Recent court rulings and enforcement actions mean it is no longer a question of “if” air emission requirements apply to livestock production but a question of “how they will be applied”.

In order to develop the science needed to regulate livestock operations for air emissions, the EPA has negotiated a “safe harbor” air emissions consent agreement with livestock groups. Livestock producers who sign up to participate in the two-year research study will receive protection from lawsuits and fines based on violations of clean air laws, but must pay a one-time penalty that will go toward the cost of the study.

According to information posted at Cornell’s Pro-Dairy Web site the one-time penalty assessment for CAFOs or AFOs with less than 700 mature milking cows is $200; for CAFOs and AFOs with more than 700 mature milking cows the penalty is $500. Operations with more than 7,000 cows will be assessed one-time penalty of $1,000. The maximum penalty EPA can assess to any livestock operation to support the monitoring research is $2,500.

The emissions research is designed to develop specific standards for each industry and for each type of operation and will include information on specific manure management practices. Once completed, EPA will develop “look up” charts that producers can use to determine what they need to do to comply with air-emission laws, or if based on their size the rules do not apply.

Under the Clean Air Act, regulated pollutants include ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, nitrous oxide and volatile organic compounds. Preliminary estimates suggest that dairies between 200 and 500 cows may be above the reporting thresholds for ammonia emissions. And herds with 2,500 to 4,000 cows or above could need an operating permit. 

Participation in the study is voluntary. To learn more about the EPA “safe harbor” consent agreement, go to the ProDairy Web site at: Once there click on “Information about EPA consent agreement.” At the site you will find a Q&A of the most commonly asked questions about the program as well as links to a working draft of the consent agreement, timeline and other important information.

Another information resource is the article “Finding answers and a safe harbor,” in Pork magazine, a sister publication of Dairy Herd Management. To view this article, click here.

ProDairy, Pork