Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding, and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long history, starti ...
, a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), as defined by the
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, rural economic development, and food. It aims to meet the needs of com ...
(USDA), is an
In grammar, an intensive word form is one which denotes stronger, more forceful, or more concentrated action relative to the root on which the intensive is built. Intensives are usually lexical formations, but there may be a regular process for for ... animal feeding operation
(AFO) in which over 1,000 animal unit
s are confined for over 45 days a year. An animal unit is the equivalent of 1,000 pounds of "live" animal weight. A thousand animal units equates to 700 dairy cows, 1,000 meat cows, 2,500 pigs weighing more than , 10,000 pigs weighing under 55 pounds, 10,000 sheep, 55,000 turkeys, 125,000 chickens, or 82,000 egg laying hens or pullets.
CAFOs are governed by regulations that restrict how much waste can be distributed and the quality of the waste materials.] As of 2012 there were around 212,000 AFOs in the United States, 19,496 of which were CAFOs.
Livestock production has become increasingly dominated by CAFOs in the United States and other parts of the world. Most poultry was raised in CAFOs starting in the 1950s, and most cattle and pigs by the 1970s and 1980s. By the mid-2000s CAFOs dominated livestock and poultry production in the United States, and the scope of their market share is steadily increasing. In 1966, it took 1 million farms to house 57 million pigs; by 2001, it took only 80,000 farms to house the same number.
There are roughly 212,000 AFOs in the United States,
of which 19,496 met the more narrow criteria for CAFOs in 2016. The Environmental Protection Agency
A biophysical environment is a biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development, and evolution. A biophysical environment can vary in scale f ... (EPA) has delineated three categories of CAFOs, ordered in terms of capacity: large, medium and small. The relevant animal unit for each category varies depending on species and capacity. For instance, large CAFOs house 1,000 or more cattle
Cattle (''Bos taurus'') are large, domesticated, cloven-hooved, herbivores. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae and the most widespread species of the genus '' Bos''. Adult females are referred to as cows and adult m ..., medium CAFOs can have 300–999 cattle, and small CAFOs harbor no more than 300 cattle.
The table below provides some examples of the size thresholds for CAFOs:
The categorization of CAFOs affects whether a facility is subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Its objective is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters; recognizing the responsibilit ... (CWA). EPA's 2008 rule specifies that "large CAFOs are automatically subject to EPA regulation; medium CAFOs must also meet one of two 'method of discharge' criteria to be defined as a CAFO (or may be designated as such); and small CAFOs can only be made subject to EPA regulations on a case-by-case basis." A small CAFO will also be designated a CAFO for purposes of the CWA if it discharges pollutants into waterways of the United States through a man-made conveyance such as a road, ditch
A ditch is a small to moderate divot created to channel water. A ditch can be used for drainage, to drain water from low-lying areas, alongside roadways or fields, or to channel water from a more distant source for plant irrigation. Ditches a ... or pipe. Alternatively, a small CAFO may be designated an ordinary animal feeding operation (AFO) once its animal waste management
Waste management or waste disposal includes the processes and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal.
This includes the collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste, together with monitorin ... system is certified at the site.
Since it first coined the term, the EPA has changed the definition (and applicable regulations) for CAFOs on several occasions. Private groups and individuals use the term CAFO colloquially to mean many types of both regulated and unregulated facilities, both inside and outside the U.S. The definition used in everyday speech may thus vary considerably from the statutory definition in the CWA. CAFOs are commonly characterized as having large numbers of animals crowded into a confined space, a situation that results in the concentration of manure in a small area.
The EPA has focused on regulating CAFOs because they generate millions of tons of manure every year. When improperly managed, the manure can pose substantial risks to the environment and
Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals". Analyzing the det .... In order to manage their waste, CAFO operators have developed agricultural wastewater treatment
Agricultural wastewater treatment is a farm management agenda for controlling pollution from confined animal operations and from surface runoff that may be contaminated by chemicals in fertilizer, pesticides, animal slurry, crop residues or i ... plans. The most common type of facility used in these plans, the anaerobic lagoon An anaerobic lagoon or manure lagoon is a man-made outdoor earthen basin filled with animal waste that undergoes anaerobic respiration as part of a system designed to manage and treat refuse created by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) ..., has significantly contributed to environmental and health problems attributed to the CAFO.
The large amounts of animal waste from CAFOs present a risk to water quality and aquatic ecosystems.
States with high concentrations of CAFOs experience on average 20 to 30 serious water quality problems per year as a result of manure management issues. Animal waste includes a number of potentially harmful pollutants. Pollutants associated with CAFO waste principally include:
Nitrogen is the chemical element with the symbol N and atomic number 7. Nitrogen is a nonmetal and the lightest member of group 15 of the periodic table, often called the pnictogens. It is a common element in the universe, estimated at seven ... and phosphorus
Phosphorus is a chemical element with the symbol P and atomic number 15. Elemental phosphorus exists in two major forms, white phosphorus and red phosphorus, but because it is highly reactive, phosphorus is never found as a free element on Ear ..., collectively known as nutrient pollution
Nutrient pollution, a form of water pollution, refers to contamination by excessive inputs of nutrients. It is a primary cause of eutrophication of surface waters (lakes, rivers and coastal waters), in which excess nutrients, usually nitrogen o ...;
# organic matter;
# solids, including the manure itself and other elements mixed with it such as spilled feed, bedding and litter materials, hair, feathers and animal corpses;
In biology, a pathogen ( el, πάθος, "suffering", "passion" and , "producer of") in the oldest and broadest sense, is any organism or agent that can produce disease. A pathogen may also be referred to as an infectious agent, or simply a ger ... (disease-causing organisms such as bacteria and viruses);
In chemistry, a salt is a chemical compound consisting of an ionic assembly of positively charged cations and negatively charged anions, which results in a compound with no net electric charge. A common example is table salt, with positively cha ...;
# trace elements such as arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As and atomic number 33. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal. Arsenic is a metalloid. It has various allotropes, but ...;
# odorous/volatile compounds such as carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide ( chemical formula ) is a chemical compound made up of molecules that each have one carbon atom covalently double bonded to two oxygen atoms. It is found in the gas state at room temperature. In the air, carbon dioxide is tran ..., methane
Methane ( , ) is a chemical compound with the chemical formula (one carbon atom bonded to four hydrogen atoms). It is a group-14 hydride, the simplest alkane, and the main constituent of natural gas. The relative abundance of methane on Ea ..., hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless chalcogen-hydride gas, and is poisonous, corrosive, and flammable, with trace amounts in ambient atmosphere having a characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs. The unde ..., and ammonia
Ammonia is an inorganic compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . A stable binary hydride, and the simplest pnictogen hydride, ammonia is a colourless gas with a distinct pungent smell. Biologically, it is a common nitrogenous w ...;
An antibiotic is a type of antimicrobial substance active against bacteria. It is the most important type of antibacterial agent for fighting bacterial infections, and antibiotic medications are widely used in the treatment and prevention o ...;
Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests. This includes herbicide, insecticide, nematicide, molluscicide, piscicide, avicide, rodenticide, bactericide, insect repellent, animal repellent, microbicide, fungicide, and ... and hormones
A hormone (from the Greek participle , "setting in motion") is a class of signaling molecules in multicellular organisms that are sent to distant organs by complex biological processes to regulate physiology and behavior. Hormones are required f .... [
The two main contributors to water pollution caused by CAFOs are soluble nitrogen compounds and phosphorus. The ] eutrophication
Eutrophication is the process by which an entire body of water, or parts of it, becomes progressively enriched with minerals and nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. It has also been defined as "nutrient-induced increase in phytoplan ... of water bodies from such waste is harmful to wildlife and water quality in aquatic system like streams, lakes, and oceans.
Groundwater is the water present beneath Earth's surface in rock and soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. About 30 percent of all readily available freshwater in the world is groundwater. A unit of rock or an unconsolidate ... and surface water are closely linked, water pollution from CAFOs can affect both sources if one or the other is contaminated. [ Surface water may be polluted by CAFO waste through the runoff of nutrients, organics, and pathogens from fields and storage. Waste can be transmitted to groundwater through the leaching of pollutants. Some facility designs, such as lagoons, can reduce the risk of groundwater contamination, but the microbial pathogens from animal waste may still pollute surface and groundwater, causing adverse effects on wildlife and human health.
A CAFO is responsible for one of the biggest environmental spills in U.S. history. In 1995, a lagoon ruptured in ] North Carolina
North Carolina () is a state in the Southeastern region of the United States. The state is the 28th largest and 9th-most populous of the United States. It is bordered by Virginia to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Georgia and .... North Carolina contains a significantly large portion of the United States' industrial hog operations which disproportionally affects Black, Hispanic and Indian American residents. The spill released of effluvium into the New River and resulted in the killing of 10 million fish in local water bodies. The spill also contributed to an outbreak of '' Pfiesteria piscicida,'' which caused health problems for humans in the area including skin irritations and short term cognitive problems.
CAFOs contribute to the reduction of ambient
Air pollution is the contamination of air due to the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials. There are many different type .... CAFOs release several types of gas emissions—ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane
Methane ( , ) is a chemical compound with the chemical formula (one carbon atom bonded to four hydrogen atoms). It is a group-14 hydride, the simplest alkane, and the main constituent of natural gas. The relative abundance of methane on Ea ..., and particulate matter
Particulates – also known as atmospheric aerosol particles, atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM) or suspended particulate matter (SPM) – are microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air. The te ...—all of which bear varying human health risks. The amount of gas emissions depends largely on the size of the CAFO. The primary cause of gas emissions from CAFOs is the decomposition of animal manure being stored in large quantities. [ Additionally, CAFOs emit strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria into the surrounding air, particularly downwind from the facility. Levels of antibiotics measured downwind from swine CAFOs were three times higher than those measured upwind.] While it is not widely known what is the source of these emissions, the animal feed is suspected.Globally, ruminant
Ruminants (suborder Ruminantia) are hoofed herbivorous grazing or browsing mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions. The ... livestock are responsible for about 115 Tg/a of the 330 Tg/a (35%) of anthropogenic
Anthropogenic ("human" + "generating") is an adjective that may refer to:
* Anthropogeny, the study of the origins of humanity
Counterintuitively, anthropogenic may also refer to things that have been generated by humans, as follows:
* Human im ... greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities strengthen the greenhouse effect, contributing to climate change. Most is carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. The largest emitters include coal in China and l ... released per year. Livestock operations are responsible for about 18% of greenhouse gas emissions globally and over 7% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Methane is the second most concentrated greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change
In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate change in a broader sense also includes previous long-term changes to E ..., with livestock contributing nearly 30% of anthropogenic methane emissions. [H. Augenbrau] Only 17% of these livestock emissions are due to manure management, with the majority resulting from
Augenbraun, H., Matthews, E., & Sarma, D. (1997). "The Global Methane Cycle"
Enteric fermentation is a digestive process by which carbohydrates are broken down by microorganisms into simple molecules for absorption into the bloodstream of an animal. Because of human agricultural reliance in many parts of the world on anima ..., or gases produced during digestion. With regards to antibiotic resistant bacteria, Staphylococcus Aureus
''Staphylococcus aureus'' is a Gram-positive spherically shaped bacterium, a member of the Bacillota, and is a usual member of the microbiota of the body, frequently found in the upper respiratory tract and on the skin. It is often positive ... accounts for 76% of bacteria grown within a swine CAFO. Group A Streptococci, and Fecal Coliforms were the two next most prevalent bacteria grown within the ambient air inside of swine CAFO.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations. Its job is to advance scientific knowledge about climate change caused by human activities. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) ... (IPCC) acknowledges the significant effect livestock has on methane emissions, antibiotic resistance, and climate change, and thus, recommends eliminating environmental stressors and modifying feeding strategies, including sources of feed grain, amount of forage
Forage is a plant material (mainly plant leaves and stems) eaten by grazing livestock. Historically, the term ''forage'' has meant only plants eaten by the animals directly as pasture, crop residue, or immature cereal crops, but it is also used m ..., and amount of digestible nutrients as strategies for reducing emissions. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) advocates for minimizing the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics, especially those that are widely used in human medicine, at the advice of over 350 organizations including the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association (AMA) is a professional association and lobbying group of physicians and medical students. Founded in 1847, it is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Membership was approximately 240,000 in 2016.
The AMA's st .... If no change is made and methane emissions continue increasing in direct proportion to the number of livestock, global methane production is predicted to increase 60% by 2030. Greenhouse gases and climate change
In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate change in a broader sense also includes previous long-term changes to E ... affect the air quality with adverse health effects including respiratory disorders, lung tissue damage, and allergies. Reducing the increase of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock could rapidly curb global warming. In addition, people who live near CAFOs frequently complain of the odors, which come from a complex mixture of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds.
In regard to air quality effects caused by waste disposal, some CAFOs will use "spray fields" and pump the waste of thousands of animals into a machine that sprays it onto an open field. The spray can be carried by wind onto nearby homes, depositing pathogen
In biology, a pathogen ( el, πάθος, "suffering", "passion" and , "producer of") in the oldest and broadest sense, is any organism or agent that can produce disease. A pathogen may also be referred to as an infectious agent, or simply a ger ...s, heavy metals, and antibiotic resistant bacteria into the air of communities often consisting mostly of low income and/or racial minority families. The odor plume caused by emissions and spraying often pervades nearby communities, contains respiratory and eye irritants including hydrogen sulfide and ammonia
Ammonia is an inorganic compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . A stable binary hydride, and the simplest pnictogen hydride, ammonia is a colourless gas with a distinct pungent smell. Biologically, it is a common nitrogenous w ....
Increased role in the market
The economic role of CAFOs has expanded significantly in the U.S. in the past few decades, and there is clear evidence that CAFOs have come to dominate animal production industries. The rise in large-scale animal agriculture began in the 1930s with the modern mechanization of swine slaughterhouse operations.
The growth of corporate contracting has also contributed to a transition from a system of many small-scale farms to one of relatively few large industrial-scale farms. This has dramatically changed the animal agricultural sector in the United States. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, "In the 1930s, there were close to 7 million farms in the United States and as of the 2002 census, just over 2 million farms remain." From 1969 to 2002, the number of family farms dropped by 39%, yet the percentage of family farms has remained high. As of 2004, 98% of all U.S. farms were family-owned and -operated. Most meat and dairy products are now produced on large farms with single-species buildings or open-air pens.
Due to their increased efficiency, CAFOs provide a source of low cost
An animal product is any material derived from the body of an animal. Examples are fat, flesh, blood, milk, eggs, and lesser known products, such as isinglass and rennet.
Animal by-products, as defined by the USDA, are products harvested or m ...s: meat, milk and eggs. CAFOs may also stimulate local economies through increased employment and use of local materials in their production. The development of modern animal agriculture has increased the efficiency of raising meat and dairy products. Improvements in animal breeding
Animal breeding is a branch of animal science that addresses the evaluation (using best linear unbiased prediction and other methods) of the genetic value (estimated breeding value, EBV) of livestock. Selecting for breeding animals with superior ..., mechanical innovations, and the introduction of specially formulated feeds (as well as animal pharmaceuticals) have contributed to the decrease in cost of animal products to consumers. The development of new technologies has also helped CAFO owners reduce production cost and increase business profits with less resources consumption. The growth of CAFOs has corresponded with an increase in the consumption of animal products in the United States. According to author Christopher L. Delgado, "milk production has doubled, meat production has tripled, and egg production has increased fourfold since 1960" in the United States.
Along with the noted benefits, there are also criticisms regarding CAFOs' impact on the economy. Many farmers in the United States find that it is difficult to earn a high income due to the low market prices of animal products. Such market factors often lead to low profit margins for production methods and a competitive disadvantage against CAFOs. Alternative animal production methods, like "free range" or "family farming" operations are losing their ability to compete, though they present few of the environmental and health risks associated with CAFOs.
Negative production externalities
Critics have long argued that the "retail prices of industrial meat, dairy, and egg products omit immense impacts on human health, the environment, and other shared public assets." The negative production externalities of CAFOs have been described as including "massive waste amounts with the potential to heat up the atmosphere, foul fisheries, pollute drinking water, spread disease, contaminate soils, and damage recreational areas" that are not reflected in the price of the meat product. Environmentalists contend that "citizens ultimately foot the bill with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, medical expenses, insurance premiums, declining property values, and mounting cleanup costs."
Some economists agree that CAFOs "operate on an inefficient scale." [William J. Weida (Jan. 5, 2000)] It has been argued, for instance, that "diminishing returns to scale quickly lead to costs of animal confinement that overwhelm any benefits of CAFOs."
"Economic Implications of Confined Animal Feeding Operations"
These economists claim that CAFOs are at an unfair competitive advantage because they shift the costs of animal waste from CAFOs to the surrounding region (an unaccounted for "externality").
CAFOs may contribute to a drop in nearby property values. Reasons for this decrease in property values include: potential risk of water contamination, odors, air pollution, and other health related issues. One study shows that property values on average decrease by 6.6% within a radius of a CAFO and by 88% within 1/10 of a mile from a CAFO. Proponents of CAFOs, including those in farm industry, respond by arguing that the negative externalities of CAFOs are limited. One executive in the pork industry, for instance, claims that any odor or noise from CAFOs is limited to an area within a quarter-mile of the facility. Proponents also point to the positive effect they believe CAFOs have on the local economy and tax base. CAFOs buy feed from and provide fertilizer to local farmers. And the same executive claims that farmers near CAFOs can save $20 per acre by using waste from CAFOs as a fertilizer.
Environmentalists contend that " sustainable
Specific definitions of sustainability are difficult to agree on and have varied in the literature and over time. The concept of sustainability can be used to guide decisions at the global, national, and individual levels (e.g. sustainable livin ... livestock operations" present a "less costly alternative." These operations, it is argued, "address potential health and environmental impacts through their production methods." And though "sustainably produced foods may cost a bit more, many of their potential beneficial environmental and social impacts are already included in the price." In other words, it is argued that if CAFO operators were required to internalize the full costs of production, then some CAFOs might be less efficient than the smaller farms they replace.
Other economic criticisms
Critics of CAFOs also maintain that CAFOs benefit from the availability of industrial and agricultural tax breaks/subsidies and the "vertical integration of giant agribusiness firms."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for instance, spent an average of $16 billion annually between FY 1996 to FY 2002 on commodity based subsidies. Some allege that the lax enforcement of anti-competitive practices may be contributing to the formulation of market monopoly. Critics also contend that CAFOs reduce costs and maximize profits through the overuse of antibiotics.
Public health concerns
The direct discharge of manure from CAFOs and the accompanying pollutants (including nutrients,
An antibiotic is a type of antimicrobial substance active against bacteria. It is the most important type of antibacterial agent for fighting bacterial infections, and antibiotic medications are widely used in the treatment and prevention o ..., pathogen
In biology, a pathogen ( el, πάθος, "suffering", "passion" and , "producer of") in the oldest and broadest sense, is any organism or agent that can produce disease. A pathogen may also be referred to as an infectious agent, or simply a ger ...s, and arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As and atomic number 33. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal. Arsenic is a metalloid. It has various allotropes, but ...) is a serious public health risk. The contamination of groundwater with pathogenic organisms from CAFOs can threaten drinking water resources, and the transfer of pathogens through drinking water contamination can lead to widespread outbreaks of illness. The EPA estimates that about 53% of people in the United States rely on groundwater resources for drinking water.
There are numerous effects on human health due to water contaminated by CAFOs. Accidental ingestion of contaminated water can result in diarrhea or other gastrointestinal illnesses and dermal exposure can result in irritation and infection of the skin, eyes or ear. High levels of nitrate also pose a threat to high-risk populations such as young children, pregnant women or the elderly. Several studies have shown that high levels of nitrate in drinking water are associated with increased risk of hyperthyroidism, insulin dependent diabetes and central nervous system malformations.
The exposure to chemical contaminates, such as antibiotics, in drinking water also creates problems for public health. In order to maximize animal production, CAFOs have used an increasing number of antibiotics, which in turn, increases bacterial resistance. This resistance threatens the efficiency of medical treatment for humans fighting bacterial infections. Contaminated surface and groundwater is especially concerning, due to its role as a pathway for the dissemination of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Due to the various antibiotics and pharmaceutical drugs found at a high density in contaminated water, antibiotic resistance can result due to DNA mutations, transformations and conjugations.
Antibiotics are used heavily in CAFOs to both treat and prevent illness in individual animals as well as groups. The close quarters inside CAFOs promote the sharing of pathogens between animals and thus, the rapid spread of disease. Even if their stock are not sick, CAFOs will incorporate low doses of antibiotics into feed "to reduce the chance for infection and to eliminate the need for animals to expend energy fighting off bacteria, with the assumption that saved energy will be translated into growth". This practice is an example of a non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. Such antibiotic use is thought to allow animals to grow faster and bigger, consequently maximizing production for that CAFO. Regardless, the World Health Organization has recommended that the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal husbandry
Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, fibre, milk, or other products. It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding, and the raising of livestock. Husbandry has a long history, starti ... be reevaluated, as it contributes to the overuse of antibiotics and thus the emergence of resistant bacteria that can spread to humans. When bacteria naturally occurring in the animals' environment and/or body are exposed to antibiotics, natural selection results in bacteria, who have genetic variations that protect them from the drugs, to survive and spread their advantageously resistant traits to other bacteria present in the ecosystem. This is how the problem of antimicrobial resistance
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes evolve mechanisms that protect them from the effects of antimicrobials. All classes of microbes can evolve resistance. Fungi evolve antifungal resistance. Viruses evolve antiviral resistance. P ... increases with the continued use of antibiotics by CAFOs. This is of concern to public health because resistant bacteria generated by CAFOs can be spread to the surrounding environment and communities via waste water discharge or aerosolization of particles.
Consequences of the air pollution caused by CAFO emissions include asthma, headaches, respiratory problems, eye irritation, nausea, weakness, and chest tightness. These health effects are felt by farm workers and nearby residents, including children. The risks to nearby residents was highlighted in a study evaluating health outcomes of more than 100,000 individuals living in regions with high densities of CAFOs, finding a higher prevalence of pneumonia and unspecified infectious diseases in those with high exposures compared to controls. Furthermore, a Dutch cross-sectional study 2,308 adults found decreases in residents' lung function to be correlated with increases particle emissions by nearby farms. In regards to workers, multiple respiratory consequences should be noted. Although "in many big CAFOs, it takes only a few workers to run a facility housing thousands of animals," the long exposure and close contact to animals puts CAFO employees at an increased risk. This includes a risk of contracting diseases like Novel H1N1 flu, which erupted globally in spring of 2009, or MRSA, a strain of antibiotic resistant bacteria. For instance, livestock-associated MRSA has been found in the nasal passages of CAFO workers, on the walls of the facilities they work in, and in the animals they tend. In addition, individuals working in CAFOs are at risk for chronic airway inflammatory diseases secondary to dust exposure, with studies suggesting the possible benefits to utilizing inhaler treatments empirically. Studies conducted by the University of Iowa show that the asthma rate of children of CAFO operators is higher than that of children from other farms.
Negative effects on minority populations
Low income and minority populations suffer disproportionately from proximity to CAFO and pollution and waste.
These populations suffer the most due to their lack of political clout to oppose construction of CAFOs and are often not economically capable of simply moving somewhere else.
In southern United States, the " Black Belt", a roughly crescent-shaped geological formation of dark fertile soil in the Southern United States well suited to cotton farming, has seen the long-lasting effects of slavery. During and after the Civil War
A civil war or intrastate war is a war between organized groups within the same state (or country).
The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independence for a region, or to change government policie ..., this area consisted mostly of black people who worked as sharecroppers and tenant farmers. Due to ongoing discrimination in land sales and lending, many African American farmers were systematically deprived of farmland. Today, communities in the Black Belt experience poverty, poor housing, unemployment
Unemployment, according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), is people above a specified age (usually 15) not being in paid employment or self-employment but currently available for work during the refer ..., poor health care and have little political power when it comes to the building of CAFOs. Black and brown people living near CAFOs often lack the resources to leave compromised areas and are further trapped by plummeting property values and poor quality of life. In addition to financial problems, CAFOs are also protected by "right-to-farm" law that protects them from residents that are living in CAFO occupied communities.
Not only are communities surrounded negatively affected by CAFOs, but the workers themselves experience harm from being on the job. In a study done in North Carolina that focused on twenty one Latino chicken catchers for a poultry-processing plant, the work place was found to be forcefully high intensity labor with high potential for injury and illness including trauma, respiratory illness, drug use and musculoskeletal injuries. Workers were also found to have little training about the job or safety. In the United States, agricultural workers are engaged in one of the most hazardous jobs in the country.
CAFO workers have historically been African American but there has been a surge of Hispanic and often undocumented Hispanic
The term ''Hispanic'' ( es, hispano) refers to people, cultures, or countries related to Spain, the Spanish language, or Hispanidad.
The term commonly applies to countries with a cultural and historical link to Spain and to viceroyalties forme ... workers. Between 1980 and 2000, there was a clear shift in an ethnic and racially diverse workforce, led by Hispanic workforce growth. Oftentimes, CAFO owners will preferably hire Hispanic workers because they are low-skilled workers who are willing to work longer hours and do more intensive work. Due to this, there are increased ICE raids on meat processing plants.
Animal health and welfare concerns
CAFO practices have raised concerns over
Animal welfare is the well-being of non-human animals. Formal standards of animal welfare vary between contexts, but are debated mostly by animal welfare groups, legislators, and academics. Animal welfare science uses measures such as longevit ... from an ethics standpoint. Some view such conditions as neglectful to basic animal welfare. According to David Nibert, professor of sociology at Wittenberg University, more than 10 billion animals are housed in "horrific conditions" in more than 20,000 CAFOs across the U.S. alone, where they "spend their last 100–120 days crammed together by the thousands standing in their own excrement, with little or no shelter from the elements." Many people believe that the harm to animals before their slaughter should be addressed through public policy. Laws regarding animal welfare in CAFOs have already been passed in the United States. For instance, in 2002, the state of Florida passed an amendment to the state's constitution banning the confinement of pregnant pigs in gestation crate
A gestation crate, also known as a sow stall, is a metal enclosure in which a farmed sow used for breeding may be kept during pregnancy.Wilson G. Pond, Fuller W. Bazer, Bernard E. Rollin (eds.), ''Animal Welfare in Animal Agriculture'', CRC Pres ...s. As a source for comparison, the use of battery cages for egg-laying hens and battery cage breeding methods have been completely outlawed in the European Union since 2012.
Whereas some people are concerned with animal welfare as an end in itself, others are concerned about animal welfare because of the effect of living conditions on consumer safety. Animals in CAFOs have lives that do not resemble those of animals found in the wild. Although CAFOs help secure a reliable supply of animal products, the quality of the goods produced is debated, with many arguing that the food produced is unnatural. For instance, confining animals into small areas requires the use of large quantities of antibiotics
An antibiotic is a type of antimicrobial substance active against bacteria. It is the most important type of antibacterial agent for fighting bacterial infections, and antibiotic medications are widely used in the treatment and prevention o ... to prevent the spread of disease. There are debates over whether the use of antibiotics in meat production is harmful to humans.
We have discussed that milk production is a metric of a cows health. Since 1960 average milk cow production has increased from to by 2008, as noted by Dale Bauman and Jude Capper in the ''Efficiency of Dairy Production and its Carbon Footprint''. The article points to the fact that the carbon footprint resulting from the production of a gallon of milk in 2007 is 37% of what it was in 1944. This is largely due to the efficiencies found in larger farming operations and a further understanding of the health needs of farm animals.
Regulation under the Clean Water Act
Basic structure of CAFO regulations under the CWA
The command-and-control permitting structure of the
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Its objective is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters; recognizing the responsibilit ... (CWA) provides the basis for nearly all regulation of CAFOs in the United States. Generally speaking, the CWA prohibits the discharge of pollution to the "waters of the United States" from any " point source
A point source is a single identifiable ''localised'' source of something. A point source has negligible extent, distinguishing it from other source geometries. Sources are called point sources because in mathematical modeling, these sources can ...", unless the discharge is authorized by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the EPA (or a state delegated by the EPA). CAFOs are explicitly listed as a point source in the CWA. Unauthorized discharges made from CAFOs (and other point sources) violate the CWA, even if the discharges are "unplanned or accidental." [Claudia Copeland, ''Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA's Response to the'' Waterkeeper Alliance ''Court Decision on Regulation of CAFOs'', ''in'' WATER POLLUTION ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS 77 (Sarah V. Thomas, ed., 2008).] CAFOs that do not apply for NPDES permits "operate at their own risk because any discharge from an unpermitted CAFO (other than agricultural stormwater
Stormwater, also spelled storm water, is water that originates from precipitation (storm), including heavy rain and meltwater from hail and snow. Stormwater can soak into the soil ( infiltrate) and become groundwater, be stored on depressed land ...) is a violation of the CWA subject to enforcement action, including third party citizen suits." [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Final Rulemaking - Q&A (Dec. 3, 2008).]
The benefit of an NPDES permit is that it provides some level of certainty to CAFO owners and operators. "Compliance with the permit is deemed compliance with the CWA... and thus acts as a shield against EPA or State CWA enforcement or against citizen suits under... the CWA." In addition, the "upset and bypass" provisions of the permit can give ''permitted'' CAFO owners a legal defense when "emergencies or natural disaster
A natural disaster is "the negative impact following an actual occurrence of natural hazard in the event that it significantly harms a community". A natural disaster can cause loss of life or damage property, and typically leaves some econo ...s cause discharges beyond their reasonable control."
Under the CWA, the EPA specifies the maximum allowable amounts of pollution that can be discharged by facilities within an industrial category (like CAFOs). These general " effluent limitations guidelines" (ELG) then dictate the terms of the specific effluent limitations found in individual NPDES permits. The limits are based on the performance of specific technologies, but the EPA does not generally require the industry to use these technologies. Rather, the industry may use "any effective alternatives to meet the pollutant limits." [Claudia Copeland, ''Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA's Response to the'' Waterkeeper Alliance "Court Decision on Regulation of CAFOs", in ''Water Pollution Issues and Developments'' 82 (Sarah V. Thomas, ed., 2008).]
The EPA places minimum ELG requirements into each permit issued for CAFOs. The requirements can include both ''numeric discharge limits'' (the amount of a pollutant that can be released into waters of the United States) and ''other requirements related to ELGs'' (such as management practices, including technology standards).
History of regulations
The major CAFO regulatory developments occurred in the 1970s and in the 2000s. The EPA first promulgated ELGs for CAFOs in 1976.
The 2003 rule issued by the EPA updated and modified the applicable ELGs for CAFOs, among other things. In 2005, the court decision in ''Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA'' (see below) struck down parts of the 2003 rule. The EPA responded by issuing a revised rule in 2008.
A complete history of EPA's CAFO rulemaking activities is provided on the CAFO Rule History page.
The ''Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948'' was one of the first major efforts of the U.S. federal government to establish a comprehensive program for mitigating pollution in public water ways. The writers of the act aimed to improve water quality for the circulation of aquatic life, industry use, and recreation. Since 1948, the Act has been amended many times to expand programming, procedures, and standards.
Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913April 22, 1994) was the 37th president of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as a representative and senator from California and was ...'s executive order, '' Reorganization Plan No. 3,'' created the EPA in 1970. The creation of the EPA was an effort to create a more comprehensive approach to pollution management. As noted in the order, a single polluter may simultaneously degrade a local environment's air, water, and land. President Nixon noted that a single government entity should be monitoring and mitigating pollution and considering all effects. As relevant to CAFO regulation, the EPA became the main federal authority on CAFO pollution monitoring and mitigation.
A congress is a formal meeting of the representatives of different countries, constituent states, organizations, trade unions, political parties, or other groups. The term originated in Late Middle English to denote an encounter (meeting of a ... passed the CWA in 1972 when it reworked the ''Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments.'' It specifically defines CAFOs as point source polluters and required operations managers and/or owners to obtain NPDES permits in order to legally discharge wastewater from its facilities. [
EPA (December 1995)]
"Guide Manual On NPDES Regulations For Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations."
Initial regulations (1970s)
The EPA began regulating water pollution discharges from CAFOs following passage of the 1972 CWA. ELGs for
A feedlot or feed yard is a type of animal feeding operation (AFO) which is used in intensive animal farming, notably beef cattle, but also swine, horses, sheep, turkeys, chickens or ducks, prior to slaughter. Large beef feedlots are called co ... operations were promulgated in 1974, placing emphasis on best available technology in the industry at the time. In 1976 EPA began requiring all CAFOs to be first defined as AFOs. From that point, if the specific AFO met the appropriate criteria, it would then be classified as a CAFO and subject to appropriate regulation. That same year, EPA defined livestock and poultry CAFO facilities and established a specialized permitting program. [U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C] NPDES permit procedures for CAFOs were also promulgated in 1976.
Prior to 1976, size had been the main defining criteria of CAFOs. However, after the 1976 regulations came into effect, the EPA stipulated some exceptions. Operations that were identified as particularly harmful to federal waterways could be classified as CAFOs, even if the facilities' sizes fall under AFOs standards. Additionally, some CAFOs were not required to apply for wastewater discharge permits if they met the two major operational-based exemptions. The first exception applied to operations that discharge wastewater only during a 25-year, 24-hour storm event. (The operation only discharges during a 24-hour rainfall period that occurs once every 25 years or more on average.) The second exception was when operations apply animal waste onto agricultural land.
"Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: EPA Needs More Information and a Clearly Defined Strategy to Protect Air and Water Quality from Pollutants of Concern."
Developments in the 1990s
In 1989, the
Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a United States-based 501(c)(3) non-profit international environmental advocacy group, with its headquarters in New York City and offices in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, ... and Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against the EPA (and Administrator of the EPA, William Reilly). The plaintiffs claimed the EPA had not complied with the CWA with respect to CAFOs. The lawsuit, ''Natural Resources Defense Council v. Reilly'' (D.D.C. 1991), resulted in a court order mandating the EPA update its regulations. They did so in what would become the 2003 Final Rule.
In 1995, the EPA released a "Guide Manual on NPDES Regulations for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations" to provide more clarity to the public on NPDES regulation after the EPA's report "Feedlots Case Studies of Selected States" revealed there was uncertainty in the public regarding CAFO regulatory terminology and criteria. Although the document is not a rule, it did offer insight and furthered public understanding of previous rules.
In his 1998 Clean Water Action Plan, President Bill Clinton
William Jefferson Clinton (né Blythe III; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. He previously served as governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and again f ... directed the USDA and the EPA to join forces to develop a framework for future actions to improve national water quality standards for public health. The two federal agencies' specific responsibility was to improve the management of animal waste runoff from agricultural activities. In 1998, the USDA and the EPA hosted eleven public meetings across the country to discuss animal feeding operations (AFOs).
On March 9, 1999, the agencies released the framework titled the ''Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations''. In the framework, the agencies recommended six major activities to be included in operations' Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs):
#manure handling and storage
#land application of manure
#activities that utilize manure. [USDA and EPA (2012)]
"Unified National AFO Strategy Executive Summary."
The framework also outlined two types of related programs. First, "voluntary programs" were designed to assist AFO operators with addressing public health and water quality problems.
The framework outlines three types of voluntary programs available: "locally led conservation," "environmental education," and "financial and technical assistance." The framework explained that those that participate in voluntary programs are not required to have a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP). The second type of program outlined by the framework was ''regulatory'', which includes command-and-control
Command and control (abbr. C2) is a "set of organizational and technical attributes and processes ... hatemploys human, physical, and information resources to solve problems and accomplish missions" to achieve the goals of an organization or e ... regulation with NPDES permitting.
EPA final rule (2003)
EPA's 2003 rule updated decades-old policies to reflect new technology advancements and increase the expected pollution mitigation from CAFOs. The EPA was also responding to a 1991 court order based on the district court's decision in ''Natural Resources Defense Council v. Reilly''.
The final rule took effect on April 14, 2003, and responded to public comments received following the issuance of the proposed rule in 2000. The EPA allowed authorized NPDES states until February 2005 to update their programs and develop technical standards.
The 2003 rule established "non-numerical best management practices" (BMPs) for CAFOs that apply both to the "production areas" (e.g. the animal confinement area and the manure storage area) and, for the first time ever, to the "land application area" (land to which manure and other animal waste is applied as fertilizer). [Claudia Copeland, ''Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA's Response to the'' Waterkeeper Alliance "Court Decision on Regulation of CAFOs," in ''Water Pollution Issues and Developments'' 78 (Sarah V. Thomas, ed., 2008).] The standards for BMPs in the 2003 rule vary depending on the regulated area of the CAFO:
*''Production Area'': Discharges from a production area must meet a performance standard that requires CAFOs to "maintain waste containment structures that generally prohibit discharges except in the event of overflows or runoff resulting from a 25-year, 24-hour rainfall event." New sources are required to meet a standard of "no discharge" except in the event of a 100-year, 24-hour rainfall event.
*''Land Application Area'': The BMPs for land application areas include different requirements, such as vegetative buffer strips and setback limits from water bodies.
The 2003 rule also requires CAFOs to submit an annual performance report to the EPA and to develop and implement a comprehensive nutrient management plan (NMP) for handling animal waste. Lastly, in an attempt to broaden the scope of regulated facilities, the 2003 rule expanded the number of CAFOs required to apply for NPDES permits by making it mandatory for ''all'' CAFOs (not just those who actually discharge pollutants into waters of the United States). Many of the provisions of the rule were affected by the Second Circuit's decision issued in ''Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA.''
''Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA'' (2nd Cir. 2005)
Environmental and farm industry groups challenged the 2003 final rule in court, and the
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (in case citations, 2d Cir.) is one of the thirteen United States Courts of Appeals. Its territory comprises the states of Connecticut, New York and Vermont. The court has appellate juri ... issued a decision in the consolidated cas
''Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. EPA'', 399 F.3d 486 (2nd Cir. 2005)
The Second Circuit's decision reflected a "partial victory" for both environmentalists and industry, as all parties were "unsatisfied to at least some extent" with the court's decision. The court's decision addressed four main issues with the 2003 final rule promulgated by the EPA:
* Agricultural Stormwater Discharges: The EPA's authority to regulate CAFO waste that results in agricultural stormwater discharge was one of the "most controversial" aspects of the 2003 rule.
[Claudia Copeland, ''Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA's Response to the'' Waterkeeper Alliance ''Court Decision on Regulation of CAFOs'', ''in'' WATER POLLUTION ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS 79 (Sarah V. Thomas, ed., 2008).] The issue centered on the scope of the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Its objective is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters; recognizing the responsibilit ... (CWA), which provides for the regulation only of "point sources." The term was defined by the CWA to expressly ''include'' CAFOs but ''exclude'' "agricultural stormwater." The EPA was thus forced to interpret the statutory definition to "identify the conditions under which discharges from the land application area of aste froma CAFO are point source discharges that are subject to NPDES permitting requirements, and those which are agricultural stormwater discharges and thus are not point source discharges." In the face of widely divergent views of environmentalists and industry groups, the EPA in the 2003 rule determined that any runoff resulting from manure applied ''in accordance with agronomic rates'' would be exempt from the CWA permitting requirements (as "agricultural stormwater"). However, when such agronomic rates are not used, the EPA concluded that the resulting runoff from a land application is ''not'' "agricultural stormwater" and is therefore subject to the CWA (as a discharge from a point source, i.e. the CAFO). The Second Circuit upheld the EPA's definition as a "reasonable" interpretation of the statutory language in the CWA.
* Duty to Apply for an NPDES Permit: The 2003 EPA rule imposed a duty on ''all'' CAFOs to apply for an NPDES permit (or demonstrate that they had no potential to discharge). The rationale for this requirement was the EPA's "presumption that most CAFOs have a potential to discharge pollutants into waters of the United States" and therefore must affirmatively comply with the requirements of the Clean Water Act. The Second Circuit sided with the farm industry plaintiffs on this point and ruled that this portion of the 2003 rule exceeded the EPA's authority. The court held that the EPA can require NPDES permits only where there is an ''actual'' discharge by a CAFO, not just a potential to discharge. The EPA later estimated that 25 percent fewer CAFOs would seek permits as a result of the Second Circuit's decision on this issue.
* Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs): The fight in court over the portion of the 2003 rule on NMPs was a proxy for a larger battle over public participation by environmental groups in the implementation of the CWA. The 2003 rule required all permitted CAFOs that "land apply" animal waste to develop an NMP that satisfied certain minimum requirements (e.g. ensuring proper storage of manure and process wastewater). A copy of the NMP was to be kept on-site at the facility, available for viewing by the EPA or other permitting authority. The environmental plaintiffs argued that this portion of the rule violated the CWA and the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to make the NMP part of the NPDES permit itself (which would make the NMP subject to both public comments and enforcement in court by private citizens). The court sided with the environmental plaintiffs and vacated this portion of the rule.
* Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) for CAFOs: The 2003 rule issued New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new sources of swine, poultry, and veal operations. The CWA requires that NSPS be based on what is called the "best available demonstrated control technology." The EPA's 2003 rule required that these new sources meet a "no discharge" standard, except in the case of a 100-year, 24-hour rainfall event (or a less restrictive measure for new CAFOs that voluntarily use new technologies and management practices). The Second Circuit ruled that the EPA did not provide an adequate basis (either in the statute or in evidence) for this portion of the rule. The Second Circuit also required the EPA to go back and provide additional justification for the requirements in the 2003 rule dealing with the "best control technology for conventional pollutants" (BCT) standards for reducing fecal coliform pathogen. Lastly, the court ordered the EPA to provide additional analysis on whether the more stringent "water quality-based effluent permit limitations" (WQBELs) should be required in certain instances for CAFO discharges from land application areas, a policy that the EPA had rejected in the 2003 rule.
EPA final rule (2008)
The EPA published revised regulations that address the Second Circuit court's decision in ''Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. EPA'' on November 20, 2008 (effective December 22, 2008). The 2008 final rule revised and amended the 2003 final rule.
The 2008 rule addresses each point of the court's decision in ''Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA.'' Specifically, the EPA adopted the following measures:
* The EPA replaced the "duty to apply" standard with one that requires NPDES permit coverage for any CAFO that "discharges or proposes to discharge." The 2008 rule specifies that "a CAFO proposes to discharge if it is designed, constructed, operated, or maintained such that a discharge will occur." On May 28, 2010, the EPA issued guidance "designed to assist permitting authorities in implementing the AFO regulationsby specifying the kinds of operations and factual circumstances that EPA anticipates may trigger the duty to apply for permits." On March 15, 2011, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in ''National Pork Producers Council v. EPA'' again struck down the EPA's rule on this issue, holding that the "propose to discharge" standard exceeds the EPA's authority under the CWA. After the Fifth Circuit's ruling, a CAFO cannot be required to apply for an NPDES permit unless it ''actually'' discharges into a water of the United States.
* The EPA modified the requirements related to the nutrient management plans (NMP). In keeping with the court's decision in ''Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA'', the EPA instituted a requirement that the permitting authority (either the EPA or the State) incorporate the enforceable "terms of the NMP" into the actual permit. The "terms of the NMP" include the "information, protocols, best management practices (BMPs) and other conditions in the NMP necessary to meet the NMP requirements of the 2003 rule."
The EPA must make the NMPs in the applications filed by CAFOs publicly available.
* The EPA reiterated that in order to take advantage of the "agricultural stormwater" exception (upheld by the court in ''Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA'') an unpermitted CAFO must still implement "site-specific nutrient management practices that ensure appropriate agricultural utilization of the nutrients as specified previously under the 2003 rule." The unpermitted facility must keep documentation of such practices and make it available to the permitting authority in the case of a precipitation-related discharge.
* The EPA addressed the Second Circuit's ruling on the effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs) for CAFOs. The agency deleted the provision allowing new sources of CAFOs to meet a 100-year, 24-hour precipitation-event standard, replacing it with a "no discharge" standard through the establishment of best management practices. The EPA also clarified and defended its previous positions on (1) the availability of water quality-based effluent limitations (WQBELs) and (2) the appropriateness of the best control technology (BCT) standards for fecal coliform. First, the 2008 rule "explicitly recognizes" that the permitting authority may impose WQBELs on all production area discharges and all land application discharges (other than those that meet the "agricultural stormwater" exemption) if the technology-based effluent limitations are deemed insufficient to meet the water quality standards of a particular body of water. In particular, the EPA noted that a case-by-case review should be adopted in cases where CAFOs discharge to the waters of the United States through a direct hydrologic connection to groundwater. Second, the EPA announced that it would not be promulgating more stringent standards for fecal coliform than in the 2003 rule because it reached the conclusion there is "no available, achievable, and cost reasonable technology on which to base such limitations."
The 2008 final rule also specifies two approaches that a CAFO may use to identify the "annual maximum rates of application of manure, litter, and process wastewater by field and crop for each year of permit coverage." The linear approach expresses the rate in terms of the "amount of nitrogen and phosphorus from manure, litter, and process wastewater allowed to be applied." The narrative rate approach expresses the amount in terms of a "narrative rate prescribing how to calculate the amount of manure, litter, and process wastewater allowed to be applied. The EPA believes that the narrative approach gives CAFO operators the most flexibility. Normally, CAFO operators are subject to the terms of their permit for a period of 5 years. Under the narrative approach, CAFO operators can use "real time" data to determine the rates of application. As a result, CAFO operators can more easily "change their crop rotation, form and source of manure, litter, and process wastewater, as well as the timing and method of application" without having to seek a revision to the terms of their NPDES permits.
Government assistance for compliance
The EPA points to several tools available to assist CAFO operators in meeting their obligations under the CWA. First, the EPA awards federal grants to provide technical assistance to livestock operators for preventing discharges of water pollution (and reducing air pollution). The EPA claims that CAFOs can obtain an NMP for free under these grants. Recently, the annual amount of the grant totaled $8 million.
Second, a Manure Management Planner (MMP) software program has been developed by Purdue University
Purdue University is a public land-grant research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. The university was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and mo ... in conjunction with funding by a federal grant. The MMP is tailored to each state's technical standards (including Phosphorus Indexes and other assessment tools). The MMP program provides free assistance to both permitting authorities and CAFO operators and can be found at the Purdue University website. Lastly, the EPA notes that the USDA offers a "range of support services," including a long-term program that aims to assist CAFOs with NMPs.
Debate over EPA policy
Environmentalists argue that the standards under the CWA are not strong enough. Researchers have identified regions in the country that have weak enforcement of regulations and, therefore, are popular locations for CAFO developers looking to reduce cost and expand operations without strict government oversight. Even when laws are enforced, there is the risk of environmental accidents. The massive 1995 manure spill in North Carolina highlights the reality that contamination can happen even when it is not done maliciously. The question of whether such a spill could have been avoided is a contributing factor in the debate for policy reform.
Environmental groups have criticized the EPA's regulation of CAFOs on several specific grounds, including the following.
[Claudia Copeland, ''Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA Regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations CAFO'', ''in'' WATER POLLUTION ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS 69 (Sarah V. Thomas, ed., 2008).]
* ''Size threshold for "CAFO"'': Environmentalists favor reducing the size limits required to qualify as a CAFO; this would broaden the scope of the EPA's regulations on CAFOs to include more industry farming operations (currently classified as AFOs).
* ''Duty to apply'': Environmentalists strongly criticized the portion of the Court's ruling in ''Waterkeeper Alliance'' that deleted the EPA's 2003 rule that all CAFOs must apply for an NPDES permit. The EPA's revised permitted policy is now overly reactive, environmentalists maintain, because it "allow CAFO operators to decide whether their situation poses enough risk of getting caught having a discharge to warrant the investment of time and resources in obtaining a permit." It is argued that CAFOs have very little incentive to seek an NPDES permit under the new rule.
* ''Requirement for co-permitting entities that exercise "substantial operational control" over CAFOs'': Environmental groups unsuccessfully petitioned the EPA to require "co-permitting of both the farmer who raises the livestock and the large companies that actually own the animals and contract with farmers." This modification to EPA regulations would have made the corporations legally responsible for the waste produced on the farms with which they contract.
* ''Zero discharge requirement to groundwater when a direct hydrologic connection exists to surface water'': The EPA omitted a provision in its 2003 rule that would have held CAFOs to a zero discharge limit from the CAFO's production area to "ground water that has a direct hydrologic connection to surface water." [Claudia Copeland, ''Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA Regulation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations CAFO'', ''in'' WATER POLLUTION ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS 66 (Sarah V. Thomas, ed., 2008).] Environmentalists criticized the EPA's decision to omit this provision on the basis that ground water is often a drinking source in rural areas, where most all CAFOs are located.
* ''Specific performance standards'': Environmentalists urged the EPA to phase out the use of lagoons (holding animal waste in pond-like structures) and sprayfields (spraying waste onto crops). Environmentalists argued that these techniques for dealing with animal waste were outmoded and present an "unacceptable risk to public health and the environment" due to their ability to pollute both surface and groundwater following "weather events, human error, and system failures." Environmentalists suggested that whenever manure is land applied that it should be injected into the soil (and not sprayed).
* ''Lack of regulation of air pollution'': The revisions to the EPA's rules under the CWA did not address air pollutants. Environmentalists maintain that the air pollutants from CAFOs—which include ammonia
Ammonia is an inorganic compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . A stable binary hydride, and the simplest pnictogen hydride, ammonia is a colourless gas with a distinct pungent smell. Biologically, it is a common nitrogenous w ..., hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is a chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless chalcogen-hydride gas, and is poisonous, corrosive, and flammable, with trace amounts in ambient atmosphere having a characteristic foul odor of rotten eggs. The unde ..., methane
Methane ( , ) is a chemical compound with the chemical formula (one carbon atom bonded to four hydrogen atoms). It is a group-14 hydride, the simplest alkane, and the main constituent of natural gas. The relative abundance of methane on Ea ..., volatile organic compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic compounds that have a high vapour pressure at room temperature. High vapor pressure correlates with a low boiling point, which relates to the number of the sample's molecules in the surrounding air, a ..., and particulate matter
Particulates – also known as atmospheric aerosol particles, atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM) or suspended particulate matter (SPM) – are microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air. The te ...—should be subject to EPA regulation.
Conversely, industry groups criticize the EPA's rules as overly stringent. Industry groups vocally opposed the requirement in the 2008 rule (since struck down by the Fifth Circuit) that required CAFOs to seek a permit if they "propose to discharge" into waters of the United States. [Claudia Copeland, "Animal Waste and Water Quality: EPA's Response to the Waterkeeper Alliance Court Decision on Regulation of CAFOs," ''in'' WATER POLLUTION ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS 84-85 (Sarah V. Thomas, ed., 2008).] Generally speaking, the farm industry disputes the presumption that CAFOs do discharge pollutants and it therefore objects to the pressure that the EPA places on CAFOs to voluntarily seek an NPDES permit. As a starting point, farm industry groups "emphasize that most farmers are diligent stewards of the environment, since they depend on natural resources of the land, water, and air for their livelihoods and they, too, directly experience adverse impacts on water and air quality." Some of the agricultural industry groups continue to maintain that the EPA should have no authority to regulate any of the runoff from land application areas because they believe this constitutes a nonpoint source that is outside the scope of the CWA. According to this viewpoint, voluntary programs adequately address any problems with excess manure.
States' role and authority
The role of the federal government in environmental issues is generally to set national guidelines and the state governments' role is to address specific issues. The framework of federal goals is as such that the responsibility to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution are the responsibility of the states.
The management of water and air standards follows this authoritative structure. States that have been authorized by the EPA to directly issue permits under NPDES (also known as "NPDES states" ) have received jurisdiction over CAFOs. As a result of this delegation of authority from the EPA, CAFO permitting procedures and standards may vary from state to state.
Specifically for water pollution, the federal government establishes federal standards for wastewater discharge and authorized states develop their own wastewater policies to fall in compliance. More specifically, what a state allows an individual CAFO to discharge must be as strict or stricter than the federal government's standard. This protection includes all waterways, whether or not the water body can safely sustain aquatic life or house public recreational activities. Higher standards are upheld in some cases of pristine publicly owned waterways, such as parks. They keep higher standards in order to maintain the pristine nature of the environment for preservation and recreation. Exceptions are in place for lower water quality standards in certain waterways if it is deemed economically significant. These policy patterns are significant when considering the role of state governments' in CAFO permitting.
State versus federal permit issuance
Federal law requires CAFOs to obtain NPDES permits before wastewater may be discharged from the facility. The state agency responsible for approving permits for CAFOs in a given state is dependent on the authorization of that state. The permitting process is divided into two main methods based on a state's authorization status. As of 2018, EPA has authorized 47 states to issue NPDES permits. Although they have their own state-specific permitting standards, permitting requirements in authorized states must be at least as stringent as the federal standards.
[ In the remaining states and territories, an EPA regional office issues NPDES permits.]
A state's authority and the state's environmental regulatory framework will determine the permit process and the state offices involved. Below are two examples of states' permitting organization.
Authorized state case study: Arizona
Arizona ( ; nv, Hoozdo Hahoodzo ; ood, Alĭ ṣonak ) is a state in the Southwestern United States. It is the 6th largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona is part of the Four ... issues permits through a general permitting process. CAFOs must obtain both a general Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (AZPDES) Permit and a general Aquifer Protection Permit. The Arizona state agency tasked with managing permitting is the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).
For the Aquifer Protection Permit, CAFOs are automatically permitted if they comply with the state's BMP outlined in the relevant state rule, listed on the ADEQ's website. Their compliance is evaluated through agency CAFO Inspection Program's onsite inspections. If a facility is found to be unlawfully discharging, then the agency may issue warnings and, if necessary, file suit against the facility. For the AZPDES permit, CAFOs are required to submit a Notice of Intent to the ADEQ. In addition, they must complete and submit a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) for the state's annual report.
Even in an authorized state, the EPA maintains oversight of state permitting programs. This would be most likely to happen in the event that a complaint is filed with the EPA by a third party. For instance, in 2008, Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water filed a complaint with the EPA arguing that the state was not properly implementing its CAFO permitting program. The EPA responded with an "informal" investigation. In
released in 2010, the agency sided with the environmental organization and provided a list of recommendations and required action for the state to meet.
Unauthorized state case study: Massachusetts
In unauthorized states, the EPA has the authority for issuing NPDES permits. In these states, such as Massachusetts, CAFOs communicate and file required documentation through an EPA regional office. In Massachusetts, the EPA issues a general permit for the entire state. The state's Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has an agreement with the EPA for the implementation of CAFO rules. MDAR's major responsibility is educational. The agency assists operators in determining if their facility qualifies as a CAFO. Specifically they do onsite evaluations of facilities, provide advice on best practices, and provide information and technical assistance.
If a state has additional state specific rules for water quality standards, the state government maintains the authority for permitting. For instance, New Mexico, also unauthorized, requires CAFOs and AFOs to obtain a Groundwater Permit if the facilities discharge waste in a manner that might affect local groundwater. The EPA is not involved in the issuing of this state permit. Massachusetts, however, does not have additional state permit requirements.
State planning laws and local zoning ordinances represent the main policy tools for regulating land use. Many states have passed legislation that specifically exempt CAFOs (and other agricultural entities) from zoning regulations.
[Frank R. Spellmen & Nancy E. Whiting, Environmental Management of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOS) 47 (2007).] The promulgation of so-called "right to farm" statutes have provided, in some instances, a shield from liability for CAFOs (and other potential nuisances in agricultural). More specifically, the right-to-farm statutes seek to "limit the circumstances under which agricultural operations can be deemed nuisances."
The history of these agricultural exemptions dates back to the 1950s. Right-to-farm statutes expanded in the 1970s when state legislatures became increasingly sensitive to the loss of rural farmland to urban expansion. [Frank R. Spellmen & Nancy E. Whiting, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT OF CONCENTRATED ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATIONS (CAFOS) 48 (2007).] The statutes were enacted at a time when CAFOs and "modern confinement operations did not factor into legislator's perceptions of the beneficiaries of hegenerosity" of such statutes. Forty-three (43) states now have some sort of statutory protection for farmers from nuisance. Some of these states (such as Iowa, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Tennessee, and Kansas) also provide specific protection to animal feeding operations (AFOs) and CAFOs. Right-to-farm statutes vary in form. Some states, for instance, require agricultural operation be located "within an acknowledged and approved agricultural district" in order to receive protection; other states do not.
Opponents of CAFOs have challenged right-to-farm statutes in court, and the constitutionality
Constitutionality is said to be the condition of acting in accordance with an applicable constitution; "Webster On Line" the status of a law, a procedure, or an act's accordance with the laws or set forth in the applicable constitution. When l ... of such statutes is not entirely clear. The Iowa Supreme Court, for instance, struck down a right-to-farm statute as a " taking" (in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution) because the statute stripped neighboring landowners of property rights without compensation.
Regulation under the Clean Air Act
CAFOs are potentially subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA), but the emissions from CAFOs generally do not exceed established statutory thresholds.
[Dustin Till, Marten Law] In addition, the EPA's regulations do not provide a clear methodology for measuring emissions from CAFOs, which has "vexed both regulators and the industry." Negotiations between the EPA and the agricultural industry did, however, result in an Air Compliance Agreement in January 2005.
"Environmental Groups Press for Federal Regulation of Air Emissions from Animal Feeding Operations"
According to the agreement, certain animal feeding operations (AFOs) received a covenant not to sue from the EPA in exchange for payment of a civil penalty for past violations of the CAA and an agreement to allow their facilities to be monitored for a study on air pollution emissions in the agricultural sector. Results and analysis of the EPA's study are scheduled to be released later in 2011.
Environmental groups have formally proposed to tighten EPA regulation of air pollution from CAFOs. A coalition of environmental groups petitioned the EPA on April 6, 2011, to designate ammonia as a " criteria pollutant" and establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ammonia from CAFOs. The petition alleges that "CAFOs are leading contributors to the nation's ammonia inventory; by one EPA estimate livestock account for approximately 80 percent of total emissions. CAFOs also emit a disproportionately large share of the ammonia in certain states and communities." If the EPA adopts the petition, CAFOs and other sources of ammonia would be subject to the permitting requirements of the CAA.
* Animal feeding operation
Intensive animal farming
Intensive animal farming or industrial livestock production, also known by its opponents as factory farming and macro-farms, is a type of intensive agriculture, specifically an approach to animal husbandry designed to maximize production, while ...
* Intensive pig farming
Intensive pig farming, also known as pig factory farming, is the primary method of pig production, in which grower pigs are housed indoors in group-housing or straw-lined sheds, whilst pregnant sows are housed in gestation crates or pens and ...
Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture in the United States
Ethically disputed business practices towards animals