EPA Completes Data Collection For CAFO Study

The Environmental Protection Agency has released data from a national emissions study at concentrated animal feeding operations that raise pigs, broiler chickens, cattle and turkeys.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released data from a national emissions study at concentrated animal feeding operations that raise pigs, broiler chickens, cattle and turkeys. On its website, EPA has posted emissions data that researchers gathered from a total of 24 monitoring sites in nine states as well as a separate industry study for broiler chicken operations in Kentucky.

The two-year national emissions study was the result of a voluntary agreement signed in 2005 between the CAFO industry and EPA. The National Pork Board, National Chicken Council, National Milk Producers Federation and American Egg Board funded the research through the nonprofit Agricultural Air Research Council. Purdue University conduced the study, overseen by EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, which currently is developing emissions-estimating models from the data.

Purdue researchers collaborated with others at Cornell University, Iowa State University, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, the University of California-Davis, the University of Minnesota and Washington State University.

Al Heber, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering and leader of the study at Purdue, said he will now move to the next phase of his work: studying and publishing the dynamics and causes of the emissions and "mining" the extensive data for more information. At the same time, EPA is using the data to develop formulas that could be used by animal feeding operations or agencies to estimate their emissions. The agency, however, has not yet issued a final report to interpret the data, a move awaited by environmental groups that petitioned the agency in 2009 to regulate greenhouse gas emissions of methane and nitrous oxide as well as other air pollutants from such operations.

EPA said it will use the emissions data to " help develop improved methodologies for estimating [animal feeding operations] emissions," noting that such methodologies are commonly used to estimate emissions from industries where site-specific monitoring data are not available.

A 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences called on EPA to develop scientifically credible methodologies for estimating emissions from CAFOs, saying the agency's existing approaches were inadequate. 

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