The Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations, developed by the Department of Agriculture and the US EPA, will employ a range of tools to reduce potentially harmful runoff from 450,000 animal feeding operations across the US.

The Unified National Strategy is intended to lead to the better management of 1.37 billion tons of manure a year. 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.

The Unified National Strategy’s principal approach will be the introduction of voluntary programs for the smaller operations that make up 95 percent of the US’ animal feeding industry.

However, 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.

Launching the strategy on Tuesday, March 9 1999, Vice President Al Gore 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 US’ 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.

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