The EPA has settled out of court with the Natural Resources Defense Council and two other environmental organizations over the way it permits concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. And on Friday, the agency is scheduled to announce its intent to state regulators that it will be gathering detailed information on every CAFO in the country.
A CAFO is exactly that – a farm or barn in which animals are packed together to be fed right before slaughter. They’ve been controversial with animal rights activists because the confinement limits animal movement. For big agribusiness, however, they’re a cheap and efficient way to finish animals and get them to market fast. Kentucky is home to some 150 such operations.
Right now, only CAFOs that plan to discharge waste water need a Clean Water Act permit. That’s if they plan to spray waste water on crops as fertilizer, which could run off into water bodies, or if a manure lagoon could accidentally over flow. Environmental groups contend that more than a quarter of CAFOs don’t have these permits, and maybe they should.
A spokesman from the American Farm Bureau says that operators who say they aren’t going to discharge shouldn’t be forced to get a permit or provide information. A $37,000+ dollar fine a day for illegal discharges should be enough of an incentive, and giving out information about family farms could endanger them.