U.S. cattle producers fighting against having livestock operations treated as hazardous waste sites


“This is most certainly not a toxic Superfund site.”

As part of a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) campaign video, the organization’s chief environmental council, Scott Yager, stands in a Virginia pasture, overlooking a herd of grazing cattle, in only a portion of the yellow hazmat suit he donned at a hazardous waste site in the same state.

As he explains, a recent court decision could force livestock producers in the U.S. to report information about hazardous substances such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, or, as Yager puts it “a bunch of information about their cow poop.”


So why are cow pastures being put in the same category as toxic waste sites?

Superfund refers to a U.S. government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants.
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized their rule exempting farms from Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and small farms from the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

This didn’t sit well with citizen groups, who challenged the decision, going to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which ultimately ‘vacated’ the EPA’s exemption.

“This is just another example of radical environmental groups using the courts to wildly distort the original Congressional intent behind legislation,” says NCBA President and Nebraska cattleman Craig Uden, in a release. “Unless this ridiculous situation is fixed, agricultural producers will soon have their operations treated like toxic Superfund sites, and government agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard will be inundated with unnecessary questions and reports.”

As it stands, releases of ammonia and/or hydrogen sulfide in amounts exceeding 100lb per day will need to be reported. As will any spills or accidents involving pesticides or fertilizer in amounts that exceed their specific reportable quanity.

Reporting will be required once the court issues its order enforcing the decision, which could be as early as January 22.

In the meantime, NCBA says it’s “working with allies on Capitol Hill to introduce and quickly pass legislation that would correct the situation”.

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