EPA pens new rule targets local meat processors

Ron Estes. (Courtesy photo.)

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

The Environmental Protection Agency works hard each and every day to prove that idiom true. Their recent proposed edict from their all-too-powerful rulemaking pen would devastate local mom and pop shops throughout the Midwest and across the country.

This regulation specifically impacts small meat processors.


The Clean Water Act Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Meat and Poultry Products Point Source Category—which spills enough ink to do environmental damage—would force small operations to conduct the same burdensome, costly and unnecessary phosphate and nitrogen testing that large-scale meat-processing operations already conduct.

The EPA already requires major meat and poultry facilities to test for phosphate and nitrogen in their wastewater, and these large producers have the capital and capabilities to carry out such massive testing. And, because of their volume, one could argue that the existing rule seems reasonable to some.

Look at the small producers impacted by the proposed rule, and the dynamics shift. First, the scale of their operations is so much smaller that it makes the rule unnecessary. But it’s the expected cost that really makes this so egregious.

Costly action

The EPA acknowledges that initial costs could range between $5,000 and into the millions, with annual costs ranging from $5,000 to the hundreds of thousands. And industry experts think the costs could be greater.

The Kansas Meat Processors Association recognizes 55 independent processors in my home state of Kansas alone. That’s 55 family-owned storefronts that would be on the chopping block, taking away jobs and economic opportunities from Kansas communities—especially in rural parts of the state.

In a statement last month, the Kansas Meat Processors Association said it was “concerned the proposed changes suggested in the Wastewater Act will be detrimental to not only the processing industry, but also to many other agricultural-related fields in the state of Kansas.”

The association went on to say, “Our members reside in rural areas and understand the importance of keeping our environment clean and safe for our residents. That being said, is there any scientific evidence that every meat/poultry processing facility needs to follow the same guidelines—regardless of size?”

For those of us here in the heartland thousands of miles away from the swamp, this is another attempt by D.C. bureaucrats to appease the misguided whims of elites at the expense of hardworking Americans in the middle of the country.

Common-sense legislation

That’s why I teamed up with my colleague from Missouri, Rep. Eric Burlison, to introduce the Banning EPA’s Encroachment of Facilities Act. It’s a common sense bill that simply stops the EPA from implementing this outrageous rule—potentially saving hundreds of rural businesses and even more jobs.

The time is ticking to prevent this rule from going into effect. The Federal Register’s open comment period, the avenue for concerned Americans to voice their opinion on Washington’s overreach, ends March 25. The website is federalregister.gov, and just searching “Meat and Poultry Products” brings up the rule announced on Jan. 23, 2024.

It will be a mammoth task to prevent the EPA from implementing this absurd rule, but it is worth confronting their mighty pen in order to save our community meat processors and rural economies.

Ron Estes, one of only a handful of engineers in Congress, worked in the aerospace, energy and manufacturing sectors before representing Kansas’ 4th Congressional District since 2017. He is a fifth-generation Kansan, former state treasurer, and serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, Budget Committee, and Education and the Workforce Committee.