A smelly situation
The farms and ranches that have over 1,000 head of beef cattle now must report certain chemicals emitted from their animal's waste to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency final rule.
The rule, made effective Jan. 20, would require any livestock or ranch operation that meet certain criteria and emit 100 pounds or more of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in any 24 hour period, to notify the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, as well as their respective county emergency management offices.
"This rule has been in effect for 22 years," said Cecily Fong, Public Information Officer for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. "Recently what they (the EPA) did was make some exclusion to that rule and that's what prompted this."
Fong said that many people in North Dakota have never reported their emissions, because the rule was never really enforced, and also due to the fact that not many met the criteria needed for the report.
"Our understanding is that they were supposed to report to our office and the local emergency manager by January 20 by phone," Fong said. "Then a written report must be submitted within 30 days after that telephone call was made."
Producers who do not comply could face up to a $25,000 a day in fines, according to the EPA.
Fong said that a form has not been developed by the EPA to her knowledge, but other entities such as the National Cattlemen's Beef Association have, which also includes an emission estimator for producers.
The rule extends to turkeys, lambs, wine, horses, chickens, ducks and cattle among other animals with varying amounts in each, she added.
However, the EPA does not count emissions to the air of hazardous substances from the waste of animals that are not stabled or confined.
According to the EPA, those producers who raise over 700 mature dairy cows, 1,000 cattle other than mature dairy cows or veal cows, 2,500 swine each weighing 55 pounds or more, 10,000 sheep or lambs, 500 horses or 125,000 chickens would all be required to report the emissions created by the animals.
Charlotte Meier, State Executive for the North Dakota Pork Producers said she feels like the final rule was a surprise to all producers.
"I haven't had very much feedback from area producers because I don't know how many of them are aware of it," Meier said. "It only came out two days prior so that didn't even give producers a chance to get information."
Meier said she feels a lack of information has come out regarding the new rule.
"I'm not understanding why they have to call the emergency manager in their county," Meier said. "That part is still unclear to me."
The National Pork Producers Council announced this week that they are suing to challenge the EPA's requirement.
Dave Ryan, EPA Washington Headquarters Press Officer said the rule is still in effect despite the lawsuit.
According to an EPA press release: "This rule will enable response authorities to better focus their attention on hazardous substance releases that require a response, while reducing reporting burdens on America's farms. Notifications must still be made to response authorities when hazardous substances are released to the air from sources other than animal waste, and when hazardous substances are released to soil and water."
"We want to be able to assist farmers and ranchers to be in compliance with this program, but the EPA has not provided us with the tools, like reporting forms, to do so," Fong said. "I know that has been frustrating for our agency, and I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the producers and their respective trade associations."
For more information on the final rule, contact the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services at: 701-328-8100.