Pork and poultry growers appeal sprinkler update requirement

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 11, 2012 -The National Pork Producers Council submitted an appeal of a decision by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Committee to require new sprinkler and smoke detection standards for all domestic animal housing. Fifteen other animal production groups signed on to the appeal.

The NFPA decision to amend its “150” Standard for Fire & Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities requires the installation of sprinkler and smoke control systems in all animal housing facilities.

To be heard on August 7, the appeal states “the adoption of the amended NFPA standard for livestock and poultry operations would result in enormous costs and significant technical and operational disruptions.”

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The 150 standard is intended to “provide the minimum requirements for the design, construction, fire protection, and classification of animal housing facilities,” according to NFPA.

The adopted standard expands requirements for sprinkler and smoke control systems in animal housing facilities from just those holding wild animals, or Category A animals, to also include facilities housing Category B animals, which NPPC said would include every single facility that houses an animal.

“This substantial expansion, therefore, covers far more animal housing facilities than had been previously covered, including expanding NFPA 150 to cover nearly every single livestock farm in the United States,” according to the appeal.

According to the fire code standards body, the 150 amendment is based on the recognition that animals are sentient beings with a value greater than that of simple property; both domesticated and feral animals lack the ability of self-preservation when housed in buildings and other structures; and current building, fire, and life safety codes do not address the life safety of the animal occupants.

However, NPPC Chief Environmental Counsel Michael Formica insisted the industry does not have a fire problem. According to the submitted appeal, “no one feels their loss due to accident, operational errors, disease or fire more acutely” than producers.

“Furthermore, put simply, fire is very bad for business,” states the appeal. “When animals perish, the meat, milk, or egg production from them ceases, customers become dissatisfied and must look for other suppliers, and businesses and livelihoods that have taken many decades and often many generations to build are put at risk.”

The National Chicken Council estimates that if the new standards are enacted, installation alone will cost the poultry industry up to $26 billion.

The appeal cites egg producer studies that indicate from 2000 to the present, an average of four hen house fires occurred each year. More than half of these fire incidents did not result in any bird fatalities, and of those incidents that did, they involved the loss of about .01% of the 12 billion hens and pullets under management over this period.

NPPC noted that similar studies are not yet available for other species. 

“Fires at animal agriculture facilities clearly are happening, but not all of these involve animal houses and not all of the animal house fires involve animal fatalities,” the appeal states. “But based on the anecdotal and expert opinions and views we have gathered, we do not expect the number or relative effects of fire to be all that different from that reported for the egg industry.”

Estimated industry-wide installation costs for the housing of the laying hens, broiler chickens, turkeys, lactating dairy cows, and finishing swine would range from $13 to $26 billion, states the appeal. It adds that fire officials in Iowa said they estimate the cost to Iowa producers to be tens of billions of dollars or more. The estimate did not include beef cattle, because most are raised in open range facilities. However, the appeal did point at a growing trend toward indoor cattle housing also makes it a concern for that sector of the industry. 

“We also have questions as to the possible biosecurity risks created by the sprinkler water itself in the case of accidental release, and whether these risks would create the need to treat the sprinkler water,” continued the NPPC.

NPPC's Formica submitted the appeal on behalf of 16 agricultural trade groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, US Poultry and Egg Association, National Chicken Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, United Egg Producers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Turkey Federation, National Milk Producers Federation, Dairy Farmers of America, Upstate Niagra Cooperative, Agri-Mark Inc., Northeast Dairy Farmers Cooperatives, Dairylea Cooperative, Select Milk Producers, St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Idaho Dairymen's Association.


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