Policy & Politics

Text Size - + print article

Testimony by Bob Peterson on Nov. 18, 2008 regarding NPDES

Published Nov. 18, 2008


PROPONENT TESTIMONY

RE: [FRL–8728–5]

State Program Requirements; Application To Administer the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs); Ohio

The State of Ohio has submitted a request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve a revision to the Ohio National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program to allow the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to administer the parts of the program pertaining to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and storm water associated with construction activity at animal feeding operations (AFOs) in Ohio. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) currently administers the Ohio NPDES program in its entirety. Under the proposed revision, Ohio EPA would continue to implement all other aspects of the State’s approved NPDES program. EPA is requesting comment on the State’s application to have ODA administer the NPDES program for CAFOs and for storm water associated with construction activity at AFOs, and is providing notice of a public hearing and comment period on the Agency’s proposal to approve Ohio’s application.

Good evening! My name is Bob Peterson, and I serve as president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the state of Ohio’s largest general farm organization with more than 234,000 members. I farm with my father and brother’s families in Fayette County. Tonight it is my pleasure to provide proponent testimony to support the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Ohio’s application to revise the Ohio NPDES program to allow the Ohio Department of Agriculture to administer the parts of the program pertaining to concentrated animal feeding operations, commonly known as CAFOs, and storm water associated with construction activity at animal feeding operations, commonly known as AFOs, here in Ohio. Approval would transfer the authority from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to the Ohio Department of Agriculture as authorized by Ohio Senate Bill 141.

Efforts to bring about this change first began with the issuance of the Livestock Task Force Report’s recommendations more than ten years ago. Nearly eight years ago, Senate Bill 141, which authorized that Ohio’s state permitting program for large livestock farms be transferred from the Ohio EPA to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, was signed into law. This piece of legislation also called for Ohio’s NPDES permitting program pertaining to CAFOs and construction activity at animal feeding operations to be transferred, too.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has administered the state permitting program beginning in August 2002. Since that time, Ohio’s General Assembly has twice passed legislation (signed into law) to update Ohio’s statutes to enable NPDES delegation authority being transferred from Ohio EPA to the Department of Agriculture. Additionally, the Department has amended its rules numerous times to reflect changes made in state statutes, in federal rules, and to address issues identified by US EPA Region 5 that needed to be clarified to be consistent with the Code of Federal Regulations.

 

Prior to the Ohio Department of Agriculture taking over the regulatory responsibility for the state permitting program, the Ohio EPA issued only permits to install for concentrated animal feeding operations, had no permit to operate and had no routine inspection program. Now, under the Department of Agriculture, the state requires both a permit to install and a permit to operate, and conducts two on-site inspections each year. Additional inspections are conducted if warranted.

As a matter of fact, the Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Environmental Permitting Program staff has conducted more than 1,200 inspections since the department began regulating large livestock farms in August 2002. The Department’s Livestock Environmental Permitting Program officials conduct a full inspection of each permitted farm every six months, which is 10 times the federal requirement. Additionally, the state permitting program is an overall environmental permitting program designed to protect both ground and surface waters, which makes it twice as stringent as the federal NPDES program as it is designed only to protect surface water.

Few states have permitting programs for large livestock farms that include a permit to install and a permit to operate, and none are as comprehensive and stringent as Ohio’s permitting program. Ohio is the only state that requires an environmental background check of the farm’s owners and operators and the only state with a Certified Livestock Manager’s program.

Furthermore, Ohio law does not allow any operation to discharge into surface or ground waters, regardless of the size. Ohio’s permitting program for large livestock farms prohibits any discharge into waterways throughout the state and requires all manure and potentially contaminated runoff to be contained and applied to crop land. [lma1]

Actions taken over the past six years clearly demonstrates that the Department of Agriculture has the expertise and ability to issue permits and enforce regulatory compliance for livestock farms in the state of Ohio that will be required to apply for and obtain a NPDES permit. The Department has operated the state permitting program in an effective and knowledgeable manner. That was the main goal of this effort since the beginning. We are confident that the Department of Agriculture can and will operate the NPDES program in a similar manner. We have already witnessed the Department doing a better job of protecting the environment and precious natural resources through operating one of the nation’s most stringent state permitting and compliance programs for large livestock farms. This is a win-win agreement for the environment, communities, citizens, neighbors and animal agriculture in the Buckeye State.

An example of the responsible manner in which the Department of Agriculture operates is how it responds to complaints. State and federal law requires that permitting program staff respond to all written complaints. The Department’s livestock permitting program staff have exceeded this requirement by responding not only to all written complaints it has received, but also responding to oral complaints filed with it as well. This fully demonstrates that the Department of Agriculture is responsible and accountable to all stakeholders involved in protecting the environment, communities and neighbors.

Make no doubt about it – the Ohio Department of Agriculture is a regulatory agency. Unlike other state departments of agriculture, its primary function is not to promote agriculture, but to regulate it. Only seven percent of the Department’s budget is allocated towards promoting agriculture, while 93 percent of its budget goes towards enforcing regulations. The Department of Agriculture is dedicated to protecting producers, agribusinesses and the consuming public by enforcing clearly written, scientific-based regulations as stipulated in Ohio’s laws. These regulations apply to dairy production and processing to amusement rides, pesticides, animal health auctioneers, feeds, fertilizers, food safety, grain warehouses, meat and poultry slaughtering and processing weights and measures, and more. By doing so, Ohioans get soundly regulated businesses that add value to neighborhoods and communities, and both farmers and consumers are protected.

The Department of Agriculture submitted its NPDES delegation authority application to US EPA Region 5 in January 2007. Even though Region 5 promised that it would complete its review within six months, it actually took longer than this for Region 5 to complete the review process. Therefore, it’s time to get the job done and approve the Department of Agriculture’s application seeking NPDES delegation authority as it pertains to concentrated animal feeding operations and construction activities at animal feeding operations here in the Buckeye State.

Sincerely,

Bob Peterson, President

Ohio Farm Bureau Federation

5564 Grassy Branch Road

Sabina OH 45169



Text Size - + print article