Ellen Gilinsky with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) faced a roomful of cattlemen and women at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's annual convention held in Nashville, Tenn. Gilinsky, who serves as a senior policy advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, received questions regarding the proposed Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 308 CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) Reporting Rule. The center of concern stems from what was referred to as a serious overreach of EPA's authority. NCBA Deputy Environmental Counsel Ashley Lyon said the proposed rule could put the nation's food system at risk of increased terrorist attacks.
"EPA should pull this rule. The agency needs to redirect its focus to working with states and other partners to attain already publicly available information that would allow them to work toward their goal of improved water quality," said Lyon. "This can be done in a way that does not put our food system at increased risk."
According to concerns raised, this rule was developed through a consent decree with environmental groups. Cattlemen voiced their deep concern that more and more regulations are coming from these type of agreements where cattle producers don't have a seat at the table.
The proposed rule requires all cattle operations meeting the regulatory definition of a CAFO to report a long list of information about their operations to EPA, including latitude and longitude (or street address) of the production area, acres available for land application of manure, type and number of head and contact information for the owner or authorized representative.
EPA would place this information on the agency's website in an easily searchable database, where Lyon fears extremists could access the information with the intent to do harm to cattle operations or the nation's food system. Gilinsky said EPA received a number of comments on the proposed rule prior to the closing of the comment period on Jan. 19. She said the agency understands the cattle industry's biosecurity and privacy concerns.
"We are very interested in working with you. We want to work in partnership," said Gilinsky. "We heard your concerns about biosecurity. We are very open to ideas on how to get information. We just want the information. We worked really closely with USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and what we came up with was actually a result of our work with USDA."
Gilinsky said the final rule will be released on July 13, 2012. If finalized as proposed, Lyon said any non-compliance with the rule would be a violation of the CWA and be subject to fines of up to $37,500 per day. Lyon also said she was encouraged by the comments made by Gilinsky.