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Farmers prevail in court decision on EPA rules


March 17, 2011
By American Farm Bureau

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March 17, 2011,
Washington, DC – In a major court victory for the American Farm Bureau
Federation and other farm organizations, a unanimous federal court of appeals
has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot require livestock
farmers to apply for Clean Water Act permits unless their farms actually
discharge manure into U.S. waters.
March 17, 2011,
Washington, DC – In a major court victory for the American Farm Bureau
Federation
and other farm organizations, a unanimous federal court of appeals
has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot require livestock
farmers to apply for Clean Water Act permits unless their farms actually
discharge manure into U.S. waters.

The ruling was welcomed by
the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council and
several other agriculture groups that filed suit against the EPA in the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
.

“For the second time, a
U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that EPA’s authority is limited by the Clean
Water Act
to jurisdiction over only actual discharges to navigable waters, not
potential discharges,” said AFBF president Bob Stallman. “We are pleased that
the federal courts have again reined in EPA’s unlawful regulation of livestock
operations under the Clean Water Act. The court has affirmed that the EPA , like
other federal agencies, can only regulate where it has been authorized by
Congress to do so.”

In the ruling, issued
March 15, the Fifth Circuit concluded: “The CWA provides a comprehensive
liability scheme and the EPA’s attempt to supplement this scheme is in excess
of its statutory authority.”

According to the ruling,
non-discharging CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) do not need permit
coverage. In addition, CAFOs cannot face separate liability for “failure to
apply” for permit coverage, as the EPA’s rule provided. Instead, where a CAFO does
not seek permit coverage, the Clean Water Act imposes liability only for
discharges that occur from the unpermitted CAFO.

AFBF legal analysts are
continuing to review the ruling to determine how it will affect livestock
farmers and ranchers, including those currently engaged in lawsuits with the EPA.
It’s uncertain at this time what the EPA’s next steps will be now that major
provisions of its CAFO regulations, issued in 2003, have been vacated by the
court.