The research programs supported by EPA and USDA are obvious candidates for providing much of the needed information. USDA has by far the largest overall research program of the two agencies. It has in-house capabilities (Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, and National Agricultural Statistics Service) and helps support an extensive extramural research program conducted through state universities and a system of agricultural research stations. Total funding for these programs is about five times that of EPA’s program, which is conducted largely through a system of EPA research labs. Only small parts of these programs, however, are devoted to research related to air emissions.
The findings and recommendations in this report are aimed in large part at the leaders and scientists of the EPA and USDA research programs, but they are also aimed at the entire community interested in addressing the issues posed by the adverse effects of air emissions from animal feeding operations. This includes leaders in the scientific research community, agriculture in general, environmental interests, people affected by the emissions, and the farmers who ultimately have to deal directly with their causes.
The EPA and USDA have asked the committee to address the issues relating to the substances shown in Table 1-1. The committee added nitric oxide (NO) because it is produced by AFOs and their associated grain production and manure disposal, and because it can have significant environmental effects. As Table 1-1 indicates, the substances of concern vary in their classifications as air pollutants. They also vary in the severity and scale of their effects.
The issue that most often brings air emissions to the attention of public officials is the frequency of complaints about strong and objectionable odors voiced by neighbors of large feeding operations. Additionally, particulate matter may blow from farms to nearby residences and trouble residents because of actual or perceived health effects. Equally important are the various substances in air emissions that contribute to environmental degradation, such as eutrophication of water bodies (caused by reactive nitrogen compounds) or climate change (induced by the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide). The committee believes that these concerns warrant serious attention to determine the effects of AFOs and to mitigate their detrimental air emissions.
As part of its charge, EPA asked that the committee provide an interim report in the spring of 2002 to give it an early indication of findings that would help in planning regulations to decrease impacts of AFOs on water quality. In particular, EPA was concerned that possible actions to improve water quality might have an