EPA Effluent Proposal Information

EPA Proposed Effluent Guidelines

The American Association of Meat Processors has been vocal about the potential threat that EPA’s proposed effluent guidelines poses to the small meat processing industry. While the proposed changes that the EPA favors would exempt many (but not all) of our members, it is important to remember that this is the proposed guideline. Environmental activists are free to leave their comments as well, and one of the groups that the EPA cited in its findings has stated that the Agency's proposal doesn't go far enough. If the activists get their way, the EPA's actual guidelines on effluent discharge could force small processors to spend millions on wastewater treatment equipment or cease operations. This page is designed to provide information on the EPA proposal and resources for the meat industry.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in 2023 a proposed regulation that would revise wastewater discharge standards for facilities that process meat and poultry products. The Clean Water Act requires EPA to revise industry-wide wastewater treatment limits—called effluent limitation guidelines or ELGs—to keep pace with innovations in pollution control technology. The first ELGs for facilities that process meat and poultry products were issued in 1974, and the last revision was in 2004.

The EPA was sued by multiple environmental groups in attempt to force the Agency to update its wastewater guidelines for the meat and poultry industry. (Cape Fear River Watch Vs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). As part of a settlement from that case, the EPA agreed to propose new standards by December 2023 and implement them by August 2025 (see
this article from Bloomberg Law for more information).

AAMP's Perspective
We think that EPA rushed in putting together the proposed rule because of a deadline imposed by a settlement they agreed to with environmental groups who sued them. The EPA has, in recent years, used this sue-and-settle strategy to bypass congressional oversight in its actions.

EPA did not do proper due diligence in data collecting to understand if a problem was truly prevalent throughout the entire industry or just in a handful of establishments. EPA states in the proposed rule that the Agency relied on wastewater collected from 6 larger plants and onsite visits to a handful of meat and poultry establishments, as well as an industry survey they sent out in 2022. EPA also seems to have relied heavily on a study done by one of the groups that sued them – a study that has not been peer reviewed or fact checked. The amount of feedback from the industry that is to be regulated – the meat and poultry industry – was minimal by comparison.

We are concerned about the financial impact of the proposal not only on small processors but the industry as a whole. EPA's cost estimates have been all over the place, ranging from capital expenditures of $5,000 to 4.5 million dollars. The true costs of compliance could be really scary for any meat and poultry facility. Some of EPA's estimates say it could be 1% -3% or more of a plant's revenue. With the industry operating on tight margins already, this could be devastating for some establishments and will force some to close. EPA's own estimates in the proposed rule are that more than 50 plants could close as a result of the financial burden of the rule. It should not be acceptable for even one plant to close.

It does not make sense that one part of the Federal Government, the USDA, has been working since 2020 to supply the industry with grants to help with plant infrastructure and equipment to ensure stability and sustainability for the industry, while another part of the Federal Government would be creating rules which they estimate could close as many as 50 or more of those same plants. We need every meat and poultry plant we can get, to meet not only the needs of U.S. consumers but also consumers all over the world.

Industry Response
The EPA Proposal has been submitted to the Federal Register, and the public can comment on it until March 25, 2024. AAMP strongly encourages everyone in the meat industry to send their thoughts and concerns. You can reach the comments page through the link below. AAMP has posted its comments regarding the proposal, and that link is below as well.

AAMP has provided some talking points that you may use as a reference when writing your own comments. You are welcome to use any of the information, but please customize your comments. It will carry more weight with the EPA if you submit original comments rather than copying and pasting.
Additionally, we recommend that you start talking to your customers, whether it is a producer, a co-packer, or a consumer. The guidelines, depending on their severity, could have far-reaching consequences, including higher retail prices for meat, fewer choices, and the loss of a favorite butcher shop. AAMP and the Kentucky Association of Meat Processors have produced a 1-page guide that you can either give to customers, display on social media channels or display in your shop. You can encourage your customers to make comments on the federal registry, too. 
The EPA is holding an online public hearing on March 20, 2024, to discuss the Guidelines. You may register to testify at the hearing or join as a listen-only guest. You can register and request a chance to speak at this link. Please note that if you speak at this event, you still need to submit your comments on the Federal Register to have them considered by the EPA.

Reps. Ron Estes (R-Kansas) and Eric Burlison (R-Missouri) introduced the Banning EPA’s Encroachment of Facilities (BEEF) Act, H.R.7079, which will protect small family-owned meat and poultry processors from new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations by prohibiting the EPA from finalizing, implementing or enforcing a new EPA proposed rule entitled "Clean Water Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Meat and Poultry Products Point source category."

AAMP supports the BEEF Act. Said Chris Young, AAMP Executive Director: "I want to be clear that AAMP believes we as an industry need to be environmentally responsible, but the proposed rule in its current state is greatly flawed. I believe EPA rushed the proposed rule to meet dates as part of a sue-and-settle case with multiple activist groups and did not take the time to study and understand the industry as a whole. The proposed rule is based on limited wastewater collection and limited visits to meat and poultry facilities and is based largely on a study performed by one of the activist groups that sued EPA. EPA quotes the study more than 20 times in the proposed rule, a study that has not been peer-reviewed. EPA needs to start over and do its due diligence in collecting data and work with the industry to understand its diversity and how we can work together to come up with cost-effective sustainable answers to wastewater issues."

Text of the BEEF Act is available

AAMP has created a Call to Action campaign to help you contact your U.S. Representatives and Senators and encourage them to support the BEEF Act and vote for it should be brought to the floor for a vote. You can click on the link below and enter your contact information in order to connect with your representatives.