Cattle farmers in the Midwest complained on Wednesday that the EPA is spying on their operations by flying airplanes over their cattle feedlots to see if they are complying with clean water regulations. These producers and some members of Congress from rural areas want an explanation for the EPA’s use of airplanes to monitor whether feedlots are obeying the Clean Water Act.
Nebraska Cattlemen advised two U.S. Senators and three members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Nebraska in drafting a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on the matter. They said the aerial surveillance raises privacy concerns and they question the statutory authority for the flights.
The EPA defends the flights as part of its effort to enforce the law, which sets standards for how cattle feedlots are to dispose of manure to avoid pollution. The EPA did not say how long the feedlots have been under aerial inspection.
In March, the EPA held a meeting in West Point, Nebraska, to discuss the flyovers in Nebraska and Iowa. According the Nebraska Cattlemen’s natural resources and environmental affairs director, about 125 cattle producers attended the meeting.
Concerns the Nebraska members of Congress raised in their letter include the frequency of the flights, who gets inspected, what becomes of pictures or video and whether the EPA is also looking for violations unrelated to the Clean Water Act.