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EPA seeks producers to help set standards
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The Environmental Protection Agency is examining air emissions from livestock and poultry operations, and producers must decide soon if they will take part in the agency’s two-year study.
Mark Crenshaw, swine specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said producers should study all aspects of the issue before signing the Air Emissions Consent Agreement, but the July 1 deadline to sign is quickly approaching.
The EPA needs a pool of operations from which to gather data, but participation in the study is voluntary. The information will be used to develop EPA regulations.
“Changes in the last few years -- including the increased size and concentration of the livestock industry, along with an increase in lawsuits filed -- have resulted in EPA’s interest in studying air emissions from agricultural industries,” Crenshaw said. “The EPA needs scientific data before they can determine the appropriate regulations to place on animal agriculture operations.”
The two-year EPA study will take data from swine, dairy and poultry operations of varying sizes in different areas of the country and in different climatic conditions. After the data is gathered, EPA will analyze the information and set standards relating to ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and other air emissions.
Producers who sign the agreement must pay a fee that ranges from $200 to $1,000 per individual farm, depending on the size of the operation. Though termed a “penalty fee,” it is not an admission of wrongdoing.
Rather, signing the agreement and paying the fee gives producers amnesty for liability for any past violations that may be discovered once the regulations are in place. Producers will have to comply with the standards EPA sets and implement any technology required to bring them into compliance.
Crenshaw said producers should consider the benefits and possible drawbacks to signing the agreement. Producers may want to contact a lawyer to examine the legal aspects of the agreement.
“The details of the Air Emissions Consent Agreement are very complicated, so I urge producers to carefully study the issue and consider all of their options,” Crenshaw said.
Angelica Chapa, Extension dairy cattle specialist, said the penalty could be seen as money well-spent.
“Unfortunately, the dairy industry is where information is most lacking, so if producers can contribute to solid scientific research to help develop EPA regulations, it’s good for the industry,” Chapa said. “With good, solid numbers, EPA can better set standards that more accurately reflect production realities.”
Chapa said the beef cattle industry currently is not included in this agreement.
For more information on the Air Emissions Consent Agreement, contact Crenshaw at (662) 325-3516 or Chapa at (662) 325-3515.