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DENR Deems Antibiotic Resistance Irrelevant to CAFO Manure Permit Hearing

At the hearing on revising the General Water Pollution Control Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Pork Producers Council blocked expert testimony on the impact of feedlot manure runoff on antibiotic resistance.

The livestock producers’ lawyers argued that DENR does not regulate antibiotic use at CAFOs. Hearing officer Catherine Duenwald agreed:

Duenwald spoke next. She said the state department doesn’t test for antibiotics in water at CAFOs.

“And it is irrelevant to the CAFO permit,” Duenwald said.

Sutton objected. Duenwald ruled, “Testimony is limited.” She allowed Kelley to testify generally about his concerns.

Kelley said CAFOs “very much” contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Duenwald said testimony about antibiotics in the water would be disregarded.

“That is beyond the scope of this hearing,” Duenwald said [Bob Mercer, “Lawyers Fight About Whether Manure Is Health Threat,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.09.28].

Among DRA’s pre-filed and, alas, doomed exhibits is a report from the Centers for Disease Control saying antibiotic use in livestock production is most definitely in the scope of the problem of antibiotic resistance:

The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine. However, up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed. Antibiotics are also commonly used in food animals to prevent, control, and treat disease, and to promote the growth of food-producing animals. The use of antibiotics for promoting growth is not necessary, and the practice should be phased out. Recent guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes a pathway toward this goal. It is difficult to directly compare the amount of drugs used in food animals with the amount used in humans, but there is evidence that more antibiotics are used in food production [Centers for Disease Control, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013, p. 11, included in Dakota Rural Action pre-hearing disclosure, 2016.08.29].

The feds (and McDonald’s!) launched anti-antibiotic resistance measures in April 2015.

The pork producers’ lawyer said there aren’t “any clearly objective scientific standards” related to CAFO-poop-induced antibiotic resistance. But there’s certainly science on the subject:

“We found a clear link between antibiotic resistant genes in soil and manure spreading. It’s quite unique,” says co-author Professor Bent Christensen from the Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Denmark. Christensen manages the Danish soil archive project—the so-called ‘Askov Long-Term Experiment’—which was used in the study.

The discovery is published in the scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports [Anne Ringgaard, “Manure Can Spread Antibiotic Resistance,” ScienceNordic, 2016.03.10].

But hey, we wouldn’t want DENR looking at that big scientific picture, especially not when it could call into question the practices an impending Republican gubernatorial candidate’s favorite big industry.


  1. Donald Pay 2016-09-29 09:19

    Huge mistake. Huge. She just opened up the state’s general permit to years of appeals, and to federal administrative oversight. It’s really a long-term disaster for the state, if the opponents want to fight this hard in state and federal courts.

    One of the things I always appreciated about the state boards, even though I hated most of their decisions, is that they let nearly everything come into evidence and let the parties duke it out. Duenwald is over lawyering this thing, and it’s going to backfire.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-29 09:26

    Donald, do you know Ms. Duenwald? Right after Gov. Daugaard appointed her chief hearing officer to replace the deceased Hillary Brady, she upheld the Daugaard Administration’s decision to keep lending license applications from payday/title lenders secret. Now she rules against information that could help us check the expansion of CAFOs and bring to light their full environmental harms.

  3. Donald Pay 2016-09-29 09:50

    I don’t know her. I know the last name, though. Rep. Jay Duenwald was a very conservative, anti-environment legislator. I think I remember he was very much involved in efforts to gut SD’s Constitutional and statutory family farm protections. He had a lot of kids, one of which was named Katie. I think this is his spawn.

  4. Paul Seamans 2016-09-29 10:16

    I was at the hearing. I personally know Dr. Don Kelley. He had spent long hours putting his testimony together and had documented everything. As a retired pathologist his testimony may have been very damning to the CAFO industry.

    DRA’s lawyer, Kelsea Sutton, objected to the decision to exclude Don Kelley’s testimony saying that it is the mission of DENR to protect the health and welfare of South Dakota’s citizens and that possible harmful effects of antibiotics in our water should be considered in the hearing. The DENR seems to think that its mission is to permit CAFO’s.

    The decision on the permit is entirely up to DENR head Steve Pirner. As an appointee of Gov. Daugaard we all know where this permit decision is headed.

    The Cattleman’s Association bussed in some of their members and filled the room with supporters. I look at that as a means of intimidation.

  5. mike from iowa 2016-09-29 10:29

    Duenwald’s father, Jay, passed in 2013. Mr Pay is correct.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-09-29 10:36

    Paul, if Dr. Kelley had prepared remarks, I will be happy to print them in full for the record here as a guest column.

  7. Charlie Johnson 2016-09-29 10:40

    The need , want , and use of Cafo’s requires the constant use of antibiotics . Yes , the issue of the use of antibiotics should have been heard !

  8. mike from iowa 2016-09-29 10:50

    According to Bob Mercer, Donald Pay and Paul Seamans (and others) should be in line for deity status for their work at opposing South Dakota’s laws.

    Way to go, guys.

  9. Paul Seamans 2016-09-29 10:53

    Cory, I will contact Don and tell him that. That would he great. His testimony will be quite thorough and long. I will contact him. He will still be at the hearing today. He is DRA’s board chair. I will message you his personal email address.

  10. C Carter 2016-09-29 11:38

    This is just ridiculous. While it is true that DENR does not test for or regulate antibiotics, the DENR does monitor and regulate levels of bacteria in water. DENR routinely reports the levels of bacteria in streams, rivers, and lakes, and bacteria enter waterways from manure runoff and field-applied manure. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria (bacteria which have acquired genes that enable them to survive in the presence of antibiotics) are a subset of bacteria and may include various strains of E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus (associated with MRSA). Such antibiotic-resistant bacteria are of particular concern because they cause health problems that are very difficult to treat. This 2014 paper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology states: “Overall, there is a body of evidence suggesting that land application of untreated fecal material can increase the abundance of some antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements for months or years.”

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