First CAFO compliance date a year away

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 7, 2005
by WLJ
— Second important date in December ‘06.
Producers need to plan now to meet two key compliance dates for confined livestock operations next year, a University of Nebraska livestock bioenvironmental engineer said.
Both deadlines result from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA’s) recent update on rules dealing with concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. These rules deal mainly with how manure is managed to protect water quality. The updated rules place more of an emphasis on proper management of animal manure both at the confinement site where it is produced and on farmland where it is applied.
By Feb. 13, 2006, all large CAFOs must apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, said Rick Koelsch, livestock bioenvironmental engineer in the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. That includes large CAFOs that already have a current state operator's permit.
The updated CAFO rules came about in 2004 after the Nebraska legislature updated state rules to meet federal standards of the EPA's CAFO regulations. This update combined the state and federal permits into a single permit enforced by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.
"Under the updated rules, both animals housed under a roof and on open lots are potentially CAFOs," Koelsch said. "Many poultry, dairy and swine facilities where animals are housed in barns will now need this federal permit, where historically it was applied only to outdoor feedlots."
Confined operations with a maximum one-time capacity of 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cattle, 2,500 swine weighing more than 55 pounds, 55,000 turkeys or 125,000 broilers are automatically considered large CAFOs. Some medium-sized animal feeding operations with fewer animals may need a permit if there is a direct connection between the animal housing and surface water. Beef feedlots with 300 to 999 head can become defined as a CAFO if surface water runs through the feedlot or the lot is located near intermittent or continuous streams, Koelsch said.
Another key compliance date is Dec. 31, 2006. By then, all large CAFOs will need a fully implemented nutrient management plan for farming operation. These management plans address how the nutrients in manure are stored and used to fertilize crops to prevent water pollution.
"The environmental regulatory community is very serious about industry compliance with these regulations," Koelsch said. "That's why it's important to begin compliance with these rules immediately." While these deadlines seem far off, applying for the federal permit and bringing production facilities up to required standards can take at least a year, he said.
In addition, as soon as possible, large operations that house livestock in open lots, most commonly beef feedlots, should apply for their federal permit to reduce current legal liabilities, Koelsch said. Open lot facilities have been required to have a federal permit since the 1970s. Operations with a current federal permit need not reapply assuming it is current. Federal permits generally must be renewed every five years.
"I would anticipate we will see some examples made of producers who don't meet these deadlines," he said. "That's why it's important to use the available resources to apply for these permits and comply with these environmental regulations." — WLJ