Last week legislation that clarifies that livestock manure is not a hazardous substance or pollutant under federal Superfund laws was introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The bill, (S. 3681), which has 23 original cosponsors, would make clear that manure is not — and was not intended to be — covered by the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act or the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Those laws were adopted in the 1980s and deal with major chemical spills or releases and the clean up of toxic waste sites, including a number of the federal government’s nuclear and military facilities.

But recent court cases filed in Texas and Oklahoma have alleged that livestock manure and its constituents (such as nitrogen and phosphorus compounds) are subject to CERCLA liability and to EPRCA reporting requirements.

“Should the lawsuits succeed and should Congress fail to pass the clarification legislation, the use of manure as fertilizer on farms effectively could be prohibited,” says Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., and chairman of the National Pork Producers Council’s environment committee.

Spronk, who uses manure from his operation on his crops and sells it to neighboring crop farmers, pointed out that using manure as fertilizer has helped increase corn yields and is more environmentally friendly – and cheaper – than man-made fertilizers.

And animal manure already is regulated under the federal Clean Water Act and other federal and state laws related to water, air and soil. Recent reforms to the Clean Water Act require livestock operations to use sound conservation and agricultural practices so that manure will be properly applied as a crop fertilizer.

“This [legislation] does not change current law, it simply clarifies the intent of the law,” says bill sponsor Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. “It is a matter of basic common sense. Nobody wants to penalize our producers under laws that clearly were not intended to apply to them.”

A companion bill in the House, (H.R. 4341), was introduced in November and has 174 cosponsors., NPPC