Washington, D.C. -- Vice President Gore today announced a comprehensive federal strategy to help clean up rivers, lakes and coastal waters by reducing polluted runoff from large livestock operations.
The Vice President also announced $100 million in additional funding to states to control polluted runoff through Watershed Restoration Action Strategies, and $157 million in proposed FY 2000 funding to help states and communities undertake other projects to reduce urban and agricultural runoff. In addition, he called on Congress to strengthen and reauthorize the Clean Water Act.
"Just over a year ago, President Clinton and I announced a new Clean Water Action Plan to help ensure clean, safe water for all Americans," the Vice President said. "We've made tremendous progress over the past year. These new steps will further strengthen our partnerships with communities and farmers across the country to restore our waterways and protect public health."
The Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations, developed jointly by the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, will employ a range of flexible, common-sense tools to reduce potentially harmful runoff from 450,000 animal feeding operations nationwide -- cattle, dairy, poultry and hog farms where animals are raised in confined situations.
Manure and wastewater from these operations can pollute waterways with excess nutrients, organic matter, pathogens, heavy metals and antibiotics, which contribute to environmental and public health risks such as groundwater contamination, shellfish bed closures, fish kills, and outbreaks of toxic algae and microbes such as Pfiesteria.
Under the Unified National Strategy, which will result in better management of 1.37 billion tons of manure a year, voluntary programs will be the principal approach for smaller operations that make up 95 percent of the nation's animal feeding industry.
The strategy sets a goal of developing and implementing Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans for all animal feeding operations by 2009. The plans will include actions to prevent or reduce runoff, including feed management, improved storage and handling of manure, and better land management. The strategy identifies existing and potential new sources of technical and financial assistance to help develop and implement these plans.
Animal feeding operations posing a significant risk to water quality or public health -- about 5 percent of the total nationwide -- will be required to obtain Clean Water Act discharge permits. These include operations with more than 1,000 animal units (the equivalent of 1,000 beef cattle); those that discharge directly into waterways or have other "unacceptable" conditions; and those that contribute significantly to the impairment of a waterbody.
The strategy also requires that "integrators" -- large livestock companies that contract with smaller operators to raise their animals -- share responsibility for meeting regulatory requirements.
"This comprehensive strategy forges a new partnership with American agriculture to tackle a major threat to water quality," the Vice President said. "It recognizes that the vast majority of livestock operators can be better stewards through voluntary measures, but sets tough standards for the largest operations to ensure that our water quality goals are met."
"Through this common-sense approach," the Vice President said, "we can help strengthen the farm economy while ensuring communities across the country cleaner, safer water."
The Vice President called on Congress to approve $100 million in President Clinton's FY 2000 budget for the Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentives Programs. The funds, which Congress denied last year, can be used by livestock operators to implement pollution control measures encouraged by the Unified National Strategy.
The Vice President also announced an additional $100 million to states to carry out other strategies to reduce urban and agricultural runoff, which is responsible for an estimated 60 percent of the nation's water pollution. The grants -- a 100 percent increase over last year -- will be used by states to work with communities to develop Watershed Restoration Action Strategies for high-priority watersheds. In past years, the funds have been used to control soil erosion, create planted buffer strips along rivers and streams, restore wetlands, and help farmers find alternatives to chemical pesticides.
In addition, the Vice President announced $157 million in proposed FY 2000 funding that also could be used by states to control polluted runoff. Over the past decade, states have asked for more flexibility in the use of Clean Water State Revolving Fund Capitalization Grants, which traditionally have supported revolving loan funds for sewage treatment plants. The President's proposed FY 2000 budget would allow states to use up to 20 percent of the funding for grants, instead of loans, for projects to restore estuaries and control polluted runoff.
Other steps taken over the past year to implement the Clean Water Action Plan include completing the first national assessment of watershed conditions and priorities, developing an emergency plan to coordinate federal response to harmful algal blooms, and creation of the first national Internet listing of beach water quality conditions.
Copies of the Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations can be obtained by calling USDA at (202) 720-5974 or EPA at (202) 260-7786. An electronic version is available on the Internet at www.epa.gov/owm.
A state-by-state breakdown of the FY 1999 Polluted Runoff Grants and the proposed FY 2000 Polluted Runoff and Estuary Grants is attached. (6 kb)