This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-03-285 
entitled 'Livestock Agriculture: Increased EPA Oversight Will Improve 
Environmental Program for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations' which 
was released on January 28, 2003.



This text file was formatted by the U.S. General Accounting Office 

(GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part of a 

longer term project to improve GAO products’ accessibility. Every 

attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 

the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 

descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 

end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 

but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 

version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 

replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 

your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 

document to Webmaster@gao.gov.



Report to the Ranking Member, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and 

Forestry, U.S. Senate:



United States General Accounting Office:



GAO:



January 2003:



LIVESTOCK AGRICULTURE:



Increased EPA Oversight Will Improve Environmental Program for 

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations:



GAO-03-285:



GAO Highlights:



Highlights of GAO-03-285, a report to the Ranking Member, Committee 

on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, U.S. Senate:



January 2003:



LIVESTOCK AGRICULTURE:



Increased EPA Oversight Will Improve Environmental Program for 

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations:



Why GAO Did This Study:



Congress is concerned that waste from animal feeding operations 

continues 

to threaten water quality. In light of this concern, GAO was asked 

to review 

the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) administration of its 

regulatory 

program for animal feeding operations and to determine the 

potential 

challenges states and EPA may face when they begin to implement 

the revisions 

to this program. GAO surveyed all EPA regional offices and four 

states with 

large numbers of animal feeding operations that may be subject 

to EPA 

regulations.



What GAO Found:



Until the mid-1990s, EPA placed little emphasis on and had 

directed few 

resources to its animal feeding operations permit program because 

it gave 

higher priority to other sources of water pollution. In addition, 

regulatory 

exemptions have allowed many large operations to avoid regulation. 

As a 

result of these problems, many operations that EPA believes are 

polluting the 

nation’s waters remain unregulated.



Implementation of revised regulations raise management and 

resource 

challenges for the states and the agency. For example, because 

the number 

of animal feeding operations subject to the regulations will 

increase 

dramatically, states will need to increase their efforts to 

identify, 

permit, and inspect facilities and take appropriate enforcement 

actions 

against those in noncompliance. For its part, EPA will need to 

increase its 

oversight of state programs to ensure that the new requirements 

are adopted 

and implemented. Neither the states nor EPA have determined how 

they will 

meet these challenges.



Figure: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations:



[See PDF for image]



Source: USDA:



A concentrated animal feeding facility that discharges animal 

wastes to 

surfact waters under certain conditions and is, therefore, 

subject to 

regulation.



[End of figure]



What GAO Recommends:



GAO recommends that EPA;

 

* develop and implement a comprehensive tactical plan that 

identifies 

resource requirements and how the agency will carry out its 

increased 

oversight responsibilities under the revised program; and



* work with authorized states to develop and implement their 

own plans 

that will identify resource needs and how they intend to 

carry out their 

increased permitting, inspection, and enforcement 

responsibilities within 

specified time frames.



www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-285.



To view the full report, including the scope and methodology,

click 

on the link above. For more information, contact Larry 

Dyckman at (202) 

512-3841 or dyckmanl@gao.gov.





Contents:



Letter:



Results in Brief:



Background:



Shortcomings in Regulatory Approach and Oversight Problems Have Limited 

Effectiveness of the CAFO Program:



EPA’s Revised Regulations Offer Potential to Improve the CAFO Program, 

but States and EPA Will Face Implementation Challenges:



USDA’s Role in Developing Revised Regulations Increased Over Time:



Conclusions:



Recommendations for Executive Action:



Agency Comments:



Appendix I: Scope and Methodology:



Appendix II: Comments from the Environmental Protection 

Agency:



Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments:



Figures:



Figure 1: Uncovered Operation:



Figure 2: Covered Operation:



Figure 3: EPA Full-Time Equivalent Positions Assigned to Its 

NPDES Permit Program in Four EPA Regions, 1997-2001:



Abbreviations:



CAFO: concentrated animal feeding operation:



EPA: Environmental Protection Agency:



NPDES: National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System:



USDAU.S. Department of Agriculture:



United States General Accounting Office:



Letter:



The Honorable Tom Harkin

Ranking Member

Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition

  and Forestry

United States Senate:



Dear Senator Harkin:



Livestock production generated $106 billion in farm revenue, or more 

than one-half of all farm revenue in 2001. Intensive livestock 

production--in which large numbers of poultry, swine, and dairy and 

beef cattle are held in confinement facilities--accounted for about 

$80 billion of this revenue. These confinement facilities raise 

concerns about water quality because the animals produce large 

quantities of waste--many times more waste than humans annually--and 

these wastes contribute to impairment of the nation’s waterways. To 

minimize environmental problems, animal feeding operations contain 

these wastes in storage facilities and periodically dispose of them, 

usually by spreading them on the land as fertilizer. Despite these 

efforts, animal feeding operations are significant contributors to 

impaired water quality in the nation’s rivers and lakes, according to 

the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).



Because wastes from animal feeding operations may degrade water 

quality, the Clean Water Act requires EPA and authorized states to 

regulate these operations similar to the way they regulate municipal 

and industrial waste treatment facilities. Specifically, EPA developed 

effluent guidelines for establishing limits on the discharge of 

pollutants from these operations into surface waters. As stipulated in 

the act, the agency and authorized states enforce these limits through 

permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination 

System (NPDES) permit program.



Animal feeding operations that discharge wastes to surface waters 

under certain conditions are called concentrated animal feeding 

operations (CAFO) and are required to obtain discharge permits. 

CAFOs are generally defined as animal feeding operations that have more 

than 1,000 animal units[Footnote 1] but also include smaller operations 

that discharge directly into surface waters. EPA has authorized 44 

states and the U.S. Virgin Islands to administer the discharge permit 

program for CAFOs since passage of the act in 1972.[Footnote 2] To 

become an authorized state, the state must have discharge permit 

requirements that are at least as stringent as the requirements imposed 

under the federal program and must contain several key provisions such 

as public participation in issuing permits. The act provides for EPA’s 

withdrawal of a state’s authorization if the state has not adequately 

administered its program. EPA’s 10 regional offices oversee the 

44 authorized states and the U.S. Virgin Islands and administer the 

program directly in the remaining states.[Footnote 3] EPA also provides 

grants to authorized states to help them implement the permit program. 

In fiscal year 2002, $145 million were appropriated for these grants.



Although it has regulated waste discharges since the mid-1970s, EPA 

continues to report serious impairment to the nation’s waters from 

these discharges. On October 30, 1989, the Natural Resources Defense 

Council and Public Citizen sued EPA,[Footnote 4] alleging that the 

agency had failed to comply with the Clean Water Act.[Footnote 5] In 

the ensuing settlement, EPA agreed to, among other things, revise its 

effluent limitation guidelines and permitting regulations for 

CAFOs.[Footnote 6] As agreed, EPA published proposed revisions to the 

regulations for public comment in January 2001 and issued its final 

regulations on December 15, 2002.



You asked us to (1) identify the key shortcomings of the of CAFO 

program, (2) assess the potential challenges the states and EPA may 

face when implementing revisions to the CAFO regulations, and 

(3) determine the extent of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 

involvement in developing the proposed revisions to EPA’s regulations. 

To address the first and second objectives, we, among other things, 

surveyed all 10 EPA regional offices and interviewed EPA officials in 

four of the regions. These four regions oversee the 23 states that have 

an estimated 70 percent of large animal feeding operations that could 

be defined as CAFOs under the revised regulations. We also interviewed 

state officials in four states--Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and 

Wisconsin--that have large numbers of confined poultry, swine, dairy, 

and beef cattle operations. To address the third objective, we 

interviewed agency officials, reviewed relevant documents, and observed 

meetings between the agencies. Appendix I contains further details of 

our scope and methodology.



Results in Brief:



The CAFO program has had two major shortcomings. First, exemptions 

in EPA’s regulations allowed an estimated 60 percent of animal feeding 

operations with more than 1,000 animal units to avoid regulation. 

Specifically, animal feeding operations that discharged waste into 

waterways only during a 25-year, 24-hour storm event--the amount 

of rainfall during a 24-hour period that occurs on average once every 

25 years--or greater were not explicitly defined as CAFOs and did not 

require permits. Additionally, chicken operations with dry manure-

handling systems were not generally required to obtain permits. 

Finally, animal wastes applied to crop and pastureland were generally 

not regulated under the CAFO program.



Second, EPA’s limited oversight of the states has contributed to 

inadequate implementation by some authorized states. For example, 

our surveys show that 11 authorized states with over 1,000 large animal 

feeding operations do not issue discharge permits that contain all 

required elements. Three of these states have not issued any discharge 

permits to their operations, thereby leaving these facilities and their 

wastes essentially unregulated by the CAFO program. EPA officials 

acknowledge that they have historically paid little attention to the 

state CAFO programs because they gave higher priority to other sources 

of pollution, such as industrial and municipal waste treatment 

facilities, considered the major sources of water impairment. In 

addition, EPA officials stated that the agency’s only leverage to 

compel states to implement the program with all federal requirements is 

to either withhold the grant funding to states for program operations 

or retract the state’s authority to run the entire NPDES permit 

program--including the components that regulate industrial and 

municipal waste treatment facilities. EPA is reluctant to use these 

tools because it maintains that withholding grant funding would further 

hamper the states’ ability to effectively implement their programs, and 

EPA does not have the resources to directly implement the entire permit 

program in additional states. However, EPA has recently devoted more 

attention and resources to the CAFO program and, as a result, has had 

some limited success in persuading authorized states to improve their 

programs without resorting to these tools. For example, in 2002, EPA 

persuaded several states to begin to issue discharge permits that meet 

all EPA requirements.



EPA recently issued revisions to its regulations that would 

(1) eliminate the 25-year, 24-hour storm discharge exemption, 

(2) require chicken operations that use dry manure-handling systems to 

obtain permits, and (3) subject wastes applied to crop and pastureland 

under the control of the CAFO operator to permit requirements. Although 

the revised regulations address some of the key shortcomings of the 

program, they raise even greater management challenges for the states 

and EPA. By extending coverage to previously exempt animal feeding 

operations, we estimate that the revised regulations could increase the 

number of operations required to obtain permits by an estimated 7,000-

-from the about 4,500 permits currently issued to about 11,500. These 

changes, along with extending permit coverage to the application of 

animal waste to crop and pastureland controlled by the CAFO operator, 

will create a resource and administrative challenge for the states. 

Specifically, states will need to increase their efforts to identify, 

permit, and inspect CAFOs and take appropriate enforcement actions 

against those in noncompliance. For its part, EPA will need to increase 

its oversight of state programs to ensure that the new requirements are 

adopted and implemented. This oversight effort will be significant in 

light of the large number of animal feeding operations that will need 

permits under the revised regulations. However, neither EPA nor the 

states we reviewed have developed plans--including the identification 

of resource requirements--for carrying out their increased 

responsibilities. We are making recommendations to EPA designed to 

increase the probability that the new program will be effective.



EPA did not formally consult with USDA when developing the proposed 

CAFO regulations, but USDA was increasingly involved in developing 

the revised regulations. EPA published the proposed regulations in 

January 2001 without allowing sufficient time for USDA to fully assess 

the proposed revisions. In June 2001, to help address USDA’s concerns, 

EPA and USDA established a collaborative interagency working group. 

USDA’s role in the working group was to provide technical information 

that identified how the regulations might adversely affect the 

livestock industry and to suggest alternative approaches that would 

mitigate these effects, such as allowing states greater flexibility in 

regulating smaller animal feeding operations. EPA and USDA officials 

said this arrangement has worked well.



To help ensure that the potential benefits of the CAFO program are 

realized, we are recommending that EPA develop and implement a 

comprehensive tactical plan that identifies how the agency will carry 

out its increased oversight responsibilities under the revised program. 

In addition, we are recommending that EPA work with authorized states 

to develop and implement their own plans that identify how they intend 

to carry out their increased permitting, inspection, and enforcement 

responsibilities within specified time frames.



We provided EPA and USDA with a draft of this report for review and 

comment. Both EPA and USDA provided technical comments that we 

incorporated into the report as appropriate. EPA and USDA agreed with 

our findings and recommendations. EPA provided written comments that 

are presented in appendix II; USDA provided oral comments.



Background:



Discharge permits establish limits on the amounts and types of 

pollutants that can be released into waterways. Under the Clean Water 

Act, concentrated animal feeding operations that discharge pollutants 

to surface waters must obtain permits from EPA or authorized states. 

However, unlike municipal and most industrial facilities that are 

allowed to discharge some waste, concentrated animal feeding operations 

are required to construct and operate facilities that do not release 

any waste to surface waters, except in extraordinary circumstances.



Under EPA’s prior regulations, animal feeding operations could be 

defined as CAFOs and require discharge permits if they, among other 

things:



* had more than 1,000 animal units,



* had more than 300 animal units and either discharged through a man-

made device into navigable waters or directly into waters of the United 

States that originate outside the facility, or:



* were of any size but had been determined by EPA or the state 

permitting authority to contribute significantly to water pollution.



Under these regulations, a large animal feeding operation did not need 

a permit if it only discharged during a 25-year, 24-hour storm event--

the amount of rainfall during a 24-hour period that occurs on average 

once every 25 years or more. In addition, the regulations did not 

generally require permits for chicken operations that use dry manure-

handling systems--that is, systems that do not use water to handle 

their waste. Further, animal wastes that were applied to crop and 

pastureland were generally not regulated.



EPA has authorized 44 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands to administer 

the discharge permit program for CAFOs. To become an authorized state, 

the state must have discharge permit requirements that are at least as 

stringent as the requirements imposed under the federal program and 

must contain several key provisions. These provisions include allowing 

for public participation in issuing permits; issuing permits that must 

be renewed every 5 years; including authority for EPA and authorized 

states to take enforcement action against those who violate permit 

conditions; and providing for public participation in the state 

enforcement process by either allowing the public to participate in any 

civil or administrative action or by providing assurance that the state 

will investigate citizen complaints. According to EPA, public 

participation in the permitting and enforcement process is critical 

because it allows the public to express its views on the proposed 

operations and to assist EPA and state authorities in ensuring that 

permitted operations remain in compliance.



Shortcomings in Regulatory Approach and Oversight Problems Have Limited 

Effectiveness of the CAFO Program:



The CAFO program has had two major shortcomings that have led to 

inconsistent and inadequate implementation by the authorized states. 

These shortcomings include (1) exemptions in EPA’s regulations that 

have allowed as many as 60 percent of the largest animal feeding 

operations to avoid obtaining permits and (2) minimal oversight of 

state CAFO programs by EPA. Although EPA maintains that it has limited 

tools to compel states to properly implement the CAFO program, it 

recently has had limited success in persuading some authorized states 

to begin issuing discharge permits that include all 

program requirements.



Exemptions in EPA’s Rules Allowed Most Animal Feeding Operations to 

Avoid Regulation:



Two exemptions in CAFO regulations have allowed large numbers of animal 

feeding operations to avoid obtaining discharge permits. However, EPA 

believes that many of these operations may degrade water quality. The 

first exemption allowed operations to avoid obtaining discharge permits 

if they discharge waste only during 25-year, 24-hour rainstorm events. 

However, based on its compliance and enforcement experience, EPA 

believes that many of the operations using this exemption should, in 

fact, have a discharge permit because they are likely discharging more 

frequently. For example, when EPA proposed changes to the CAFO 

regulations, it stated that operations using this exemption were not 

taking into consideration discharges that may occur as a result of 

overfilling the waste storage facility, accidental spills, or improper 

land application of manure and wastewater. The second exemption allowed 

about 3,000 confined chicken operations that use dry manure-handling 

systems to avoid obtaining permits. EPA believes that chicken 

operations using dry manure-handling systems should obtain permits 

because EPA and state water quality assessments found that nutrients 

from confined chicken operations, similar to other large livestock 

operations, contaminate waters through improper storage, accidental 

spills, and land application.



As a result of these exemptions, we estimate that only about 40 percent 

(4,500 of 11,500) of confined animal feeding operations currently have 

discharge permits.[Footnote 7] In addition, EPA believes about 

4,000 smaller animal feeding operations may threaten water quality and 

may also need to be permitted. According to EPA and state officials, 

these smaller operations are generally not permitted because federal 

and state programs have historically focused their limited resources 

dedicated to CAFOs on regulating only the largest operations.



EPA’s Limited Oversight of States’ CAFO Programs Has Contributed to 

Inconsistent and Inadequate Implementation:



EPA’s limited oversight of the states has contributed to inconsistent 

and inadequate implementation by the authorized states.[Footnote 8] In 

particular, our surveys show that 11 authorized states--with a total of 

more than 1,000 large animal feeding operations-do not properly issue 

discharge permits. Although eight of these states issue some type of 

permit to CAFOs, the permits do not meet all EPA requirements, such as 

including provisions for public participation in issuing permits. The 

remaining three states do not issue any type of permit to CAFOs, 

thereby leaving facilities and their wastes essentially unregulated. 

EPA officials believe that most large operations either discharge or 

have a potential to discharge animal waste to surface waters and should 

have discharge permits.



The two states that lead the nation in swine production illustrate how 

programs can meet some EPA permit requirements but not others. For 

example, while Iowa’s permits for uncovered operations (see fig. 1) 

meet all program requirements, its permits for covered operations 

(see fig. 2) do not. Contrary to EPA requirements that permits are 

renewed every 5 years, Iowa issues these permits for indefinite periods 

of time. While North Carolina issues permits to both covered and 

uncovered animal feeding operations, these permits do not include all 

EPA requirements, such as provisions for public participation or 

allowing for EPA enforcement of the state permit.



Figure 1: Uncovered Operation:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



Figure 2: Covered Operation:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



Michigan and Wisconsin also illustrate how two authorized states 

with a similar number of animal feeding operations differ in program 

implementation. According to USDA estimates, both states have over 

100 operations with more than 1,000 animal units that could be defined 

as CAFOs. While Wisconsin had issued 110 permits to these operations, 

Michigan had not issued any, according to our survey.[Footnote 9] As a 

result, waste discharges from facilities in Michigan remained 

unregulated under the CAFO program.



EPA officials acknowledged that until the mid-1990s the agency had 

placed little emphasis on and directed few resources to the CAFO 

program and that this inattention has contributed to inconsistent and 

inadequate implementation by authorized states. Instead, the agency 

gave higher priority and devoted greater resources to its permit 

program for the more traditional point sources of pollution--industrial 

and municipal waste treatment facilities. However, as EPA’s and the 

states’ efforts have reduced pollution from these sources, concerns 

grew in the 1990s that the increasing number of large concentrated 

animal feeding operations could potentially threaten surface water 

quality. In response, EPA began placing more emphasis and directing 

more resources to the CAFO program. As a result, some states that had 

not previously issued discharge permits began to do so.



As shown in figure 3, EPA has historically assigned significantly more 

personnel resources to the industrial and municipal portions of the 

NPDES permit program. In the four regions we reviewed, the number of 

full-time equivalent positions dedicated to the CAFO program has 

increased since 1997--from 1 to 6 percent--but this increase has, for 

the most part, been at the expense of the industrial and municipal 

portions of the permit program. EPA officials told us that due to 

budget constraints, any increase in resources in one program area 

requires the reduction of resources in others.



Figure 3: EPA Full-Time Equivalent Positions Assigned to Its 

NPDES Permit Program in Four EPA Regions, 1997-2001:



[See PDF for image]



[End of figure]



In addition to resource constraints, EPA officials say that the agency 

has little leverage to compel states to issue permits with all required 

elements because the agency’s primary recourses in such situations are 

to either (1) withhold grant funding it provides to states for program 

operations or (2) withdraw the states’ authority to run the entire 

NPDES permit program, including the regulation of industrial and 

municipal waste treatment facilities. EPA has been reluctant to use 

these tools because it maintains that withholding grant funding would 

further weaken the states’ ability to properly implement the program 

and EPA does not have the resources to directly implement the permit 

program in additional states. To date, EPA has never withheld grants or 

withdrawn a state’s authority.



However, EPA has had limited success in persuading some authorized 

states to begin issuing discharge permits with all EPA requirements. 

For example, Michigan has been an authorized state since 1973, but only 

agreed in 2002 to begin issuing discharge permits. This agreement 

followed an EPA investigation that revealed several unpermitted CAFOs. 

Similarly, EPA recently persuaded Iowa to increase the issuance of 

discharge permits to uncovered feedlots. However, to date the agency 

has not been able to convince the state to issue permits to its covered 

operations, even though EPA believes these types of operations should 

also have permits. In 2002, EPA was also successful in persuading three 

other authorized states--Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina--

to begin issuing discharge permits that meet all program requirements.



EPA’s Revised Regulations Offer Potential to Improve the CAFO Program, 

but States and EPA Will Face Implementation Challenges:



According to our surveys of the regions and states, EPA’s revised 

regulations--eliminating the 25-year, 24-hour storm exemption; 

explicitly including dry-manure chicken operations; and extending 

permit coverage to include the land application areas under the control 

of CAFO--address some key problems of the CAFO program. However, they 

will also increase EPA’s oversight responsibility and require 

authorized states to increase their permitting, inspection, and 

enforcement activities. Furthermore, neither EPA nor the states have 

planned how they will face these challenges or implement the 

revised program.



Revisions Will Help Address Regulatory Problems by Requiring Potential 

Dischargers to Obtain Permits:



EPA’s decision to eliminate regulatory exemptions should strengthen the 

permit program because the revised regulations will extend coverage to 

more animal feeding operations that have the potential to contaminate 

waterways. As previously mentioned, the 25-year, 24-hour storm 

exemption has proven particularly problematic for EPA and the states 

because it allowed CAFO operators to bypass permitting altogether. By 

eliminating this exemption, we estimate that an additional 4,000 large 

animal feeding operations will require permits. According to our survey 

results, the elimination of this exemption could significantly improve 

the program. In addition, EPA’s decision to also explicitly require 

permits for large dry-manure chicken operations will increase the 

number of permitted facilities by another 3,000. Lastly, CAFO operators 

are, for the first time, required to either (1) apply for a permit or 

(2) provide evidence to demonstrate that they have no potential to 

discharge to surface waters.



In addition to eliminating regulatory exemptions, EPA also extended 

permit coverage to include the application of animal waste to crop and 

pastureland controlled by the CAFO. Specifically, CAFO operators who 

apply manure to their land will be required to develop and implement 

nutrient management plans that, among other things, specify how much 

manure can be applied to crop and pastureland to minimize potential 

adverse effects on the environment. CAFO operators will need to 

maintain the plan on site and, upon request, make it available to the 

state permit authority for review.



Authorized States Will Face Challenges Implementing the 

Revised Regulations:



Although EPA believes that the revised regulations will improve the 

CAFO program, the changes will create resource and administrative 

challenges for the authorized states. We estimate that the revised 

regulations could increase the number of operations required to obtain 

permits by an estimated 7,000--from about 4,500 permits currently 

issued, to about 11,500. States will therefore need to increase their 

efforts to identify, permit, and inspect animal feeding operations and, 

most likely, will have to increase their enforcement actions. However, 

many states have not yet identified and permitted CAFOs that EPA 

believes should already have been covered by the CAFO program. 

Therefore, increased permitting requirements could prove to be a 

daunting task. For example, Iowa has only permitted 32 operations out 

of more than 1,000 of its animal feeding operations that have more than 

1,000 animal units. Furthermore, states may need to identify and permit 

an estimated 4,000 operations with fewer than 1,000 animal units that 

EPA believes may be discharging. Finally, when states inspect CAFOs, 

they will need to determine if the operation’s nutrient management plan 

is being properly implemented.



According to state officials, meeting these demands will require 

additional personnel. However, most of the states we visited cannot 

hire additional staff and would have to redeploy personnel from other 

programs. For example, Iowa and North Carolina, two states with a large 

number of potential CAFOs, each have less than one full-time employee 

working in the CAFO program.



EPA’s Oversight of States Will Need to Increase:



While the burden of implementing the revised regulations will fall 

primarily on the states, EPA will need to increase its oversight of 

state programs to ensure that the states properly adopt and implement 

the new requirements. This oversight effort will be especially 

important in light of the large number of animal feeding operations 

that will need permits under the revised regulations. Although most of 

the regions have not determined precisely what additional resources 

they will need to adequately carry out their increased 

responsibilities, EPA officials told us that, like the states, they 

will have to redeploy resources from other programs.



EPA and States Have Not Prepared for Additional Responsibilities:



Despite the challenges that EPA and the states will face in 

implementing the revised CAFO program, they have not yet prepared for 

their additional responsibilities. According to our survey of 10 EPA 

regions, the regions and states have not estimated the resources they 

will need to implement the revised CAFO program. EPA, for its part, has 

not developed a plan for how it intends to carry out its increased 

oversight responsibilities under the revised regulations, such as 

ensuring that authorized states properly permit and inspect CAFOs and 

take appropriate enforcement action. EPA and state officials told us 

they intend to wait until the revised regulations are issued before 

they begin planning for their implementation.



USDA’s Role in Developing Revised Regulations Increased Over Time:



EPA did not formally consult with USDA when it was developing the 

proposed CAFO regulations published in January 2001, but the department 

has played a greater role in providing input for the revised 

regulations. EPA and USDA developed a joint animal feeding operation 

strategy in 1998 to address the adverse environmental and public health 

effects of animal feeding operations. However, USDA’s involvement in 

developing the proposed CAFO regulations was generally limited to 

responding to EPA requests for data. USDA officials told us that they 

were asked to provide substantive comments only after the Office of 

Management and Budget suggested that EPA solicit USDA’s views. However, 

USDA officials maintained that they did not have sufficient time to 

fully assess the proposed regulations and discuss its concerns with EPA 

before the proposed regulations were published in January 2001.



In June 2001, to address USDA concerns, EPA and USDA established 

an interagency workgroup on the proposed revisions to the CAFO 

regulations. Under this arrangement, USDA provided technical 

information that identified how the proposed regulations could 

adversely affect the livestock industry and suggested alternative 

approaches that would mitigate these effects. For example, through this 

interagency workgroup, USDA suggested that EPA consider allowing states 

greater flexibility in regulating smaller operations. USDA also raised 

concerns that EPA’s proposed nutrient management plan was not entirely 

consistent with USDA’s existing comprehensive nutrient management plan 

and would be confusing to operators. EPA agreed to take these concerns 

into consideration when it prepared the final revisions to the 

regulations.



In July 2001, to further strengthen the cooperative process, EPA and 

USDA developed Principles of Collaboration to ensure that the 

perspectives of both organizations are realized. In essence, the 

principles recognize that USDA and EPA have clear and distinct 

missions, authorities, and expertise, yet can work in partnership on 

issues on mutual concern. To ensure that both EPA and USDA work 

together constructively, the principles call for EPA and USDA to 

establish mutually agreeable time frames for joint efforts and provide 

adequate opportunities to review and comment on materials developed in 

collaboration prior to public release. According to USDA and EPA 

officials, this new arrangement has improved the agencies’ working 

relationship.



Conclusions:



Although EPA has historically given the CAFO program relatively low 

priority, it has recently placed greater attention on it as a result of 

the 1989 lawsuit and the growing recognition of animal feeding 

operations’ contributions to water quality impairment. The 

implementation of the CAFO program has been uneven because of 

regulatory exemptions and the lower priority EPA and the states have 

assigned to it. Although EPA has had some recent success in persuading 

states to begin issuing discharge permits that include all program 

requirements, agency officials say that their ability to compel states 

to do so is limited. While the revised regulations will help address 

the regulatory problems, they will also increase states’ burdens for 

permitting, inspecting, and taking enforcement actions. Because several 

states have yet to fully implement the previous, more limited, program, 

EPA will need to increase its oversight of state programs in order to 

ensure that the new requirements are properly adopted and carried out 

by the states. EPA and the states have not identified what they will 

need to do--or the required resources--to carry out these increased 

responsibilities. For example, they have not determined how they intend 

to accomplish their expanded roles and responsibilities within current 

staff levels.



Recommendations for Executive Action:



To help ensure that the potential benefits of the revised CAFO program 

are realized, we recommend that the Administrator, EPA,



* develop and implement a comprehensive tactical plan that identifies 

how the agency will carry out its increased oversight responsibilities 

under the revised program. Specifically, this plan should address what 

steps the agency will take to ensure that authorized states are 

properly permitting and inspecting CAFOs and taking appropriate 

enforcement actions against those in noncompliance. In addition, the 

plan should identify what, if any, additional resources will be needed 

to carry out the plan and how these resources will be obtained; and:



* work with authorized states to develop and implement their own plans 

that identify how they intend to carry out their increased permitting, 

inspection, and enforcement responsibilities within specified 

time frames. These plans should also address what, if any, additional 

resources will be needed to properly implement the program and how 

these resources will be obtained.



Agency Comments:



We provided EPA and USDA with a draft of this report for review and 

comment. The Director of Animal Husbandry and Clean Water Programs, 

along with other USDA officials, provided oral comments for USDA. EPA 

provided written comments. Both agencies expressed agreement with the 

findings and recommendations in the report. EPA and USDA also provided 

technical comments that we incorporated into the report as appropriate. 

EPA’s written comments are presented in appendix II.



We are sending copies of this report to the Administrator of the 

Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Agriculture, 

appropriate congressional committees, and other interested parties. 

We will also make copies available to others upon request. In addition, 

the report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http:/

/www.gao.gov.



If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please call 

me at (202) 512-3841. Key contributors to this report are listed in 

appendix III.



Sincerely yours,



Lawrence J. Dyckman

Director, Natural Resources 

  and Environment:



Signed by Lawrence J. Dyckman:



[End of section]



Appendix I: Scope and Methodology:



To determine the problems EPA faced in administering the CAFO 

program and the potential challenges the states and EPA may face 

when implementing revisions to its CAFO regulations, we surveyed all 

10 EPA regional offices. Our survey asked regional officials to provide 

information on program management and oversight of authorized states’ 

CAFO programs, resources dedicated to the program, problems EPA has 

faced administering the program, and the potential challenges the 

states and EPA might face in implementing revisions to the CAFO 

program.



In addition, we interviewed EPA officials in 4 of the 10 regions. We 

judgmentally selected the 4 regions that represent 23 states with an 

estimated 70 percent of large animal feeding operations that could be 

designated as CAFOs under the revised regulations. Because EPA and most 

states do not know precisely how many animal feeding operations should 

have discharge permits, we used USDA’s estimate of the number of 

potential CAFOs based on livestock type and the number of animals on 

the farm from the 1997 Census of Agriculture. These regions and their 

represented states are:



* Region 3-Philadelphia: Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, 

and West Virginia;



* Region 4-Atlanta: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, 

North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee;



* Region 5-Chicago: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and 

Wisconsin; and:



* Region 7-Kansas City: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.



To determine how the 44 authorized states and the U.S. Virgin Islands 

administer the program and to obtain their views on the challenges they 

might encounter in implementing the revised regulations, we interviewed 

program officials in four authorized states--Iowa, North Carolina, 

Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. We judgmentally selected these states from 

among the four regions we visited because they have large numbers of 

confined poultry, swine, and dairy and beef cattle operations. We did 

not evaluate how EPA directly administers the program in the states and 

territories not authorized to implement the CAFO program because these 

states contained less than 5 percent of large CAFOs. EPA administers 

the program directly because these states have not asked for authority 

to administer the program.



To examine the extent of USDA’s involvement in developing the proposed 

revisions to EPA’s CAFO regulations, we interviewed officials in USDA’s 

Natural Resources Conservation Service and EPA. We also observed an EPA 

and USDA Working Group Meeting on Concentrated Animal 

Feeding Operations.



We conducted our review from January 2002 through October 2002 in 

accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.



[End of section]



Appendix II: Comments from the Environmental Protection Agency:



UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY:



WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460:



JAN 10 2003:



OFFICE OF WATER:



Mr. Lawrence J. Dyckman Director:



Natural Resources and Environment U. S. General Accounting Office 441 G 

Street, NW:



Washington, DC 20548:



Dear Mr. Dyckman:



Thank you for allowing the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

an opportunity to review and comment on the draft of your report 

entitled, Livestock Agriculture: Increased EPA Oversight Will Improve 

Environmental Program for Concentration Animal Feeding Operations (GAO-

03-285). We understand that our technical edits and suggestions will be 

addressed in the final report.



In general, I believe that this report gives a good overview of the 

implementation of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) 

program under the old CAFO rule promulgated in the mid-1970s. We 

recognize that the CAFO program was hampered, in part by the outdated 

regulations and by incomplete attention by EPA and the States. In the 

past two years, however, EPA has seen substantial improvement in 

several State CAFO programs and a near doubling of the number of CAFOs 

permitted under the Clean Water Act permitting program.



EPA Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman signed the revised final CAFO 

rule on December 15, 2002. The new rule addresses many of the concerns 

with the CAFO program at the state and federal level that are 

identified in this report. The new rule strengthens the CAFO program in 

several important ways. The rule removes the permit exemptions for 

CAFOs that discharge during large storm events and for large chicken 

operations with dry manure handling systems. These improvements in the 

regulation will require large operations to apply for a National 

Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. This revision 

will also remove any ambiguity regarding requirements for States to 

issue NPDES permits to CAFOs. The final rule also explicitly requires 

CAFOs to address the land application of their manure and wastewater by 

developing and implementing nutrient management plans.



We appreciate the acknowledgment of the close working relationship that 

existed between EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the 

development of the final rule. This highly constructive interaction has 

served as a springboard for several collaborative discussions on abroad 

range of environmental and agricultural topics.



EPA generally agrees with the recommendations in this report. I am 

committed to the development and implementation of a comprehensive 

national plan that ensures that the new regulations are aggressively 

implemented. I will work closely with the EPA regions to ensure that 

each of the States implement and enforce the final regulations, 

including revisions to their current StateNPDES programs, as needed.



I would like to pass along my regards to your evaluation team that 

performed this review. My staff enjoyed working with your team of Greg 

Kosarin, John Smith, Paul Pansini, and Mary Denigan.



If you have questions about our comments, please call me or have your 

staff call Jeff Lape, Chief of the Rural Branch at (202) 564-0712.



Sincerely, 



G. Tracy Mehan, Assistant Administrator:



Signed by G. Tracy Mehan:



[End of section]



Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments:



GAO Contact:



Greg Kosarin, (202) 512-6526:



Acknowledgments:



In addition to the individual named above, Mary Denigan-Macauley, 

Oliver Easterwood, Lynn Musser, Paul Pansini, and John C. Smith made 

key contributions to this report.



FOOTNOTES:



[1] An animal unit is a representation of size among animal types EPA 

uses for permitting purposes. For example, one animal unit is 

equivalent to one beef cattle or 2.5 adult swine.



[2] Although Oklahoma is authorized to implement other aspects of the 

permit program, it is not authorized to administer the CAFO program.



[3] Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and 

Oklahoma are not currently authorized.



[4] Natural Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen are nonprofit 

organizations that advocate for environmental and consumer protection, 

among other issues.



[5] Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. Reilly, Civ. No. 89-2980 

(RCL) (D.D.C.), October 30, 1989.



[6] Plaintiffs and EPA agreed to an initial settlement on January 31, 

1992, which has been modified several times, to establish a schedule 

for EPA to propose and take final action on 18 point source categories, 

including CAFOs.



[7] Since EPA and most states do not know precisely how many animal 

feeding operations should have discharge permits, USDA estimated the 

number of potential CAFOs based on livestock type and the number of 

animals on the farm from the 1997 Census of Agriculture. See USDA, 

Profile of Farms with Livestock in the United States: A Statistical 

Summary (Washington, D.C.: February 2002).



[8] We did not evaluate how EPA administered the program in the states 

not authorized to implement the CAFO program because these states 

contained fewer than 5 percent of large CAFOs.



[9] On December 13, 2002, Michigan established procedures for issuing 

CAFO discharge permits.



GAO’s Mission:



The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, 

exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional 

responsibilities and to help improve the performance and accountability 

of the federal government for the American people. GAO examines the use 

of public funds; evaluates federal programs and policies; and provides 

analyses, recommendations, and other assistance to help Congress make 

informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions. GAO’s commitment to 

good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, 

integrity, and reliability.



Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony:



The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 

cost is through the Internet. GAO’s Web site ( www.gao.gov ) contains 

abstracts and full-text files of current reports and testimony and an 

expanding archive of older products. The Web site features a search 

engine to help you locate documents using key words and phrases. You 

can print these documents in their entirety, including charts and other 

graphics.



Each day, GAO issues a list of newly released reports, testimony, and 

correspondence. GAO posts this list, known as “Today’s Reports,” on its 

Web site daily. The list contains links to the full-text document 

files. To have GAO e-mail this list to you every afternoon, go to 

www.gao.gov and select “Subscribe to daily E-mail alert for newly 

released products” under the GAO Reports heading.



Order by Mail or Phone:



The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 

each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 

of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 

more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 

Orders should be sent to:



U.S. General Accounting Office



441 G Street NW,



Room LM Washington,



D.C. 20548:



To order by Phone: 	



	Voice: (202) 512-6000:



	TDD: (202) 512-2537:



	Fax: (202) 512-6061:



To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs:



Contact:



Web site: www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov



Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470:



Public Affairs:



Jeff Nelligan, managing director, NelliganJ@gao.gov (202) 512-4800 U.S.



General Accounting Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149 Washington, D.C.



20548: