The recent controversy over the Environmental Protection Agency’s aerial surveillance of cattle farmers in Iowa and Nebraska has led to suggestions that they are using drones to spy on cattle ranches.
The EPA is defending its right to use aerial surveillance in areas that have high numbers of impaired watersheds and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), justifying the surveillance in part by saying that the planes used are not drones, but four-seat Cessna planes.
EPA spokesperson Chris Lancaster told The Daily Caller that the planes are manned by privately contracted pilots with EPA staff on board.
Since 2010, there have been 18 CAFO flyovers in Nebraska and Iowa, which have led to eight farmers receiving penalty orders, mostly in Iowa.
Lancaster said that the photos collected on flyovers are reviewed only by EPA staff and that this is entirely an EPA initiative, not associated with any other environmental group.
Aerial surveillance has been a cost-effective measure for the EPA. It has allowed them to eliminate the need for on-site inspections on CAFOs that are in compliance with their regulations.
However, for the farmers the flyovers are costing them more. According to The Omaha World-Herald, they feel that EPA regulations are undermining state environmental regulations. Farmers are concerned that they are going to have to funnel more money into manure-control to meet federal regulations, after having already invested in meeting state regulations.