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Manure Management Update: Regulatory Trends and Emerging Issues

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The environmental regulatory landscape for livestock operations remains in constant flux, with newly promulgated regulations immediately challenged in court, issues like trace organic compounds and greenhouse gases becoming key focus areas, and the very status of manure as a non-hazardous substance even in question.

With respect to federal regulations, the long-awaited revisions to the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) rule governing Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) were promulgated in December 2008. The revisions addressed portions of the 2003 rule vacated by a court decision in 2005, including “duty to apply” provisions and Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) processing for CAFOs with NPDES permits. Like its predecessor in 2003, the 2008 CAFO rule was immediately challenged in court, with consolidated petitions to be heard in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition to new regulations, the livestock industry is also facing increased scrutiny on a variety of emerging environmental issues, including trace organics, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. To some extent, both issues have been the subject of legislation or policy initiatives. Additionally, debates focusing on livestock operations and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) requirements (involving both emissions and manure) continue, with potential regulatory ramifications.

The only certainly with respect to livestock operations today is reflected in the title of the U.S. Government Accountability Office's September 2008 report Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: EPA Needs More Information and a Clearly Defined Strategy to Protect Air and Water Quality from Pollutants of Concern. The report notes that despite the fact that 68 government-sponsored or peer-reviewed studies about AFOs and the environment have been published, there is still a large degree of uncertainty in our knowledge of the potential environmental impacts of CAFOs.

This paper highlights recent regulatory changes impacting livestock operations, as well as emerging areas of focus including trace organics, pathogens, antibiotic resistance, GHGs and other air quality concerns.
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Keywords: AFOs; CAFO Rule; air quality; antibiotic resistance; greenhouse gases; manure; nutrient management plan; pathogens; trace organics; water quality

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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