The research recommended above is focused on individual components of the system (Figure 7-1) and the impacts of resultant emissions. Research is also needed on the system as a whole, including how to provide incentives to AFO operators and education to protein producers and consumers, specifically:
USDA, EPA, and other relevant organizations (e.g., universities) should initiate and conduct coordinated research to determine which emissions from animal production systems (i.e., using systems analysis) are detrimental to the environment or public health and develop technologies to decrease their release. The overall research program should include research to optimize inputs to AFOs, optimize recycling of materials within AFOs, and significantly decrease releases to the environment (recommendation from Finding 11).
In addition to process-level research on how to decrease emissions of deleterious material from AFOs, the committee also proposes a long-term educational program for protein producers and consumers. The focus of the program would be to educate both groups on the importance of AFOs and on the health and ecosystem consequences of inadvertent emissions of pollutants from them. From this balanced perspective, the protein producer would develop a broader view of the importance of controlling emissions. The protein consumer would develop an understanding of how much protein is required, how much protein the average person consumes, and the consequences of protein overconsumption.
USDA and EPA should develop programs and markets that create positive incentives for producers to adopt and manage air emission mitigation and control. Research and development are required to develop efficient and effective programs (recommendation from Finding 13).
The AFO system that is the focus of this report includes livestock housing and feeding, manure storage and treatment, and manure application to lands owned by the AFO operator. On the broader scale, there are other components that must be included when developing a long-term research program. Within the AFO, these include, but are not limited to, emissions from combustion at the AFO (e.g., diesel pumps). External to the AFO, they include agroecosystems that provide the animal feed (e.g., grain and food by-products) and off-site agroecosystems that use the manure disposed by the AFO. The committee proposes research to examine AFOs as defined in this broader context in order to develop a true systems approach to AFO management.