Environmental groups lobby EPA to regulate CAFOs

Environmental groups are lobbying for regulation of dairy and hog concentrated animal feeding operations.

The Center for Food Safety and others have filed a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency wanting them to govern CAFO methane emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Senior Attorney Amy Van Saun tells Brownfield the petition asks operations that confine at least 500 cows or 1,000 hogs to cut emissions by the same amount achieved through pasture-based farming. “We believe that pasture-based is not only much better for climate emissions but also it has a lot of other impacts. It’s better for animal welfare, better for the neighbors and the surrounding community and public health. In fact, it can help sequester carbon in healthy soils,” she said.

“Clearly the petitioners are not paying attention to what the U.S. dairy industry is doing now and has committed to in the future. As part of our collective commitment to provide the world responsibly-produced dairy foods that nourish people, strengthen communities and foster a sustainable future, last year the U.S. dairy industry set aggressive new environmental sustainability goals to become carbon neutral or better, optimize water usage and improve water quality by 2050,” Jamie Jonker, Vice President of Sustainability and Scientific Affairs at the National Milk Producers Association told Brownfield.

“We also launched the industrywide Net Zero Initiative in 2020 to accelerate voluntary action on farms to reduce environmental impacts by making sustainable practices and technologies more accessible and affordable to U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies. This is achievable through research, on-farm pilots, development of manure-based products and ecosystem markets, and other farmer technical support and opportunities,” Jonker said.

In a statement to Brownfield, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says the “petition is likely to be rejected by the EPA and says it advocates for the elimination of animal agriculture.”

NCBA says the petition would implement a system where people eat less pork and consume less dairy. 

“While beef cattle are not targeted in this petition, the same rhetoric has been weaponized against cattle producers in the past,” said NCBA Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager. “In this case, activists are attacking pork and dairy producers’ good-faith efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and capture methane for electricity production.”

View the petition here.

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