As expected, environmental groups are pushing back against the Cuomo administration’s plan to relax the state’s dairy regulations, saying the proposal will “weaken clean water protection standards.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and some of his agency commissioners unveiled the proposal today at the first-ever New York State Yogurt Summit, which was essentially an open forum among state officials, dairy farmers and the yogurt industry.
The state is proposing to increase the limit on the number of cows a farmer can own before enrolling as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, which requires the farmer to hire a certified planner and implement a plan to control runoff from the animals’ waste. Currently, the limit is 200. It would be raised to 300 under the Cuomo proposal.
A coalition of environmental groups — including the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Riverkeeper — just issued this statement:
In response to Governor Cuomo’s proposal today to remove permit requirements for medium Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), a coalition of leading environmental groups released the following statement:
“As organizations committed to protecting and restoring New York’s rivers, lakes and streams, we are very concerned by the announcement today that New York State will weaken state environmental protections put in place to protect public health, safety and the environment by exempting medium sized industrial farms from its CAFO permit program. As a result, these farms will be allowed to grow from 200 to 299 cows without requiring the installation of structural controls such as waste storage facilities and water diversions essential to protecting the State’s waters from being contaminated with animal waste.
Just this year the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reaffirmed the need for mandatory permitting of industrial farms to protect water quality: ‘a non?regulatory approach, for a sector that has a significant pollution potential (the smallest medium CAFO has the pollution potential of a major sewage treatment plant), is neither credible nor effective.’
Agriculture is a fundamental piece of the state’s vibrant economy and plays a vital role in environmental protection by providing local food sources and conserving open space. Our groups have a shared goal of protecting and promoting dairy farming in New York. We believe that alternatives to the proposed regulatory roll-back that will provide both an economic and environmental benefit to the state and its dairy farmers must be considered before throwing away the standards New Yorkers fought for decades to put in place to protect the waters we use for fishing, swimming and drinking.
We look forward to engaging in an open dialogue with New York State through a full environmental review of the governor’s proposal and to developing a solution that supports the dairy industry with the resources they need to protect the clean water on which we all depend.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council also weighed in with similar concerns.
“NRDC is concerned about the commissioner’s proposal and looks forward to participating in the public review process that must proceed any significant change to state environmental safeguards,” said Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney with the group. “We are convinced that the Cuomo administration can find a way to both assist the state’s smaller farms boost milk production and at the same time help those farms better manage animal-related sources of water pollution on their properties.”