and state agencies as the standards are put in place.

“We feel very secure that no PFAS has been detected in more than 97 percent of fresh and processed feeds tested by the FDA’s total diet study,” he says. “This is something that they’ll be continuing to monitor.”

NASDA and other ag organizations are calling for state and federal funding for PFAS mitigation research to help those in the food supply chain who may be affected by any potential contamination.

AUDIO: RJ Karney, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

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