FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine Testing Feed Samples for PFAS

NMPF staff met with the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA CVM) after learning that FDA has started a new sampling project to explore levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in livestock feed samples The assignment will help the dairy industry understand if PFAS chemicals are getting into feed or not and if so at what levels. NMPF believes that no PFAS will be found, which will help push back on those who try to portray this as a dairy issue.

The project is set to run through the year, and FDA has assured NMPF it isn’t focused on dairy and is intended only to gain more knowledge around PFAS. FDA CVM plans to collect 60 different samples from randomly selected locations throughout the country. The samples will comprise 20 corn silage, 20 alfalfa hay and 20 corn grain samples. To date, 27 samples have been collected and 14 have been tested. All have come back non-detect for PFAS. These results thus far are unsurprising, given that all PFAS chemicals are synthetic and shouldn’t be present on a farm or in crops grown on a farm unless the farm is adjacent to a military base, landfill, industrial site, or land applied sewage sludge to cropland.

PFAS encompasses a group of 5,000 synthetic chemicals, commonly used in non-stick products and firefighting foam. Concerns over their potential environmental and health impacts continued to gain awareness over the past decade. A handful of isolated incidents have directly impacted dairy farms, in some instances, preventing farmers from shipping milk. However, PFAS continues to be a water-centric issue, with hundreds or thousands of drinking water sources contaminated. Little to nothing is known about how PFAS is transferred through the food chain. NMPF will continue to work with FDA and monitor the findings of this feed study.

EPA Proposes to Add PFAS Chemicals to Superfund

EPA’s proposal Sept. 6 to add two PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS to Superfund as hazardous chemicals, comes over the repeated objections of NMPF and other agricultural organizations that have repeatedly argued against this approach. With a comment deadline for the rule due in November, NMPF is exploring what issues to raise and who  we may want to collaborate with to keep poorly thought-out regulations from harming dairy operations.

While PFAS is primarily a drinking water problem globally, thousands of U.S. agriculture operations are potentially contaminated with PFAS chemicals from military operations, biosolid land application or industrial activity, which could turn those agriculture operations into Superfund sites under this proposal.

One of the tenets of Superfund law is to make responsible parties pay to clean up the sites, which can be astronomically expensive. Superfund also automatically assumes that past and present owners are potentially responsible parties who will be liable for the cleanup costs. The legal process to navigate out of Superfund liability also can be time-consuming and costly. EPA has asserted that it will use enforcement discretion to keep farmers from being held liable, but NMPF believes that notion is highly flawed, as there are many ways to be brought into Superfund litigation, with EPA as one avenue.

EPA will take comments on the rule until Nov. 7; NMPF anticipates that the deadline will be extended.  NMPF will file comments that urge EPA to use other laws to address PFAS contamination and that EPA approach PFAS issues taking scientific research into consideration.

NMPF Concerned with EPA’s PFAS Roadmap

NMPF is concerned over the potential treatment of farmland under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) comprehensive Strategic Roadmap to confront PFAS contamination nationwide. The strategy, announced Oct. 18, will engage stakeholders as multiple rulemakings related to its plan get underway.

EPA asserts the Roadmap is the result of a thorough analysis conducted by the EPA Council on PFAS that Administrator Michael S. Regan established in April.

The plan is centered on three guiding strategies: increasing investments in research, leveraging authorities to act now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment and accelerating the cleanup of PFAS contamination. NMPF has long been an advocate for research in these areas, as so much is unknown about these chemicals and rulemaking should not be made on speculation.

Roadmap key actions include:

  • Aggressive timelines to set enforceable drinking water limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure water is safe to drink in every community.
  • A hazardous substance designation under CERCLA, to strengthen the ability to hold polluters financially accountable.
  • Timelines for action—whether it is data collection or rulemaking—on Effluent Guideline Limitations under the Clean Water Act for nine industrial categories.
  • A review of past actions on PFAS taken under the Toxic Substances Control Act to address those that are insufficiently protective.
  • Increased monitoring, data collection and research so that the agency can identify what actions are needed and when to take them.
  • A final toxicity assessment for GenXwhich can be used to develop health advisories that will help communities make informed decisions to better protect human health and ecological wellness.
  • Continued efforts to build the technical foundation needed on PFAS air emissions to inform future actions under the Clean Air Act.

The Roadmap was well received by many environmental groups and some members of Congress. While NMPF has sympathy with some of its goals and provisions, other areas raise serious concerns: In particular, the application of CERCLA to contaminated farmland, to do so can cause that farmland to be a SuperFund site.

EPA will conduct rulemaking under this Roadmap for the next several years. NMPF will continue to engage with EPA during its various and numerous rulemakings related to the plan