Transparency Needed for Industrial Animal Agriculture

PigsOver the past 30 years, the United States has lost more than a million cattle and hog ranches. While the number of operations has decreased dramatically, the size of individual operations has grown significantly (PDF). Many of them confine thousands, or even tens of thousands, of animals on a single site, known as a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation). As the scale of individual livestock operations has grown, so has the risk to the environment.    
 
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that animal waste from CAFOs is a significant source of nutrient pollution and pathogens in U.S. watersheds. But how much of a threat is it?  At present, the EPA does not have basic information on all CAFOs. It cannot accurately assess their environmental impact without a better understanding of the operations, including their location and the number and type of animals.  Collecting and maintaining basic information are critical and common-sense steps that will help determine CAFOs' effect on groundwater and human health.  
 
Under a settlement agreement resulting from a lawsuit, the EPA has committed to proposing a regulation that would collect basic information about CAFOs nationwide. 
 
This information would allow local communities, federal and state governments, farmers, water utilities, and others to make informed decisions on how to protect water resources and where to target technical assistance and water quality programs.   
 
Read the Pew Environment Group's letter to the Office of Management and Budget. (PDF)
 
Additional Information:

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) CAFO Reporting Rule (a.k.a. Section 308 CAFO Reporting Rule)