oversight

Animal Agriculture: Waste Management Practices

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-07-01.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to the Honorable Tom Harkin,
                  Ranking Minority Member, Committee
                  on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry,
                  U.S. Senate

July 1999
                  ANIMAL
                  AGRICULTURE
                  Waste Management
                  Practices




GAO/RCED-99-205
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Resources, Community, and
      Economic Development Division

      B-282871

      July 26, 1999

      The Honorable Tom Harkin
      Ranking Minority Member
      Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition,
        and Forestry
      United States Senate

      Dear Senator Harkin:

      The production of livestock and poultry animals, also known as animal
      agriculture, is important to the economic well-being of the nation,
      producing $98.8 billion per year in farm revenue. This production also
      contributes to the viability of many rural communities and the
      sustainability of an adequate food supply for the American public.
      However, concern over pollution resulting from intensive livestock and
      poultry production—in which large numbers of animals are held in
      confined production facilities—has increased in recent years. Nationwide,
      about 130 times more animal waste1 is produced than human
      waste—roughly 5 tons for every U.S. citizen—and some operations with
      hundreds of thousands of animals produce as much waste as a town or a
      city.2 These large volumes of waste threaten surface water and
      groundwater quality in the event of waste spills, leakage from waste
      storage facilities, and runoff from fields on which an excessive amount of
      waste has been applied as fertilizer. Furthermore, as animal production is
      increasingly concentrated in larger operations and in certain regions of the
      country, commonly used animal waste management practices may no
      longer be adequate for preventing water pollution. Consequently, new
      waste management practices may be needed, including alternative uses for
      waste, new means of treating waste, and improved methods of moving
      waste to cropland where it can be used as fertilizer.

      Concerned over the adequacy of current animal waste management
      practices to meet the needs of intensive animal production operations, you
      asked us to provide information on (1) waste management practices used
      in the United States; (2) practices used in other countries; (3) potential
      new practices based on technologies transferred from other industries;
      (4) federal financial and technical assistance available to producers for


      1
       Animal waste generally refers to manure but also includes wastewater, urine, bedding, poultry litter,
      and animal carcasses.
      2
        Animal Waste Pollution in America: An Emerging National Problem. Report compiled by the Minority
      Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (Dec. 1997).



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                   waste management and the processes for obtaining this assistance; and
                   (5) the role of federal agencies in conducting and/or supporting research
                   to develop new waste management practices, including innovative uses of
                   current practices.


                   A wide variety of animal waste management practices are currently
Results in Brief   available to livestock and poultry producers. These practices include
                   techniques to (1) limit waste runoff, such as cementing and curbing animal
                   confinement areas or planting grassed buffers around these areas;
                   (2) collect and store waste, such as scraping or flushing systems and
                   storage tanks or retention ponds; (3) alter or treat waste, such as
                   reformulating feed mixes or composting; and (4) use waste, such as an
                   organic fertilizer, an additive to animal feed, or on-farm energy generation.
                   A farmer’s selection of a particular practice or system of practices
                   depends on site-specific factors—the type and volume of waste to be
                   managed and the proximity of the production facility to surface water or
                   groundwater—cost considerations, and state and local regulations.

                   Generally speaking, animal waste management practices used in other
                   major livestock and poultry production countries are similar to those used
                   by U.S. farmers. However, unlike the United States, some of these
                   countries have government-subsidized companies manage animal waste
                   and related structures, use waste for commercial energy generation, and
                   impose requirements that, in effect, limit the size of herds or flocks.
                   Political and economic circumstances in these countries, which may differ
                   from those in the United States, are factors in choosing these approaches
                   to animal waste management. For example, the use of animal waste for
                   commercial energy generation reflects the relatively high cost of energy
                   inputs, such as oil and natural gas, in some of these countries.

                   Regarding potential new practices based on technologies used in other
                   industries, some federal officials believe that multistage treatment
                   technologies used to manage municipal wastewater and sewage could be
                   adapted for large animal production operations. However, issues related to
                   the cost of constructing, maintaining, and operating such facilities on
                   farms must be resolved first.

                   The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers the major federal
                   programs that provide financial and technical assistance to producers to
                   manage their animal wastes. Most of this assistance is provided through
                   the Department’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which shares



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             the cost of implementing waste management practices with farmers
             through direct payments. Several additional assistance programs are
             administered by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department
             of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service. Producers generally learn about
             the availability of this assistance through locally based officials, such as
             district conservationists and county extension agents, who work with
             producers to help them select waste management practices and apply for
             financial assistance. For fiscal years 1996 through 1998, federal agencies
             provided a total of $384.7 million in financial and technical assistance to
             producers for animal waste management; these agencies estimate they will
             provide about $114 million for this purpose in fiscal year 1999, although
             estimates were not available for each program.

             The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and
             Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service are the
             principal federal agencies conducting or supporting research to develop
             new or innovative animal waste management practices. For example, in
             recent years these agencies have conducted or sponsored research to
             reduce and stabilize the nutrients in animal wastes and to improve waste
             composting techniques. For fiscal years 1996 through 1998, the
             Agricultural Research Service spent $13.5 million for this type of research;
             it expects to spend an additional $9.1 million in fiscal year 1999. The
             Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service spent
             $6.9 million for this type of research in fiscal year 1997; data for fiscal
             years 1996 and 1998, as well as an estimate for fiscal year 1999, were not
             available.


             Animal waste runoff can impair surface water and groundwater by
Background   introducing pollutants, such as nutrients (including nitrogen and
             phosphorous), organic matter, sediments, pathogens (including bacteria
             and viruses), heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, and ammonia. These
             pollutants are transported by rainwater, snowmelt, or irrigation water
             through or over land surfaces and are eventually deposited in rivers, lakes,
             and coastal waters or introduced into groundwater. These pollutants can
             affect water quality and public health in several ways, such as
             contaminating drinking water supplies and killing fish. Other potential
             environmental problems associated with animal production include odors,
             the loss of wildlife habitat, and the depletion of groundwater. According to
             the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agricultural activity,3

             3
              Agricultural activity includes irrigated and nonirrigated crop production and the use of rangeland,
             pastureland, feedlots (facilities where animals are fattened and confined at high densities), and animal
             holding areas (facilities where animals are confined briefly before slaughter).



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including the production of livestock and poultry animals, is a leading
source of impairment to the nation’s rivers and lakes, and a significant
source of impairment to its coastal waters and groundwater.4

As the result of domestic and export market forces, technological changes,
and industry restructuring, the past several decades have seen substantial
changes in the animal production industry. As we reported in 1995,5 the
concentration of animal production in large, confined operations has
increased since the 1970s for livestock (beef feedlot cattle, dairy cows, and
hogs) and poultry (broilers, laying hens, and turkeys) sectors. For
example, in the hog industry’s top 10 production states,6 the inventory
controlled by operations with 500 or more hogs increased from about
40 percent of these states’ inventory in 1978 to about 77 percent in 1994.
Similarly, in the broiler sector, sales attributable to operations with
100,000 or more birds sold increased from about 70 percent of national
sales in 1974 to about 97 percent in 1992. According to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other sources, the concentration of
production in these livestock and poultry sectors has further increased in
recent years.

In light of animal agriculture’s contribution to water pollution and the
increasing concentration of livestock and poultry production in the United
States, the administration recently took actions designed to reduce animal
agriculture’s contribution to impaired water quality. For example, in
February 1998, the administration proposed a plan to address the nation’s
remaining water quality problems.7 Known as the “Clean Water Action
Plan,” this plan identifies polluted runoff as the most important remaining
source of water pollution and provides for a coordinated effort to reduce
polluted runoff from a variety of sources, including livestock and poultry
production operations. As part of this effort, USDA and EPA developed a




4
 In general, impaired waters are those waters that do not fully support one or more designated uses,
such as providing drinking water, allowing swimming, or supporting the existence of edible fish and
shellfish.
5
 Animal Agriculture: Information on Waste Management and Water Quality Issues
(GAO/RCED-95-200BR, June 28, 1995).
6
As of 1994, these states were Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North
Carolina, Ohio, and South Dakota.
7
  Clean Water Action Plan: Restoring and Protecting America’s Waters, U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Feb. 1998).



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unified national strategy8 to minimize the water quality impacts of
confined “animal feeding operations.”

The unified national strategy, issued in March 1999, establishes an
expectation that all of the approximately 450,000 animal feeding
operations nationwide will develop and implement comprehensive
nutrient management plans by 2009. According to the strategy, these plans
should include, among other things, provisions to (1) modify animal diets
and feed to reduce the amounts of nutrients in manure; (2) improve
manure handling and storage to reduce the chances of leaks or spills;
(3) apply manure to cropland in a manner that does not introduce an
excess of nutrients and minimizes runoff; and/or (4) employ alternative
uses of manure, such as the sale of manure to other farmers, composting
and the sale of compost to homeowners, and the use of manure for
on-farm power generation, especially in situations where the potential for
land application is limited.

In addition to the unified strategy, EPA is currently revising its effluent
guidelines for large confined animal feeding operations. These guidelines
limit the discharge of liquid waste from these operations into the
environment and are enforced through permits issued under EPA’s National
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. According to EPA, when
completed, the revised guidelines may require an estimated 5,800 to 20,000
of these operations to obtain permits; currently, only about 2,000 permits
have been issued to confined animal feeding operations. In general,
permits may be required for the largest operations (those with herds or
flocks above a certain size); operations with unacceptable conditions,
such as direct discharge into waterways; and operations that significantly
contribute to water quality impairment within a watershed.9 EPA
anticipates completing the guidelines for hog and poultry operations in
December 2001; it anticipates completing these guidelines for beef and
dairy operations in December 2002.




8
  Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (Mar. 9, 1999).
9
 A watershed is an area of land in which all surface water drains to a common point, such as a stream
or river.



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                                          A wide variety of animal waste management practices are currently
Animal Waste                              available to livestock and poultry producers.10 A farmer’s selection of a
Management                                particular practice or system of practices depends on (1) site-specific
Practices Currently                       factors, such as the type and volume of waste, the proximity of a
                                          production facility to surface water or groundwater, and the availability of
Available                                 farm equipment; (2) cost considerations; and (3) state and local
                                          regulations.


Practices Used to Limit                   Waste management practices used to limit or reduce animal waste runoff
Waste Runoff                              include a variety of barriers and buffers. Barriers include cementing and
                                          curbing animal confinement areas, such as feedlots and barnyards, to
                                          capture runoff as well as fencing to restrict livestock’s access to rivers,
                                          streams, lakes, or ponds to prevent animals from depositing wastes
                                          directly into these waters and from breaking down and contributing to the
                                          erosion of the banks that line these waters. Figure 1 depicts cemented and
                                          curbed barnyards.


Figure 1: Cemented and Curbed Barnyards




                                          10
                                           A more detailed listing and discussion of the various practices livestock and poultry producers may
                                          use to manage their animals’ wastes may be found in USDA publications such as the National
                                          Handbook of Conservation Practices (USDA/NRCS, Apr. 26, 1999), available on the Internet
                                          (http://www.ftw.nrcs.usda.gov/nhcp_2.html) and field office technical guides, derived from the
                                          handbook, available at NRCS field offices in each state.



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                                 Buffers include vegetated filter strips, grassed waterways, and constructed
                                 wetlands. These practices are intended to remove nutrients, organic solids,
                                 and sediments from animal waste runoff before they can reach surface
                                 waters. For example, vegetated filter strips—areas planted with
                                 grasses—may be located around animal holding areas, between animal
                                 production facilities and surface water bodies, and along the banks of
                                 surface water bodies. They may also serve as buffers between these water
                                 bodies and rangeland where livestock graze and cropland to which
                                 manure has been applied as a fertilizer or soil conditioner.11 Figure 2
                                 depicts a grassed filter strip separating a barnyard from a nearby stream.


Figure 2: Grassed Filter Strip




Practices Used to Collect        Waste management practices used to collect and store animal wastes
and Store Animal Wastes          include a variety of scraping and flushing systems and storage structures
                                 such as tanks, lagoons, ponds, and sheds. The choice of a collection
                                 method and storage structure depends, in part, on the volume and
                                 moisture content of the waste being handled. For example, wastes with a
                                 relatively high moisture content, such as dairy and hog waste, are suitable
                                 for a mechanized scraping or water-based flushing system. In contrast,

                                 11
                                   As a soil conditioner, animal waste is applied to soil to improve its organic content.



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                                       drier wastes, such as beef cattle and poultry waste, are typically moved
                                       with a tractor or through manual labor. Figure 3 depicts a mechanized
                                       scraping system in which a scraper sled is drawn along by a chain or cable
                                       located in a floor groove.


Figure 3: Mechanized Scraping System
for Collecting Dairy Cow Waste




                                       Similarly, the choice of a storage structure depends on waste volume and
                                       moisture content. Structures such as lagoons, retention ponds, and tanks
                                       are suitable for very wet waste, such as waste slurry.12 Lagoons and
                                       retention ponds can be lined with packed clay or a synthetic material to
                                       minimize the leaching of liquid waste into groundwater. Structures such as
                                       sheds or synthetic covers are used for dry wastes such as poultry litter. 13
                                       Dry wastes are “stacked” in these structures to shelter them from rain
                                       and snow. In general, wastes are held in storage structures until they can
                                       be applied to agricultural land as a fertilizer or soil conditioner. Irrigation
                                       equipment can be used to pump liquid waste from storage structures onto


                                       12
                                         Waste slurry is a watery mixture of insoluble matter with a mud-like consistency.
                                       13
                                        Poultry litter consists of poultry manure and other materials, such as feathers, and bedding materials,
                                       such as wood shavings or straw.



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                                        fields; dry waste is usually applied with a tractor-drawn manure spreader.
                                        Figure 4 depicts a storage lagoon for hog waste and an above-ground
                                        storage tank for dairy cow waste.


Figure 4: Storage Lagoon for Hog Waste and Storage Tank for Dairy Cow Waste




Practices Used to Alter or              Management practices used to alter or treat animal wastes include feed
Treat Animal Wastes                     manipulation, composting, and anaerobic digestion. In general, these
                                        practices are used to reduce the volume of waste and/or to stabilize
                                        nutrients, control odors, and/or eliminate pathogens. Feed manipulation
                                        includes changing the composition of an animal’s diet or adding enzymes
                                        to feed to enable an animal to more efficiently absorb nutrients, thereby
                                        reducing the nutrient content of the animal’s excrement. Composting,
                                        which can be performed in sheds or open-air manure stacks, is the
                                        biological decomposition of solid animal waste in the presence of air to
                                        form a humus-like material. This material, or compost, can then be applied
                                        to agricultural land as a fertilizer or soil conditioner. Figure 5 depicts
                                        open-air composting in which manure stacks, or “windrows,” are
                                        periodically churned to keep them aerated.




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Figure 5: Open-Air Manure Composting




                                       Anaerobic digestion, which is generally performed in lagoons or tanks, is
                                       the biological treatment of liquid animal waste using bacteria in the
                                       absence of air to promote the decomposition of organic solids. The
                                       resultant nutrient-rich liquid can be pumped onto fields as fertilizer. Figure
                                       6 depicts an anaerobic digestion tank.




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Figure 6: Anaerobic Digestion Tank




Practices for Using Animal           Practices relating to the use of waste include nutrient management and the
Wastes                               use of waste in animal feeds and for on-farm energy generation. Nutrient
                                     management includes, among other things, testing the nutrient content of
                                     manure and soil to determine appropriate application rates of animal
                                     waste as fertilizer to agricultural lands. It may also include practices such
                                     as injecting or incorporating animal waste into the soil at the time of
                                     application to limit runoff and the volatilization of nitrogen in this waste in
                                     the air. Regarding the use of waste in animal feeds, some livestock feed
                                     formulations include poultry litter as an additive because of its high
                                     nutrient and protein content. The use of animal waste for energy
                                     generation is done in conjunction with anaerobic digestion systems. One
                                     of the by-products of the digestion process is methane, a colorless,
                                     odorless, flammable gas. As discussed, anaerobic digestion is done in
                                     either lagoons or tanks. Lagoons must be covered to capture this gas; the
                                     methane is already captive in tanks. The methane is then drawn off from
                                     these structures to power an electricity-producing generator or to fuel a
                                     water heater. The electricity or heat produced can then be used for a




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                                        variety of on-farm purposes. Figure 7 depicts a covered lagoon in which
                                        methane is drawn off with a vacuum pump as well as an electric generator
                                        and water heater powered by this methane.


Figure 7: Covered Lagoon to Capture Methane Gas and Electric Generator and Water Heater Powered by This Methane




Waste Management                        Generally speaking, animal waste management practices used in other
Practices Used in Other                 major livestock and poultry production countries are similar to those used
Countries                               by U.S. farmers.14 However, some differences in the approach to animal
                                        waste management exist that are related to political and economic
                                        circumstances in these countries.


Practices Are Generally                 As in the United States, livestock and poultry producers in other major
Similar                                 production countries generally use waste management practices that are
                                        based on the eventual application of animal waste to agricultural land as a
                                        fertilizer or soil conditioner. According to reports prepared by officials of
                                        USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) who periodically
                                        visit these countries, as well as other relevant literature, these foreign
                                        practices, including those used to limit runoff and to collect, store, alter,
                                        treat, and/or utilize waste, are similar to practices used by U.S. farmers.


                                        14
                                          Other major livestock and poultry production countries include Denmark, Germany, Japan, the
                                        Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We selected these countries because they (1) are
                                        considered major producers by virtue of their metric tons of production during calendar years 1991
                                        through 1997 in one or more livestock or poultry sectors and/or (2) were recommended by USDA
                                        officials and university extension agents as leaders in proactive animal waste management.



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                             However, there are some differences in emphasis on the practices
                             selected. For example, the use of anaerobic digesters to produce methane
                             for on-farm energy generation is more prevalent in European countries,
                             such as Germany, than it is in the United States. According to one expert,
                             there are approximately 400 digesters on farms in Germany compared with
                             28 on U.S. farms. Officials from EPA, USDA, and the Department of Energy
                             indicated that the relatively high cost of energy inputs in European
                             countries make on-farm energy generation using anaerobic digestion a
                             more economically attractive option in these countries than in the United
                             States.

                             Furthermore, as in the United States, some European countries encourage
                             nutrient management through incentive payments. For example, a number
                             of countries, including Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the
                             United Kingdom, offer incentive payments to producers to implement
                             conservation practices on their farms to, among other things, better
                             manage animal wastes to protect water quality. In some cases, the
                             availability and amount of these payments is determined on the basis of
                             ratios of cropland acreage to animals. In this connection, several of these
                             countries have published guidelines addressing preferred practices for
                             managing livestock and poultry wastes.


Despite Similar Practices,   Although practices are generally similar, some notable differences in
Some Differences Exist       waste management exist between other major animal production
                             countries and the United States. For example, in some European
                             countries, such as Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, commercial
                             or quasi-governmental companies operate centralized plants that accept
                             animal and other organic waste for anaerobic digestion. In turn, these
                             plants may market the by-products of the digestion process, including
                             methane gas, nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer, and compost made from the
                             residue of organic solids. These plants may also collect user fees from the
                             farms, industrial firms, and municipalities that furnish the organic waste.
                             In addition, some of the plants receive government subsidies to cover their
                             operating expenses. As of 1997, about 40 such plants in Europe accepted
                             animal waste, compared with only 2 in the United States. This discrepancy
                             is explained, in part, by differences in individual national conditions, such
                             as energy prices, the costs of regulatory compliance, and the amount of
                             available land—either for application or landfill—for organic wastes.

                             In some countries, animal waste is also used for commercial energy
                             generation. For example, in the United Kingdom, an electric power



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                            company has been generating electricity since the early 1990s in two
                            plants that incinerate poultry litter. To date, these plants have required
                            government subsidies to remain competitive with power plants that use
                            fossil fuels such as oil and coal. However, the managing director of the
                            company operating these litter-incineration plants has indicated that many
                            consumers would be willing to pay slightly higher prices for “green
                            power” electricity, that is, power generated from nonfossil fuel sources.
                            The company planned to open a third and much larger poultry litter
                            incineration plant in June 1999.

                            Some countries have imposed specific nutrient management requirements
                            on farmers. For example, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and
                            the United Kingdom have implemented programs that regulate and limit
                            the application of animal wastes to agricultural land. Denmark, for
                            instance, requires its farmers to meet specific cropland acreage-to-animal
                            ratios to ensure that they have ample land to absorb the animal waste
                            nutrients produced on their farms; in effect, this ratio limits the size of a
                            farmer’s livestock herd or poultry flock.


Potential Practices Based   Regarding potential practices based on technologies transferred from
on Technologies Used in     other industries, some EPA officials believe that a multistage treatment
Other Industries            technology used to manage municipal wastewater and sewage could be
                            adapted for use in large animal production operations. Another
                            technology, according to one expert, appears to have a more limited
                            potential for transference—reverse osmosis, a technique used for water
                            purification. However, issues related to the cost of constructing,
                            maintaining, and operating this technology on farms must be resolved first.

                            EPA officials indicated that the treatment technology used for municipal
                            wastewater and sewage could be used for handling large volumes of liquid
                            or slurry waste associated with large dairy or hog production operations.
                            However, they also noted that this technology would require modifications
                            to handle the more concentrated wastes produced by these dairy and hog
                            operations. This technology, which involves several stages of
                            treatment—solids separation, filtration, and chemical
                            purification—represents a considerable capital investment; it is also costly
                            to operate and maintain. According to EPA officials, this technology results
                            in an effluent that is free of organic solids, has been treated for pathogens,
                            and has a greatly reduced nutrient level, but it also produces a residual
                            sludge that must either be placed in landfills, incinerated, or applied to
                            agricultural land as a fertilizer.



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                        According to an EPA official, the construction of an on-farm wastewater
                        treatment facility may require financial assistance, as has often been the
                        case in constructing municipal wastewater facilities. For example, under
                        provisions of the Clean Water Act,15 as amended, the federal government
                        has assisted communities in meeting these construction costs, first
                        through grants, and then, starting in 1989, through loans made under state
                        revolving funds.16 Producers may have access to loans under these
                        revolving funds for certain activities, such as constructing animal waste
                        management facilities. In this connection, USDA officials noted that some
                        municipal systems may have excess treatment capacity available that
                        could be used to handle animal wastes from one or more farms, like a
                        municipal wastewater treatment facility in southern California that
                        accepts animal waste from a nearby dairy farm.

                        Reverse osmosis, a technology in which saltwater or polluted water is
                        forced through a membrane under pressure to produce potable water, may
                        have potential for treating animal waste. Like multistage treatment
                        systems, reverse osmosis could be used to treat large volumes of liquid or
                        slurry waste, filtering out fine solids, pathogens, and much of the nutrient
                        content, according to a former consultant to the Department of Energy’s
                        National Renewable Energy Laboratory. However, according to this
                        consultant, this technology is extremely expensive to install, maintain, and
                        operate; it would also result in residual sludge that must be disposed of.


                        USDA  administers the major federal programs that provide financial and
Federal Financial and   technical assistance to producers to manage their animal wastes. Most of
Technical Assistance    this assistance is provided through USDA’s Environmental Quality
for Animal Waste        Incentives Program (EQIP), which shares the cost of implementing waste
                        management practices with farmers through direct payments. Several
Management              other assistance programs are administered by EPA or the Department of
                        the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Producers generally learn
                        about the availability of federal financial and technical assistance through
                        locally based officials such as district conservationists, USDA’s NRCS and
                        Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office employees, and extension agents;
                        leaflets, pamphlets, and websites describing these assistance programs;
                        advertisements or articles in farm journals or other publications; and


                        15
                          The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, P.L. 92-500, Oct. 18, 1972.
                        16
                          Capital for the state revolving funds is provided by federal funds and a 20-percent state match. The
                        revolving funds are operated by the states and provide loans generally to local governments to finance
                        wastewater treatment and certain other water pollution projects; the repayment of these loans
                        replenishes the funds.



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                                         conversations with other farmers. Locally based officials work with
                                         producers to assist them in selecting waste management practices and
                                         applying for financial assistance.

                                         For fiscal years 1996 through 1998, federal agencies provided a total of
                                         $384.7 million in financial and technical assistance to producers for animal
                                         waste management.17 Furthermore, these agencies estimate they will
                                         provide about $114 million for this purpose in fiscal year 1999, although
                                         estimates were not available for all of the programs. USDA provided most of
                                         this financial and technical assistance—about 85 percent—to animal
                                         producers through its programs, especially EQIP. Figure 8 shows the
                                         relative share, by agency, of the financial and technical assistance
                                         provided to livestock and poultry producers for animal waste management
                                         from fiscal years 1996 through 1998.


Figure 8: Proportions of Financial and
Technical Assistance for Animal Waste
                                                                    5%                          FWS
Management, by Federal Agency,
Fiscal Years 1996-98
                                                                          10%                   EPA




                                                                         85%                    USDA




                                         Note: While not depicted in the figure, the Farm Assessment System, jointly administered by
                                         USDA and EPA, provided about $200,000 in technical assistance for animal waste management
                                         during this period. This amount represents less than 1 percent of the total federal assistance
                                         provided for animal waste management.

                                         Source: GAO’s analysis of USDA, EPA, and FWS’ data.




                                         17
                                          No cost-share payments for installing animal waste management practices were made by the
                                         Conservation Reserve Program in fiscal year 1996.



                                         Page 16                                        GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
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USDA’s Assistance   USDA provides financial and/or technical assistance to producers for animal
Programs            waste management through several programs—EQIP, the Small Watershed
                    Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program. In addition to these
                    programs, some animal producers continue to receive financial assistance
                    under long-term agreements related to USDA’s Agricultural Conservation
                    Program; although this program was terminated by the 1996 Farm Bill,18
                    USDA will continue making payments until these agreements expire in
                    several years.

                    In general, EQIP and the Small Watershed Program share the cost of
                    implementing animal waste management or other conservation practices
                    with farmers through direct payments. By statute, at least 50 percent of
                    EQIP’s funding is used to assist livestock and poultry producers; most of
                    this assistance, according to USDA officials, has been for animal waste
                    management practices. In addition, EQIP assistance is generally targeted to
                    farms in areas or regions of the country that have water quality or other
                    natural resource problems. Similarly, the Small Watershed Program assists
                    farms in watersheds smaller than 250,000 acres with water quality
                    problems.

                    Under the Conservation Reserve Program, USDA provides annual rental
                    payments to producers who agree to retire highly erodible or other
                    environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production. USDA also
                    provides cost-share assistance to producers to plant a vegetated cover,
                    such as grasses or trees, on this land. In cases where this land is located
                    near animal confinement areas, this cover vegetation acts as a buffer to
                    capture animal waste runoff. Cost-share assistance may also be provided
                    for fencing to keep livestock animals off land enrolled in this program.

                    Producers must apply for assistance under a specific program. USDA
                    officials review and rank producers’ applications using such criteria as
                    (1) whether an applicant’s farm is located in a conservation priority or an
                    environmentally sensitive area, (2) what the conservation or
                    environmental benefits of providing the assistance are, (3) what the costs
                    of implementing the proposed practice are, and (4) whether the assistance
                    provided will help the producer comply with federal, state, tribal, or local
                    environmental laws. If a producer’s proposal is selected for cost-sharing,
                    the producer must enter into a multiyear agreement with USDA to
                    implement a conservation plan, including specific practices, prior to
                    receiving these cost-share payments.


                    18
                      Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, P.L. 104-127, Apr. 4, 1996.



                    Page 17                                          GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
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                            In addition to its cost-sharing programs, USDA administers loan programs
                            that producers may use for, among other things, animal waste
                            management practices. These programs, which are administered by FSA,
                            include farm ownership loans and farm operating loans. These loans may
                            either be made directly with FSA or with a private lending institution, in
                            which case FSA guarantees up to 95 percent of the loan principal. In
                            general, loan approval is based on a producer’s credit history, ability to
                            repay the loan, and collateral. An official from USDA’s Farm Loan Programs
                            office indicated that producers have used these loans to pay for the
                            installation of waste management structures such as lagoons.

                            For fiscal years 1996 through 1998, USDA provided a total of $326.4 million
                            in financial and technical assistance under its cost-sharing programs for
                            animal waste management. Most of this assistance—about
                            $209 million—was provided under EQIP. USDA estimates that it will provide
                            an additional $104.9 million in assistance for this purpose in fiscal year
                            1999.19 USDA did not have information on the level of assistance it provided
                            under its loan programs for animal waste management during these years.
                            According to USDA officials, the Department does not track the number or
                            amount of loans made for specific conservation practices or the type of
                            loan recipient, such as an animal producer.

                            Appendix I provides additional information on USDA’s assistance programs.
                            Appendix II provides information on a variety of animal waste
                            management practices that are eligible for cost-sharing assistance under
                            EQIP.



EPA’s Assistance Programs   EPA manages several programs directed at preventing or mitigating soil,
                            water, and air pollution from nonpoint sources, including animal waste
                            runoff,20 that offer financial and/or technical assistance to producers to
                            manage animal wastes. These programs include the National Nonpoint
                            Source Program, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and AgSTAR.
                            Unlike USDA’s assistance programs, EPA’s programs generally do not make
                            direct cost-sharing payments or loans to individual farmers; instead,
                            financial assistance from these programs is channeled through state, local,
                            or tribal governments.


                            19
                              An estimate for the Conservation Reserve Program was not available for fiscal year 1999.
                            20
                              Nonpoint pollution is that pollution that is not traceable to a specific point of origin, such as a pipe or
                            other outlet. Animal agriculture sources of nonpoint pollution include animal waste runoff from animal
                            feeding operations; cropland where manure has been applied as fertilizer; and livestock feeding and
                            watering areas on rangeland or pasture.



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                           Under the National Nonpoint Source Program, EPA makes grants to states
                           to assess water quality problems caused by nonpoint sources and to
                           develop programs to address these problems. In turn, some of these state
                           nonpoint programs provide cost-sharing assistance to livestock and
                           poultry producers to implement animal waste management practices on
                           their farms, including waste storage structures, fencing to limit animals’
                           access to surface waters, and vegetated buffers to capture waste runoff.

                           The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides capitalization grants to
                           states so they can provide loans to local governments and communities,
                           primarily to construct new or expanded wastewater treatment facilities.
                           Increasingly, however, some states are using these funds to address
                           nonpoint pollution problems, including those related to animal waste.
                           Specifically, according to an EPA official, six states are using these funds to
                           address nonpoint pollution related to animal agriculture. For example,
                           Minnesota has used state revolving funds to provide loans to farmers for
                           purchasing manure storage, handling, and spreading equipment; installing
                           feedlot improvements to prevent runoff; and implementing stream bank
                           protection efforts.

                           AgSTAR provides technical assistance to producers interested in installing
                           waste holding tanks or covered lagoons and anaerobic digesters to reduce
                           odors and recover methane gas for on-farm energy generation. A primary
                           focus of this program is to reduce methane emissions, a “greenhouse”
                           gas,21 to the atmosphere.

                           During fiscal years 1996 through 1998, EPA’s programs provided a total of
                           $39.8 million in financial and/or technical assistance for animal waste
                           management. With the exception of AgSTAR, EPA was unable to estimate
                           the level of this assistance for fiscal year 1999 because these programs are
                           generally implemented by state and local governments, which report their
                           spending to EPA at the end of the fiscal year. For AgSTAR, EPA estimates it
                           will provide about $400,000 in technical assistance in fiscal year 1999.

                           Appendix III provides further information on EPA’s assistance programs.


Other Federal Assistance   Other federal programs providing assistance to livestock and poultry
Programs                   producers for animal waste management include FWS’ Partners for Fish
                           and Wildlife Program and a program jointly sponsored by USDA and EPA
                           known as the Farm Assessment System. The partners program provides

                           21
                             “Greenhouse” gases are heat-trapping gases that are believed to contribute to global warming.



                           Page 19                                          GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
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                    cost-sharing and technical assistance to private landowners, including
                    animal producers, who are willing to implement conservation practices
                    that improve wildlife habitat and protect water quality. For example, this
                    program has been used to share the cost of installing vegetated buffers and
                    fencing to limit livestock access to surface waters or to accommodate
                    rotational grazing.22 This program provided a total of $18.3 million in
                    assistance for animal waste management during fiscal years 1996 through
                    1998. The Service estimates it will provide another $8.7 million in
                    assistance in fiscal year 1999.

                    The Farm Assessment System, usually known as “Farm*A*Syst,” is a
                    national network of state programs that provides technical assistance to
                    producers to implement nutrient management plans that will reduce water
                    pollution and public health risks. Sponsored by USDA and EPA, the program
                    also depends on funding from state and local agencies and others, such as
                    producer organizations. Among other things, program funds are used to
                    produce how-to materials, including booklets and worksheets on manure
                    handling, storage, and application to the land. This program provided a
                    total of about $200,000 in federally funded assistance for animal waste
                    management from fiscal years 1996 through 1998. According to program
                    officials, the program will provide an additional $60,000 in federally
                    funded assistance in fiscal year 1999.

                    Appendix IV provides more information on these programs.


                    USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Cooperative State
Federal Role in     Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) are the principal
Conducting and      federal agencies involved in conducting or supporting research to develop
Supporting Animal   new or innovative animal waste management practices.23 For example, in
                    recent years, these agencies have conducted or sponsored research to
Waste Management    reduce and stabilize nutrients in animal wastes, to reduce emissions of
Research            odor-causing compounds and “greenhouse” gases, and to improve waste
                    composting techniques. Generally, these agencies’ research agendas are

                    22
                      Rotational grazing is a system in which livestock animals are moved intermittently among several
                    fenced areas or paddocks to prevent overgrazing of the vegetation. Overgrazing can lead to soil
                    erosion, impacting water quality.
                    23
                      Neither the U.S. Geological Survey, in the Department of the Interior, nor the National Oceanic and
                    Atmospheric Administration, in the Department of Commerce, has undertaken research related to the
                    development of new or innovative waste management practices in recent years. However, both
                    agencies conduct research addressing the effects of animal waste on the environment. For example,
                    the Survey is engaged in on-site studies and methods development on animal production-related
                    pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and nutrients and works cooperatively with state and local agencies to
                    monitor the effectiveness of on-farm waste management practices.



                    Page 20                                          GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
               B-282871




               determined by their customers’ needs. These agencies’ customers include
               other federal agencies such as NRCS and EPA, state and local agencies,
               animal producers and their associations and councils, and environmental
               groups.

               ARS and CSREES use a variety of methods—including formal and informal
               interagency meetings and workshops—to coordinate their research
               initiatives on animal waste management practices in order to avoid
               duplicative projects. For example, ARS sponsored a workshop in April 1998
               in which representatives from CSREES, as well as from EPA, NRCS,
               universities, private organizations, and environmental groups, helped ARS
               identify its research priorities for animal waste management. Generally
               speaking, the results of this research are disseminated through agencies’
               websites and publications; trade journals; public forums, including open
               houses at federal laboratories; and databases maintained at USDA’s
               National Agricultural Library or at various universities.

               In addition to this federally sponsored research, states, producer
               organizations, and private companies fund research on new and innovative
               animal waste management practices, often through university departments
               of agricultural science or environmental studies. For example, the
               University of Georgia recently completed research financed by the U.S.
               Poultry and Egg Association on an alternative manure management system
               for handling the waste of laying hens.


ARS Research   ARS conducts research on animal waste management practices, primarily
               under the auspices of its National Program for Manure and By-Product
               Utilization. In recent years, this research has generally focused on
               nonstructural practices, including adding chemicals, such as aluminum
               sulfate, to animal waste to stabilize nutrients and control odors; adding
               enzymes to feed to increase an animal’s digestion of nutrients and reduce
               these nutrients in excrement; breeding crops containing nutrients in forms
               that are more readily absorbed by the animal; developing methods to
               reduce emissions of odor-causing compounds, ammonia, and
               “greenhouse” gases; and developing land-based manure management
               practices to reduce the movement of nutrients, pathogens, and gases into
               water and the air.

               For fiscal years 1996 through 1998, ARS spent a total of $13.5 million for
               research related to animal waste management; it estimates it will spend an
               additional $9.1 million for this purpose in fiscal year 1999. The annual



               Page 21                            GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
                           B-282871




                           funding for this research has grown from about $3 million in fiscal year
                           1996 to an estimated $9.1 million in fiscal year 1999. According to the
                           co-leader of the Manure and By-Product Utilization national program, this
                           increase reflects the increasing public concern about environmental
                           effects of animal production operations and the need for ARS’ customer
                           base, including NRCS, to have scientific information, technologies, and
                           management practices to appropriately deal with manure management
                           issues.


CSREES Research            CSREES  provides formula funds and grants to state agricultural experiment
                           stations, universities, and other state institutions that conduct basic and
                           applied research on many agricultural issues, including animal waste
                           management. In its Current Research Information System database, CSREES
                           identified nearly 400 research projects ongoing in fiscal year 1997 that
                           related, at least in part, to animal waste management. According to CSREES’
                           National Leader for Engineering, these projects included research on the
                           biological treatment of waste, combining aerobic and anaerobic methods;
                           the combustion of poultry litter for on-farm energy generation; and the
                           control of animal waste odors, including methods for covering manure
                           storage structures and altering manure with chemical additives.

                           CSREES  spent $6.9 million for research on animal waste management in
                           fiscal year 1997. Similar data for fiscal years 1996 and 1998, as well as an
                           estimate for fiscal year 1999, were not available. 24


Others Conducting          States and private organizations are also funding research on new and
Research on Animal Waste   innovative waste management practices, generally through universities.
Management                 For example, the North Carolina General Assembly made a special
                           appropriation in 1996 of $2.3 million to North Carolina State University for
                           research on animal waste management topics such as developing
                           odor-control and waste management technologies. The University also
                           carries out research funded by meat- and egg-processing companies to
                           identify improved methods that livestock and poultry producers can use to
                           treat and dispose of their animals’ waste and to identify alternatives to




                           24
                             According to CSREES, information on the research it funded in fiscal year 1996 has been archived;
                           thus, CSREES was unable to readily analyze these data for research specifically related to animal
                           waste management. Information on research funded in fiscal year 1998 will not be available until the
                           fourth quarter of fiscal year 1999.



                           Page 22                                          GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
                  B-282871




                  applying waste to land.25 In addition, private industry is funding a variety
                  of research projects. For example, some feed manufacturers are funding
                  research on hybrid grains to reduce excess nutrients in animal excrement.


                  We provided copies of a draft of this report to USDA, EPA, and the
Agency Comments   Department of the Interior’s FWS for their review and comment. We met
                  with officials from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service,
                  including the Associate Deputy Chief for Programs; the Cooperative State
                  Research, Education, and Extension Service; and the Farm Service
                  Agency. We also met with officials from FWS, including the Chief, Branch
                  of Habitat Restoration. We also received comments from officials within
                  EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management and Office of Air and Radiation.
                  USDA, EPA, and FWS generally agreed with the information presented in the
                  report.

                  However, with respect to our discussion of using alternative waste
                  management practices that are based on the technology used in municipal
                  wastewater treatment facilities, USDA and EPA officials noted that these
                  technologies are designed to treat waste that is more diluted than the
                  concentrated wastes typically found in farm operations. They therefore
                  expressed concern about the practicality of using this technology for farm
                  operations. We recognize that this technology would have to be modified
                  to handle animal waste, which is more concentrated than municipal
                  sewage. We modified our report to note this limitation.

                  USDA, EPA,  and FWS also provided a number of technical changes and
                  clarifications to the report, which we incorporated as appropriate.


                  In developing the information for this report, we interviewed and/or
Scope and         obtained documents from a broad range of officials from federal agencies,
Methodology       such as USDA, EPA, and FWS, as well as from various producer groups,
                  environmental organizations, universities, foreign embassies, and
                  individual producers. We also interviewed officials and/or obtained
                  relevant documentation at various animal waste management conferences
                  and symposia, producer councils and associations, and extension
                  universities, including the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and North
                  Carolina State University. In addition, we visited a variety of livestock and
                  poultry farms in Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to observe

                  25
                   Meat- and egg-processing companies often enter into contractual agreements with livestock and
                  poultry producers to facilitate economies of size to lower production costs and control for quality and
                  uniformity in response to consumer preferences for quality and convenience-type products.



                  Page 23                                           GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
B-282871




the waste management practices they employ. See appendix V for more
details on our scope and methodology.

We conducted our review from September 1998 through July 1999, in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We
did not independently verify the accuracy of expenditure data related to
federal financial and technical assistance for animal waste management.


We are sending copies of this report to Senator Richard Lugar, Chairman,
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; other
appropriate congressional committees; and interested Members of
Congress; the Honorable Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, the
Honorable Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, the Honorable Carol
Browner, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and
other interested parties. We will also make copies available upon request.

If you have any questions about this report, please call me at
(202) 512-5138. Other GAO contacts and staff acknowledgements are listed
in appendix VI.

Sincerely yours,




Lawrence J. Dyckman
Director, Food and
  Agriculture Issues




Page 24                             GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Page 25   GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Contents



Letter                                                                    1


Appendix I                                                               30

USDA Programs
Providing Financial
and Technical
Assistance for Animal
Waste Management
Appendix II                                                              32

Selected Practices
Producers Have
Installed With EQIP
Assistance
Appendix III                                                             35

EPA Programs That
Provide Financial and
Technical Assistance
for Animal Waste
Management
Appendix IV                                                              36

Other Federal
Financial and
Technical Assistance
Programs for Animal
Waste Management




                        Page 26   GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
                       Contents




Appendix V                                                                                        37

Scope and
Methodology
Appendix VI                                                                                       39

GAO Contacts and
Staff
Acknowledgements
Related GAO Products                                                                              40


Table                  Table II.1: Selected Practices Installed With EQIP Assistance and          32
                         the Average Installation Cost

Figures                Figure 1: Cemented and Curbed Barnyards                                     6
                       Figure 2: Grassed Filter Strip                                              7
                       Figure 3: Mechanized Scraping System for Collecting Dairy Cow               8
                         Waste
                       Figure 4: Storage Lagoon for Hog Waste and Storage Tank for                 9
                         Dairy Cow Waste
                       Figure 5: Open-air Manure Composting                                       10
                       Figure 6: Anaerobic Digestion Tank                                         11
                       Figure 7: Covered Lagoon to Capture Methane Gas and Electric               12
                         Generator and Water Heater Powered by This Methane
                       Figure 8: Proportions of Financial and Technical Assistance for            16
                         Animal Waste Management, by Federal Agency, Fiscal Years
                         1996-98




                       Page 27                             GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Contents




Abbreviations

ARS        Agricultural Research Service
CSREES     Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension
                Service
CTA        Conservation Technical Assistance
EPA        Environmental Protection Agency
EQIP       Environmental Quality Improvement Program
FSA        Farm Service Agency
FWS        U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
GAO        U.S. General Accounting Office
NRCS       National Resources Conservation Service
USDA       U.S. Department of Agriculture


Page 28                           GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Page 29   GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix I

USDA Programs Providing Financial and
Technical Assistance for Animal Waste
Management

Dollars in millions
                                                                                                          Amount            Amount
                                                                                                          provided for      estimated for
                                                                                                          animal waste      animal waste
                                                                                                          management,       management,
Program               Program description                                                                 FY 1996–98        FY 1999
Environmental         Provides financial and technical assistance to animal and crop producers who        $208.9b           $87.0
Quality Incentives    agree to enter 5- to 10-year contracts to implement conservation practices.
Program               Generally shares up to 75 percent of the costs to install practices, with a
(EQIP)                maximum of $10,000 for any fiscal year, or $50,000 for any multiyear contract;
                      program also provides incentive payments for nutrient management or other
                      land management initiatives. Focuses on priority areas such as watersheds with
                      environmental concerns. At least 50 percent of EQIP funding is reserved to
                      assist livestock and poultry producers; these producers must have fewer than
                      1,000 animal unit equivalents.a
Small Watershed       Provides financial and technical assistance through state and local agencies to 49.6                  17.9
Program               producers who usually enter 5- to 10-year contracts to implement management
                      practices. Generally shares from 50 to 75 percent of the actual costs associated
                      with installing management practices, with a maximum of $100,000 per
                      participant for the life of the program. Focuses on watersheds smaller than
                      250,000 acres to reduce flooding and soil erosion and improve water quality.
Conservation    Provides land rental payments, for 10 to 15 years, to producers who agree to              5.9c              Not available
Reserve Program convert highly erodible or other environmentally sensitive land to approved
                vegetated cover (such as grass or trees). Program also offers cost-share
                assistance to establish vegetated cover and fencing on enrolled land.
Agricultural          A terminated program that provided financial and technical assistance to            62.0d             Not available
Conservation          producers who entered multiyear contracts to install conservation practices.
Program               Generally shared up to 50 percent of costs to implement practices, with a
                      maximum of $3,500 annually and $35,000 for a 10-year contract. USDA is still
                      making payment under some of these contracts.
                                                                                                          e                 e
Farm ownership        Provides direct loans of up to $200,000, or guaranteed loans of up to $300,000,
loans                 for up to 40 years to, among other things, purchase land, construct buildings or
                      make other structural improvements, and develop farmland to promote soil and
                      water conservation.
                                                                                                          e                 e
Farm operating        Provides direct loans of up to $200,000, or guaranteed loans of up to $400,000,
loans                 for up to 7 years to, among other things, purchase livestock, poultry, equipment,
                      feed, and other farm supplies; develop and implement soil and water
                      conservation practices; and refinance debt.
Total                                                                                                     $326.4            $104.9

                                                                                                                    (Table notes on next page)




                                                 Page 30                                    GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix I
USDA Programs Providing Financial and
Technical Assistance for Animal Waste
Management




Note: In addition to these programs, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides
some technical assistance for animal waste management to livestock and poultry producers out
of its Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program, which underpins the agency’s other
conservation programs that provide financial and technical assistance. Essentially, CTA provides
funds for salaries and expenses of NRCS field staff who provide technical assistance to
producers under programs such as EQIP and CRP. However, USDA was unable to provide us
with information on how much of these funds have been directed toward technical assistance for
animal waste management. Similarly, USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and
Extension Service provided about $2 million for educational and technical assistance to farmers
from fiscal years 1996 through 1998. However, USDA was unable to specify how much of this
educational and technical assistance was directed toward animal waste management.
a
 Animal unit equivalents are calculated for each livestock and poultry sector according to
estimated rates of manure production for each species. Thus, the number of animals representing
1,000 animal unit equivalents varies by sector. For example, the equivalent for hogs is 2,500
animals (hogs over 55 pounds) and the equivalent for broilers and laying hens is 100,000 birds
(confinement facilities with continuous watering systems).
b
 Includes assistance provided in fiscal years 1997 through 1998 only. EQIP activities in fiscal year
1996 were funded from the appropriation for the Agricultural Conservation Program.
c
Amount for the Conservation Reserve Program is for fiscal years 1997 and 1998.
d
    Includes an indeterminate but small amount of funds in fiscal year 1996 to fund EQIP activities.
e
 FSA does not track the number and amount of loans that are used for specific soil and water
conservation practices or whether the loan recipient is an animal producer.



Source: USDA.




Page 31                                             GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix II

Selected Practices Producers Have Installed
With EQIP Assistance

                                           Livestock and poultry producers who participate in the Environmental
                                           Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) may receive up to 75 percent of the cost
                                           to install conservation practices, including animal waste management
                                           practices. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) maintains a
                                           list of practices that are eligible for financial assistance under EQIP, as well
                                           as other U.S. Department of Agriculture cost-sharing programs. This list is
                                           periodically updated as innovative practices become available and are
                                           demonstrated to be efficacious. Table II.1 provides examples of the kinds
                                           of practices animal producers have installed with cost-share assistance
                                           provided by EQIP, as well as the average per unit cost of installing these
                                           practices. The average cost does not include costs associated with the
                                           operation and maintenance of these practices.

                                           The average installation costs shown in table II.1 are based on a limited
                                           number of cases covering a relatively short time period. They are also
                                           based on relatively small animal production operations because (1) the
                                           authorizing legislation for EQIP precludes the provision of cost-share
                                           assistance to large operations—defined as those with 1,000 or more animal
                                           unit equivalents—and (2) in the early months of EQIP’s implementation,
                                           NRCS concentrated on smaller operations. According to the NRCS Deputy
                                           Chief for Programs, the unit cost for constructing a storage facility or
                                           treatment lagoon would be substantially greater for a large facility. In
                                           addition, the Deputy Chief noted that farmers usually employ multiple
                                           practices that together constitute a waste management system; the cost of
                                           this “system” is the sum of the installation costs of constituent practices.

Table II.1: Selected Practices Installed
With EQIP Assistance and the Average                                                                                       Average
Installation Cost                                                                                                 installation cost
                                           Practice              Definition/purpose                                         per unit
                                           Composting facility   Facility for the biological stabilization of        $8,409/facility
                                                                 waste organic material.
                                           Cover and green       Close-growing legumes or small grain to               $24.90/acre
                                           manure crop           control erosion during periods when the
                                                                 major crops do not furnish adequate
                                                                 cover. Possesses filtering qualities.
                                           Diversion             Channel constructed to divert excess                    $3.10/foot
                                                                 water from one area for use or safe
                                                                 disposal in other areas.
                                           Fence                 Constructed barrier to livestock, wildlife, or          $1.54/foot
                                                                 people.
                                                                                                                       (continued)




                                           Page 32                                  GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix II
Selected Practices Producers Have Installed
With EQIP Assistance




                                                                                  Average
                                                                         installation cost
Practice                 Definition/purpose                                        per unit
Filter strip             Area of vegetation for removing sediment,            $4,650/acre
                         organic matter, and other pollutants from
                         runoff and wastewater. May require a
                         constructed ditch (“settling basin”)
                         between a barnyard and the vegetative
                         strip to ensure that solids do not reach
                         surface waters.
Grassed waterway         Natural or constructed channel that is               $2,644/acre
                         shaped and established in vegetation to
                         convey runoff from water concentrations
                         without causing erosion or flooding and to
                         improve water quality.
Manure transfera         Conveyance system, such as pipelines             $10,932/system
                         and concrete-lined ditches, that transfer
                         animal waste (manure, bedding material,
                         spilled feed, process and wash water, and
                         other residues associated with animal
                         production) to (1) a storage or treatment
                         facility, (2) a loading area, and (3)
                         agricultural land for final utilization.
Nutrient management      Managing the amount, form, placement,                $17.10/acre
                         and timing or applications of nutrients,
                         such as from animal waste, for optimum
                         crop yields while minimizing the entry of
                         nutrients to surface water and groundwater.
Roof runoff              Gutters, downspouts, and drains for                $3,098/facility
Management               controlling roof runoff water to prevent this
                         runoff from flowing across feedlots,
                         barnyards, or other areas to reduce
                         pollution and erosion; improve water
                         quality; and prevent flooding.
Streambank and           Vegetation or structures used to stabilize            $27.11/foot
shoreline protection     and protect banks of streams, lakes, and
                         estuaries to reduce sediment
                         loads—including nutrients from animal
                         wast—causing downstream damage and
                         pollution.
Trough or tank           Provides drinking water for livestock, which $905/trough or tank
                         can eliminate the need for livestock to be
                         in streams; this, in turn, reduces the
                         amount of livestock waste entering streams.
Waste management         Planned system in which all necessary           $20,477/ system
system                   components are installed for managing
                         liquid and solid waste, including runoff
                         from concentrated waste areas, in a
                         manner that does not degrade air, soil, or
                         water resources. A system may consist of
                         a single component, such as a diversion,
                         or of several components.
                                                                              (continued)


Page 33                                       GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix II
Selected Practices Producers Have Installed
With EQIP Assistance




                                                                                         Average
                                                                                installation cost
Practice                    Definition/purpose                                            per unit
Waste storage facility      Impoundment made by constructing an                   $19,141/facility
                            embankment and/or excavating a pit or
                            dugout or by fabricating a structure to
                            temporarily store wastes, such as manure,
                            wastewater, and contaminated runoff.
Waste treatment             Impoundment made by excavation or                    $20,777/lagoon
lagoona                     earthfill for biological treatment of animal or
                            other agricultural waste.
Waste utilization           Agricultural waste applied to land in an                 $17.10/acre
                            environmentally acceptable manner while
                            maintaining or improving soil and plant
                            resources.

a
 Because fewer than 30 of these systems or facilities have been completed under EQIP, the
average cost may not reflect a statistically valid estimate, according to a USDA official.



Source: USDA.




Page 34                                        GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix III

EPA Programs That Provide Financial and
Technical Assistance for Animal Waste
Management

Dollars in millions
                                                                                                                        Amount               Amount
                                                                                                                    provided for        estimated for
                                                                                                                   animal waste         animal waste
                                                                                                                   management,          management,
Program               Program description                                                                            FY 1996-98              FY 1999
National              Provides grants to states to (1) assess the extent to which nonpoint sources                           $17.6       Not availablea
Nonpoint Source       cause water quality problems and (2) develop management programs to
Program               address these problems. Several states have used these EPA grants to assist
                      livestock and poultry producers install animal waste management practices to
                      prevent or mitigate waste runoff.
Clean Water           Provides capitalization grants to states, which must provide a matching amount                           20.3b     Not availablea
State Revolving       equal to 20 percent of the total grant and agree to use the money first to ensure
Fund                  that wastewater treatment facilities are in compliance with the deadlines, goals,
                      and requirements of the Clean Water Act. However, all states have met their
                      priority wastewater infrastructure needs, and some have begun using this
                      revolving fund to support programs to deal with nonpoint source pollution,
                      including animal waste runoff. Some states use this funding to make low-interest
                      loans to producers for implementing animal waste management practices.
AgSTAR                Provides technical assistance to producers interested in installing waste                                 1.9                     0.4
                      management systems, such as covered lagoons and anaerobic digesters, that
                      reduce odors and recover methane gas for use as an on-farm power source.
                      The program has established several projects on farms in at least five states.
Total                                                                                                                        $39.8                  $0.4
                                                 a
                                                  These program funds are distributed by state and local governments according to local priority
                                                 needs. As a result, EPA is unable to estimate the portion of these funds that will be used to assist
                                                 producers in managing their animal wastes.
                                                 b
                                                  States have only reported to EPA the aggregate amount of loans made for animal agricultural
                                                 runoff since they began using these funds for nonpoint source pollution-related activities. Hence,
                                                 some states may have been providing loans for this purpose since 1988. However, EPA officials
                                                 said that most states began using these funds for nonpoint source projects in the mid-1990s.

                                                 Source: EPA.




                                                 Page 35                                           GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix IV

Other Federal Financial and Technical
Assistance Programs for Animal Waste
Management

Dollars in millions
                                                                                                                                 Amount
                                                                                                 Amount provided            estimated for
                                                                                                  for animal waste           animal waste
                      Responsible                                                                management, FY           management, FY
Program               agency              Program description                                             1996-98                    1999
Partners for Fish and Fish and Wildlife   Provides cost-share and technical assistance to                        $18.3                 $8.7
Wildlife              Service,            private landowners, including livestock and
                      Department of the   poultry producers, who are interested in
                      Interior            implementing practices that improve habitat for
                                          federal trust species,a decrease overland runoff,
                                          reduce stream degradation, and improve forage
                                          production and management. Cost-share
                                          assistance under the partners program generally
                                          requires a 50-percent match from the landowner.
                                          However, the program has the flexibility to share
                                          costs of more or less than 50 percent, on a
                                          case-by-case basis.
Farm Assessment       USDA and EPA        Supports a network of 45 state programs. The                             0.2b                0.06b
System                                    program provides producers with state-specific
(Farm*A*Syst)                             worksheets to help them identify and assess the
                                          causes of nonpoint source pollution, pinpoint
                                          pollution risks on their property, and identify
                                          site-specific actions to reduce the causes of
                                          nonpoint source pollution, such as nitrogen and
                                          phosphorous nutrients, pesticides, and
                                          pathogens. With this assessment, the program
                                          can assist producers in developing feasible plans
                                          to prevent pollution and in locating sources of
                                          financial assistance through other programs, such
                                          as EQIP, to implement practices such as those for
                                          managing animal wastes.
Total                                                                                                            $18.5                 $8.8
                                            a
                                             Federal trust species include migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, anadromous
                                            fish (fish that migrate between fresh and salt waters, such as salmon), and marine mammals.
                                            b
                                            According to Farm*A*Syst officials, no EPA funds have been directed toward animal waste
                                            management activities.

                                            Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Farm Assessment System.




                                            Page 36                                       GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix V

Scope and Methodology


             In developing the information for this report, we interviewed and obtained
             documents from a broad range of officials from federal agencies, such as
             the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection
             Agency (EPA), and the the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife
             Service (FWS), as well as from various producer groups, environmental
             organizations, universities, foreign embassies, and individual producers.
             Specifically, to obtain information on waste management practices used in
             the United States, we interviewed USDA and EPA officials, and we reviewed
             USDA’s National Handbook of Conservation Practices and EPA’s Guidance
             Specifying Management Measures for Sources of Nonpoint Pollution in
             Coastal Waters. We also interviewed officials and/or obtained relevant
             documentation at various animal waste management conferences and
             symposia, producer councils and associations, and extension universities,
             including the University of Marlyand-Eastern Shore and North Carolina
             State University. In addition, we visited a variety of livestock and poultry
             farms in Maryland, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to observe the waste
             management practices they employ. These farms included hog, broiler,
             and laying hen production operations.

             To determine the animal waste management practices being used in other
             major livestock and poultry production countries, we conducted a
             literature search at USDA’s National Agricultural Library and reviewed
             several years of trip reports prepared by Natural Resources Conservation
             Service employees visiting other countries to observe their conservation
             practices. We also obtained documentation from the Washington, D. C.,
             embassies of Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United
             Kingdom. We selected these countries because they (1) are considered
             major producers by virtue of their metric tons of production during
             calendar years 1991 through 1997 in one or more livestock or poultry
             sectors and/or (2) were recommended to us by USDA officials and
             university extension agents as leaders in proactive animal waste
             management. To determine potential new practices based on technologies
             transferred from other industries, we interviewed USDA, EPA, and
             Department of Energy officials and reviewed the documentation they
             provided.

             To obtain information on federal financial and technical assistance
             available to livestock and poultry producers for waste management,
             including the processes for obtaining this assistance, we interviewed and
             obtained documentation from USDA, EPA, and FWS. We also obtained
             information from the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. In addition,




             Page 37                             GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix V
Scope and Methodology




we met with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents,
among others, livestock and poultry producers.

To determine the role of federal agencies in conducting and supporting
research to develop new or innovative animal waste management
practices, we interviewed and obtained documentation from officials at
USDA, EPA, the Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey. We also
interviewed and obtained documentation from officials at North Carolina
State University, including its Cooperative Extension Service and its
Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center.




Page 38                            GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Appendix VI

GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgements


                   James R. Jones, Jr., (202) 512-5138
GAO Contacts       E. Jerry Seigler, (202) 512-5138


                   In addition to those named above, Shannon B. Bondi, Katherine Carey, and
Acknowledgements   Melissa M. Francis made key contributions to this report.




                   Page 39                               GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
Related GAO Products


              Water Quality: Federal Role in Addressing—and Contributing to—Nonpoint
              Source Pollution (GAO/RCED-99-45, Feb. 26, 1999).

              Water Quality: A Catalog of Related Federal Programs (GAO/RCED-96-173,
              June 19, 1996).

              Agriculture and the Environment: Information on and Characteristics of
              Selected Watershed Projects (GAO/RCED-95-218, June 29, 1995).

              Animal Agriculture: Information on Waste Management and Water Quality
              Issues (GAO/RCED-95-200BR, June 28, 1995).

              Agricultural Conservation: Status of Programs That Provide Financial
              Incentives (GAO/RCED-95-169, Apr. 28, 1995).

              Conservation Reserve Program: Alternatives Are Available for Managing
              Environmentally Sensitive Cropland (GAO/RCED-95-42, Feb. 21, 1995)




(150086)      Page 40                             GAO/RCED-99-205 Waste Management Practices
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