EPA Talks Flyovers, Inspections with Producers

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

The EPA was in Lexington Monday night to answer more questions about their flyover practice, and talk with Nebraska producers about their other concerns.

About one hundred people came to listen and ask questions of EPA Region 7 officials.

Many comments were directed at the agency's aerial overflights of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Nebraska, a practice Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks defends.

"It saves taxpayers money because it's a lot less expensive to look at many flights from an airplane than to drive the roads," says Brooks.

But the EPA told producers that they never take enforcement action based solely on evidence from a flyover, leaving some producers questioning that savings.

"They don't do anything without an on-site inspection, so they don't avoid one cost and they add another one," says feedlot operator Jeff Rudolph.

Others had concerns about how the aerial photos are used since some also live near their operations.

"The images that you see on something like Google Earth or mapping programs show pretty much the same kind of detail that our flights show too," says Brooks. "We make every effort to respect the privacy of people's homes and so forth, but we really do focus on their operations that have to follow the law."

Producers also talked about the duplication of efforts, saying EPA inspections often aren't necessary when the operation is already working with the state.

"If we don't have clean water we're not going to be in business very long," says feedlot operator Craig Uden. "We do feel we are the stewards of the land in animal agriculture."

The EPA's numbers seem to agree. Brooks says 90% of the operations they've flown over have permits and are following their requirements.

Many producers said they understand why inspections are necessary, they just want more notice, clarity, and timeliness from the EPA if and when they pay them a visit.

Brooks said they will make the presentations from the Lexington meeting available online.

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