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Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: EPA Needs More Information and a Clearly Defined Strategy to Protect Air and Water Quality

GAO-08-1177T Published: Sep 24, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 2008.
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Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) are large livestock and poultry operations that raise animals in a confined situation. CAFOs may improve the efficiency of animal production, but the large amounts of manure they produce can, if improperly managed, degrade air and water quality. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates CAFOs and requires CAFOs that discharge certain pollutants to obtain a permit. This testimony summarizes the findings of a September 4, 2008 GAO report (GAO-08-944) on (1) trends in CAFOs, (2) amounts of waste they generate, (3) findings of key research on CAFOs' health and environmental impacts, (4) progress made in developing CAFO air emissions protocols, and (5) the effect of recent court decisions on EPA's regulation of CAFO water pollutants. GAO analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) data from 1982 through 2002 for large farms as a proxy for CAFOs; reviewed studies, EPA documents, laws, and regulations, and obtained the views of federal and state officials.

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Agricultural industryAgricultural productionAgricultural programsAir pollutionAnimal feed and drugsAnimalsCattleData collectionData integrityEnvironmental lawEnvironmental policiesEnvironmental protectionFederal regulationsstate relationsInternal controlsPollutantsPollution controlPoultryProgram evaluationProgram managementRisk assessmentRisk managementSwineWater pollution controlWater qualityProgram goals or objectives