Environmental Impacts

As the structure of agriculture changes, animal production facilities are increasing in scale. Larger numbers of confined animals are raised on fewer farms. More are clustering around feed mills and processing plants. These trends have led to growing public concern about the impact of agricultural land use on ground and surface water quality.[4]

Nationwide, the Clean Water Act addresses the potential water quality impacts of large-scale animal agriculture. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the state government agency authorized to implement the CAFO permit program. Additionally, many states have clean streams laws, which prohibit the discharge of pollutants into surface waters. Some states have developed specific regulations to address agricultural water pollution.

Support for a statewide policy approach to address agricultural water pollution may be based on perceptions that consistent requirements across political boundaries are necessary to create a level playing field for agricultural producers. Perceptions that local government officials have limited knowledge of animal agriculture production practices may also build support for statewide requirements. Support for local control of agricultural land use may be based on perceptions that federal and state government efforts fall short of environmental performance goals for several reasons, including declining budgets; unfunded mandates; and a lack of agency monitoring, enforcement, and/or evaluation. In some cases, citizens view federal and state government intervention as onerous and unproductive, and believe individuals at the municipal level are better equipped to solve local environmental problems.[4]

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