WASHINGTON, D.C. - At a joint hearing of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research and the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, Chairmen Larry Combest (R-TX) and Richard Pombo (R-CA), respectively, questioned the need for new EPA regulations regarding livestock feeding operations and called for more effective enforcement of current rules.
Despite significant current authority, on March 5, 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the "Draft Strategy on Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs)," which proposes to greatly expand the U.S. EPA's regulatory efforts related to AFOs.
"It seems to me that what is needed is a constructive relationship between EPA, USDA, and state regulators to enforce the existing rules - not new regulations or requirements. If compliance with current regulations is inadequate, then that is what needs to be focused on before any new regulatory schemes are pursued," Combest said.
"I am concerned that much of what EPA wants to now regulate is already being addressed adequately at the state level making the new proposed regulations a solution in search of a problem," Pombo said.
To support its claim for new authority, EPA witnesses cited various data relating to federal permitting and downplayed the significant enforcement which exists at the state level. However, when Dr. John Baker of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission questioned EPA's assertion that less than 25 percent of CAFOs have permits, Michael Cook of EPA conceded that a large number of these livestock operations come under state regulation which is often more stringent than that of the federal government.
"Undergirding this discussion is an ongoing debate in several state legislatures and reports in the news media regarding the perceived or real environmental threats of larger and larger operations and, in general, the changing demographics of the livestock industry. I think that we must keep the current debate on these issues properly divided regarding the credible scientific issues involved with waste management on one hand and separately, the emotional and economic issues of a changing livestock industry," Combest said.
"I think it is vital that EPA and USDA work in tandem at every stage of these regulations. USDA has a reserve of knowledge that will prove valuable in making any solution work. I stand ready to assist the state and Federal agencies - and especially the farmers and ranchers - in implementing such a partnership," Pombo said.
Combest represents Texas' 19th Congressional District which includes the Panhandle, South Plains, and Permian Basin. Pombo represents the Eleventh District of California, which includes San Joaquin County and a part of Sacramento County.