Whatcom Family Farmers Strongly Object to Department of Ecology’s Initial Draft CAFO Discharge Permit
The Washington State Department of Ecology issued its initial draft of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation General Permit on August 11. Whatcom Family Farmers strongly object to this initial draft believing it to be unnecessary, counter-productive to its intention of protecting the environment and completely out of touch with the realities of dairy farming. If the permit goes forward in a form any where near this draft it will prove devastating to the dairy industry in the state.
The primary objections are:
- The permit is based on faulty premise of pollution.
The entire permit is based on the premise that dairy farms pollute the waters of the state, specifically that dairy lagoons pollute. Soil and water quality testing makes clear that this accusation is not supported by the evidence. Indeed, Ecology permit writers admit they have no evidence for pollution but are requiring farmers to conduct extensive and expensive testing to “prove” their innocence. This is a “guilty until proven innocent” approach that may be illegal and certainly violates a primary value of our nation and society.
- Ecology wrongly claims permit is required by federal and state law.
Ecology bases its claim that the permit is required by federal and state law on the false premise of pollution. Without that proof dairy farms do not fit the definition of a CAFO under EPA rules which requires proof of significant pollution. Similarly, Ecology’s argument under state law that manure is "industrial and commercial waste” is faulty in defining farms as industrial or commercial operations and defining manure as waste. In fact, enforcement of this permit would violate state law (RCW 90.48.450) which prevents state agencies from enforcement that would result in the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes.
- New permit causes regulatory confusion through expanding Ecology’s reach
Since 2003 dairy farms in the state have been closely regulated by the Department of Agriculture under the Dairy Nutrient Management Act which has been very effective in minimizing environmental impacts from dairy farms. Ecology’s own testing proves it. But Ecology has long complained that dairy farm regulation is not under their department. This new permit completely rewrites the existing regulations but in ways that clearly demonstrate the Department of Ecology lacks even the most fundamental understanding of the realities of farming.
- Causes environmental loss without offering any new protection.
More regulation and their costs equate to loss of farms. This permit adds huge new bureaucratic burdens and high costs to farmers and will no doubt cause many to quit or move to neighboring states with a less heavy hand. In fact, a survey of Washington dairy farmers this spring made clear regulations at this level will result in the loss of 30% to 50% of our local dairy farms. Ecology will have accelerated the trend to converting farmland to other crops that are not regulated and to residential and urban use that history and studies show are the greater cause of water quality problems. Water quality will decline; Ecology wins with an expansion of power, but at the expense of both farms and the environment.
We encourage you to register on our website to get updates about this permit and to learn the specific ways you can help our dairy industry, and particularly our smaller farms, fight against this massive new regulation.