Unwieldy New Federal Regulation Applied to Farms

Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. (DPI) is encouraging its members, and others in the agricultural community, to support of a legislative fix by Congress to a burdensome chicken grower reporting requirement set to take effect in January.

DPI has followed closely recent court rulings and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). In an April 2017 ruling, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. determined that the 1980 law, which requires factories and ships releasing certain substances to notify the federal government of those releases, also applied to animal farmers, including chicken growers.

Compliance with the law will require Delmarva's family farmers raising chickens to call or email a response center operated by the U.S. Coast Guard – which has little experience with agricultural issues – and make an initial report that a farm's chicken litter may be releasing ammonia, over a 24-hour period, above a certain threshold. Growers have no way to know if their ammonia emissions really are over the threshold, because the EPA has been unable to determine a reliable formula for estimating ammonia emission volume from farms. Within 30 days of that first call or email, growers will need to follow up with a second, written report, repeating much of the same information. Then, a year later, they'll need to make a third report. And if they expand their farms or shut them down, yet another report is required. The EPA estimates America's farmers will have to spend a combined 496,893 hours a year on paperwork associated with CERCLA.

The U.S. Coast Guard response center taking these reports from farmers was designed to help notify first responders and other officials in case of an unexpected, sudden release of hazardous substances. It's not clear that the center will have any use for these vague reports from tens of thousands of farmers from all around the country, but under the court's new interpretation of CERCLA, farmers will need to submit them anyway, perhaps as soon as January 22.

Keeping our members informed about regulatory changes is a key part of DPI's mission, and we have provided chicken growers resources to help them meet the new CERCLA reporting obligations. At the same time, DPI has urged all of the Congressional representatives and senators for Maryland's Eastern Shore, Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Virginia to lead the way on a legislative fix to this CERCLA reporting mandate.

"This law, also known as the 'Superfund' law, originally was intended to alert the EPA to the emissions of hazardous materials from factories, ships and industrial sites," said Bill Satterfield, DPI's executive director. "We do not believe it was ever intended to cover animal farms. We have encouraged our grower members to contact their federal legislators to let them know how complicated the reporting system last month before the EPA temporarily stopped it, and how these reports will have no real value to the federal government."

A legislative fix clarifying that the Superfund law does not require this time-consuming and unproductive reporting from chicken growers would free them to be better farmers, removing an unnecessary regulation slowing down Delmarva's $3.2 billion chicken economy.

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