Today Walter Bradley, government and industry relations representative for Dairy Farmers of America, testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy in support of H.R. 2997, the Superfund Common-Sense Act of 2011. This measure seeks to clarify that livestock manure should not be classified as a hazardous substance under nations' Superfund laws.
Congress created the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) to assist with cleaning up toxic waste sites, including hazardous materials such as petrochemicals, inorganic raw materials and petroleum oil used to make hazardous products and waste. H.R. 2997 seeks clarification under CERCLA and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act regulation that animal manure does not necessitate an emergency response nor does it create a Superfund site.
"The last few years have posed extraordinary challenges for dairy farmers across the country, but one thing Congress can deliver to our dairymen is regulatory surety," Bradley said. "We do not believe that animal manure necessitates an emergency response."
The phosphates in manure are not now, nor have they ever been, equivalent to the harmful chemicals that CERCLA has been addressing for the last 32 years. During that same time span, numerous laws have been passed and initiatives undertaken to encourage rural America to participate in the renewable energy field through the development of on-farm energy production. Congress has acknowledged manure's value by funding research, and passing tax credits and mandates for its use for producing biogas, electricity and biodiesel.
"It is not logical to encourage dairy producers to invest millions of dollars in technologies to support the nation's energy needs without addressing the threat that manure might be classified as a hazardous substance," Bradley said in his testimony before Congress.
Aside from its use in bioenergy production, manure is frequently spread on fields as a nutrient-laden fertilizer containing vital nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Manure also is a valuable source of organic matter, which increases the water-holding capacity of coarse-textured sandy soils, improves drainage in fine-textured clay soils, reduces wind and water erosion, among other benefits. Additionally, its use reduces an operation's dependence on man-made petroleum-based chemical fertilizers, which are exempt from these laws.
"Animal agricultural operations are subject to a vast array of federal, state and local environmental laws and authority to deal with every conceivable environmental problem. There has been no indication that environmental laws such as these are inadequate," Bradley noted, urging swift passage of H.R. 2997 to protect dairy farmers' interests.