The hog-and-chicken-factory business has gotten out of control. "People can't sit
on their front porches anymore due to the stench, and the water quality in rural
communities is being devastated," says Kathryn Hohmann, director of the Club's
Environmental Quality Program.
If Hohmann sounds discouraged, it's because family farmers are being elbowed out by
multinationals that are turning our rural heritage into an industrial-waste zone. Already
10,000 such large-scale animal factories are operating without permits as required under
the Clean Water Act, and more sites are being staked out every day. In southwest Utah, a
massive hog operation being developed on 50,000 acres could annually produce more waste
than all of Los Angeles.
Help is on the way, but it's not in enough of a hurry. Pressure from family-farm
groups, churches, Sierra Club chapters and other organizations in states most impacted by
these operations has led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of
Agriculture to release a "Draft Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding
Operations (AFOs)." Public comment on the plan will be taken until Jan. 19, 1999.
The strategy won't hurt small independent farmers: It targets only operations with more
than 2,400 hogs or 100,000 chickens.
"We generally support the plan, but it's too little, too late," says Hohmann.
"What we need immediately is a moratorium on the construction of any new or expanded
Ozark Chapter Director Ken Midkiff, who has worked with Hohmann on the issue, says the
draft plan puts the earliest compliance deadline at 2003. "That's five more years, at
a minimum, of no or very low standards, more pollution and more 'externalization of costs'
- a nice way of saying we taxpayers pick up the costs for restoring our nation's
waterways," he says.
If the draft rules are adopted, factories should be regulated under an individual
permit instead of the proposed general permit; the former gives the public a chance to
comment. "The regulations also should require those who own the animals in the
factory farms to be legally liable and financially responsible for factory-farm
pollution," says Hohmann. "Too often the financial burden for cleanups falls on
the contract farmers and the taxpayers."
To Take Action: Attend one of the public hearings on the new draft rules.
The tentative schedule is as follows: Ontario, Calif., Nov. 23; Madison, Wisc., Nov.
30; Seattle, Wash., Dec. 3; Des Moines, Iowa, Dec. 4; Chattanooga, Tenn., Dec. 9;
Indianapolis, Ind., Dec. 10; Denver, Colo., Dec. 14; Annapolis, Md., Dec. 15. The Clean
Water Network will post a current hearing schedule at http://www.cwn.org
(click on "What's New").
Or, write a letter like this one.
For More Information: Contact Mike Newman, (202) 675-7917; firstname.lastname@example.org. "Is Piglet
Poisoning the Well?", a map detailing factory-farm problems, is available by request.
Go on to the next article, "A Hearty Thank You
Sierra Club, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441,
USA. Telephone (415) 977-5500 (voice), (415) 977-5799 (FAX).
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