Agriculture sustains our communities, our bodies, and our environment. Over the last 200 years, however, the Jeffersonian agrarian ideal has changed drastically. Large concentrated animal feeding operations produce waste that if not properly managed can contaminate drinking water, sicken individuals recreating in our nation’s waterways, and lead to massive fish kills. However, this potential for destruction should not force farming out of our great nation.
Preventative and sustainable solutions are available, such as nutrient management plans, encouraging policies that allow smaller farms to thrive, and providing financial assistance to farmers to implement needed farm lot improvements.
Without local farms, more energy is needed to ship food to people living farther away from producers, which only worsens our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and our nation’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. When farmers sell prime farmland to developers to build the newest housing developments, valuable open space is lost to impervious rooftops, driveways, and roads that channel polluted storm water to local waterbodies and watersheds.Working with our coalition partners, the Campaign for our Farming Future advocate for sensible and sustainable agricultural policies to keep farmers farming while preserving the essential rights of New Yorkers and all Americans to enjoy clean water and quality food.
Campaign for Our Farming Future Downloadable Resources:
Opportunities for CAFO reform
Appellate Court decisions, state and federal appropriations and policy, and regulatory programs all present an unprecedented opportunity to help shape a more environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture future.
1. CAFO Appellate Court Decisions
Almost 20 years ago, Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (CARE) worked with the New York environmental community to protect western New York residents suffering from degraded drinking water and quality of life from one of the largest dairy operations in the state. A jury found for the plaintiffs on five of their 11 Clean Water Act (CWA)–based claims, and this ruling was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals. CARE v. Southview Farm clarified CAFOs as “a point source” of pollution, subject to the CWA. This court case led the way for a cooperative approach to addressing farm pollution, while protecting the environment and downstream residents.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit addressed the Clean Water Act and CAFOs most recently in the Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. et al v. EPA. See The Waterkeeper decision below for further discussion.
The Waterkeeper Decision
- Found that EPA failed to demonstrate that a CAFO had “no potential to discharge.”
- Affirmed the public must have access to meaningful public participation in Nutrient Management Plan development.
- Directed EPA to clarify:
- Water Quality Based Effluent Limitations (WQBEL) for discharges other than agriculture storm water runoff. The Court held that states have WQBEL development authority.
- 100 Year / 24 hour storm events EPA’s New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) analysis failed to justify achieving zero discharge potential of:
- Production area design for 100 year, 24 hour storms; or
- Allowing discharge if accompanied by comparable reduction of other media, such as air emissions.
- Held 2003 CAFO rule provisions on Nutrient Management Plan development, reporting, recording and requirements and discharge compliance dates based on case-by-case Best Professional Judgment (BPJ).
2. Federal CAFO reform opportunities
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is an important and popular Farm Bill program that provides farmers financial incentives and cost share agreements to help address air and water pollution from agricultural sources, reduce soil erosion and improve habitat for wildlife. According to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service 2005 data, EQIP has provided $50.9 million dollars for farmland protection, protecting almost 644,750 acres in New York. A $15.5 million demand gap for conservation and environmental assistance remains unmet in New York, which threatens rural communities.
While EQIP is an important agriculture environmental protection program, the EQIP Factory Farm loophole has allowed this valuable and limited public funding to be directed towards large scale capital infrastructure to support CAFO expansion and industrialization. Prior to the 2002 Farm Bill, EQIP did not allow funding for waste storage and handling infrastructure for large-scale CAFOs, those with over 1,000 animal units. This was a common sense provision for a conservation program because CAFOs, which concentrate thousands of farm animals in one location, have proven to be major sources of water and air pollution. CCE is urging Congress to prohibit EQIP from funding for waste storage and handling infrastructure for large-scale CAFOs. EQIP funding should be limited to dealing with existing environmental problems of small and mid-sized operations rather than subsidizing the increased concentration of the nation’s animal agriculture sector.
3. State Administration and Leadership
CCE is working to help shape important agriculture environmental management policies and decisions by actively participating at the table, engaging key agency staff, educating decision makers and the public on the threats from industrialized agriculture operations and the benefits and solutions for long term agriculture sustainability.
CCE continues to fight for state resources for farmers to protect water quality. Learn more about New York’s Environmental Protection Fund.
Garden of Eve organic farmers Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht and CCE board member and farmer Chris Kaplan-Walbrecht discuss the how organic farming can feed our sustainable future in this investigative report by Karl Grossman.
Updated by dglance 4/4/10