Environmental assessment required for FSA loans

A federal district court judge says medium sized concentrated animal feeding operations are required to have an environmental assessment if they want a loan from the Farm Service Agency. 

Michael Formica, the chief legal strategist with the National Pork Producers Council, says this could make it more difficult for young and beginning livestock farmers to build barns. 

“This loan program is important. We want to encourage people to get involved in agriculture.”

In 2016, FSA adopted a rule exempting certain livestock facilities from environmental assessments. Formica says animal activist groups didn’t think USDA provided adequate public notice for the rule and two years later, they challenged it.

“They won on a technicality. The USDA has admitted there was a mistake done in the development of the regulation.”

In a statement, the groups filing the lawsuit, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Dakota Rural Action, said it was a victory and the government must protect and invest in the health and well-being of the water, air, people and the climate.  

Formica tells Brownfield he expects the USDA to fix the rule, but it’s not clear how soon it will be fixed. USDA would not comment on the court ruling.   

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