Federal environmental and agricultural authorities want tighter regulations for large livestock operations to curb animal waste runoff, which often finds its way into the nation's rivers and streams.
The Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency released a draft proposal Wednesday aimed at stemming the pollution problem. A final plan will be released after a four-month public comment period. The two departments have been working on the proposal as part of the Clean Water Act, which President Clinton signed in February.Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said the plan would be "customer-driven."
"We want to hear from owners and operators of animal feeding operations," he said.
Central to the plan are efforts to rein in large livestock feeding operations, which confine thousands of animals in a small space and produce huge amounts of waste.
Under the proposal, those large operations would have to receive permits from their respective states to ensure their compliance in waste disposal. Currently, state regulations vary, with some being tougher than others. Federal authorities have said a single standard is needed to prevent companies from seeking out lax states and to keep areas equal economically.
Smaller operations, those with less than 1,000 animals, would be required to get similar permits if they have a history of poor management of waste or are located near a body of water that is seriously polluted.
Large feeding operations would also have to develop nutrient management programs, which would establish guidelines such as what animals are fed and how waste is stored and handled.