Last week seven lawsuits were filed over the federal Environmental Protection Agency rule on confined animal feeding operations (CAFO).

Three suits by environmental groups — The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Waterkeeper Alliance — were filed in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. These lawsuits all contend that the new CAFO rule does not go far enough and actually weakens protections in the Clean Water Act and endangers public health.

The other suits were filed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, and livestock producer groups from the beef, chicken, turkey, and pork industries in various federal district courts. Messages vary among the suits, but all agree that they took action, in part, to secure their legal rights and participate in what could be far-reaching court decisions.

In the middle of it all, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman predicts that the EPA — which tried to find a middle ground when writing the rule — will win the court challenges.

"In this business, that's how I judge our success," said Whitman to the Des Moines Register. "When we are being sued by both sides — one side saying we've gone too far, and the other saying we haven't gone far enough — that tells me we are right where we want to be."

Everyone knows steps must be taken to protect the nation’s waterways, says Whitman. However, those steps should not put producers out of business. The regulations must strike a balance. And that’s what has been done.

Des Moines Register, westernuniteddairymen.com