Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Dutch Dairywoman's Determination

The Progressive Dairyman recently wrote an article featuring Leontien VandeLaar, a Dutch immigrant and dairy farmer in Indiana.  Leontien has an amazing story: 
In three years, Leontien VandeLaar moved to a new country, started a 2,000-cow dairy, was married three times (to the same man) and began an ongoing battle with skin cancer. 
She describes herself as “determined” and even “stubborn,” but that wouldn’t be most people’s first impression of her.
The blonde-haired Holland native has a friendly smile, a bubbly personality and a well-known soft spot for the special men in her life – her husband and a black stallion horse with its own unique story. . . 
Continue reading:  Chasing a Dream: One Woman's Fight for a Dairy Farm Life.

Leontien's daily farm life is chronicled in her blog:  Four Leaf Clover Tales.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reaction to Indiana's new CAFO and CFO Rules

"Mixed" is how I described the reaction to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's new regulations for Confined Feeding Operations ("CFOs") and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations ("CAFOs") in a recent interview with Hoosier Ag Today.  Since I made that statement, various newspapers and other groups have run headlines describing the CFO and CAFO regulations in various lights.  I've collected links to some of those stories here.
The Associated Press ran an article that was headlined by the Chicago Tribune as:  Activists: New Indiana livestock rules insufficient:

State officials contend the updated rules, which replace restrictions approved six years ago, will provide significant new protections for ground and surface waters. 

Those include barring livestock farmers from spreading manure onto frozen or snow-covered fields as fertilizer, a practice that can taint nearby waterways if rain or snowmelt washes the manure off before it's absorbed into the ground. 

But activists said that aside from a handful of improvements, the revised rules fail to adequately protect water quality, public health and communities near big livestock farms -- the largest of which can generate as much excrement as a town.

The same article appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal under a slightly more negative headline:  Activists: New Indiana Livestock Rules Stink.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette ran an article titled: Crackdown on CAFOs.

Rules that Indiana regulators adopted last week to govern large livestock operations were a welcome step toward protecting water quality from careless operators. But environmental advocates are raising legitimate concerns that the rules don’t go far enough. 
The Hoosier Environmental Council, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter, Indiana CAFO Watch and Citizens Action Coalition sent out a joint news release about those concerns. The groups were specifically worried that setback requirements were not stringent enough and that the whole process lacks the transparency needed to keep the public informed.

Indiana Farm Bureau issued a less editorial press release:  Indiana Confined Feeding Rules Amended.  In the release, staff attorney Justin Schneider wrote:

A lot of work went into shaping these rules so that they would be protective of the environment and human health while not unduly burdening livestock and poultry producers.  

Posted by Todd Janzen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Indiana Updates Rules for CAFOs

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has updated its environmental rules for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).  On November 9, 2011, the Water Pollution Control Board passed revisions to the existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program which regulates Indiana's largest livestock farms, or CAFOs.

The changes include the removal of the requirement that any large animal feeding operation that "proposes to discharge" pollutants into waters of the state--but does not actually discharge--obtain an NPDES permit.  The changes were necessitated by the the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling earlier this year, National Pork Producers Council v. U.S. E.P.A.  That case held that the "propose to discharge" threshold violated the Clean Water Act.

As a result of the National Pork case and IDEM's new NPDES regulations, the next few years will see many of Indiana's largest livestock farms leave the CAFO program and enter the state's confined feeding operation (CFO) program.  The impact of those changes can be found in my earlier post:  New Confined Feeding Operation Regulations Approved For Indiana Livestock and Poultry Farmers

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Confined Feeding Regulations Approved For Indiana Livestock and Poultry Farmers

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has completed the rulemaking process for the promulgation of new confined feeding operation (CFO) regulations.  Today, the Water Pollution Control Board approved new CFO regulations, which will go into effect on July 1, 2012.

The new regulations contain a number of changes to how Indiana's medium and large livestock farms will be operated.  Of particular importance are three new provisions that will significantly change daily operations for many of Indiana's livestock producers:
A rare sight?  A manure spreader
on snowy winter day.  
1.  The new regulations prohibit spreading of manure on frozen or snow covered ground for CAFOs, Indiana's largest livestock farms.  Smaller livestock farms--called CFOs in Indiana--can land apply to snow covered or frozen ground only under specific conditions, such as emergencies.  There is also an exception for older CFOs that were permitted with only 120 days of manure storage capacity, unlike the 180 days that is required now.
2.  In the past, land application rates were determined based upon the nitrogen needs of the next planted crop. The new CFO regulations limit application based upon phosphorus content.  Livestock farms must monitor phosphorus levels on cropland to assure that it does not exceed 200 parts per million (ppm).  For new operations, these requirements go into effect immediately.  For existing CFO operations, there is a gradual phase in period.  
3.  IDEM currently has the authority to require groundwater monitoring for large CAFOs.  But IDEM has seldom required farms to monitor groundwater in the past.  The new CFO regulations contain specific provisions that allow IDEM to require groundwater monitoring.  Sampling results must be periodically reported to IDEM.  In addition, farmers must self report if they determine that their groundwater samples show a "statistically significant" deviation from prior samples.  
Most of Indiana's large livestock farms, or CAFOs, will eventually be covered by the new CFO regulations as result of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in National Pork Producers Council v. EPA (discussed in previous blog post: click here).  Therefore, the new regulations will have a far reach, applying to almost 2000 of Indiana's livestock farms.

By Todd Janzen

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are CAFOs to Blame for Polluting Our Lakes?

Today's Indianapolis Star (Indy Star) contained a story about algae blooms in Indianapolis' Geist Reservoir.  According to what the Indy Star deemed a "nonscientific assessment" conducted by the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Geist Reservoir is contaminated with "phosphorus runoff, which comes from fertilizer, farm sediments, pet waste and septic-system leaks and causes the algae blooms."   But are CAFOs, or what many derogatorily call "factory farms," to blame?
Many good-intentioned water conservation groups are quick to point the finger at CAFOs as the greatest threat to state and national waters.  As explained in today's Indy Star: 
"There's a host of problems that should be addressed," said Peter Gray, a spokesman for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. "You would hope (public officials) would take the lead and try to protect the resources of their state."
Gray's organization said Indiana's political leaders have largely failed to protect clean water and called on the state to provide "solutions like statewide pollution limits for phosphorus and better water quality standards for factory farms."
What Mr. Gray may not realize is that CAFOs are already the most highly regulated farms in Indiana.  CAFOs are subject to the federal Clean Water Act and are required to regulate the amount of phosphorus placed onto farmland so that it is commensurate with amount utilized by the next growing crop.  Smaller farms in Indiana--Indiana's confined animal feeding operations (CFO)--will soon be required to regulate the amount of phosphorus they place on farmland too.  Indiana's Water Pollution Control Board is set to promulgate new regulations on November 9, 2011.  These regulations will limit phosphorus according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) guidelines.

Moreover, Indiana's CAFOs are designed to operate as zero discharge operations.  Real factories, on the other hand, can obtain permits under the Clean Water Act that allow for discharges into state waters.  And the potential penalties for CAFOs violating state and federal water regulations are harsh--up to $25,000 per day.

It's too easy to blame CAFOs for polluting our lakes.  But don't say that CAFOs are not well regulated, because that is, from this ag lawyer's point of view, just not true.

The Indy Star's article can be found here.
The new confined feeding operation regulations can be found here.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center's CAFO report can be found here.