April 2008


Big ag has fallen in love… Big ag loves studies. For big ag, studies are a great excuse to delay regulation. The the bounty of this love is a disaster for those of us who care about clean air and water.

Here in Wisconsin the most recent study and delay example is the “Ag Waste Rule”. Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from factory farms have the potential to negatively impact human health. Many of us have experienced the stench arising from these concentrations of thousands of animals. I maintain that “Mother Nature” gave us a sense of smell to aid our survival. Wisconsin citizens were well served in 2004 when the DNR and legislature agreed to implement air emission rules that would include factory farms by 2008. Wisconsin industries emitting ammonia and other pollutants are already regulated, but agriculture has an unexplained exemption. Succumbing to pressure from the agriculture lobby, our DNR delayed these new rules until 2011 citing the need for more study (of Wisconsin’s 14,000 dairy farms, only 150 or so of the very largest would have been affected). Based on what we already know and from the approaches taken in Iowa and Minnesota, our DNR was in a good position to implement in 2008. Shame!

Delay resulting from additional study of manure spreading in karst geographic areas is another desire of big ag. The Northeast Wisconsin Regional Karst Task Force made recommendations more than a year ago in a peer reviewed report that included sever spreading restrictions. Scientists with groundwater, geology, and karst knowledge were part of the task force membership. Agriculture was also represented. Big ag’s lobbying groups didn’t like the results and have asked the State for more study by organizations like Discovery Farms. Shame!

It isn’t just Wisconsin where big ag is in love with studies. Iowa’s Ag Secretary consulted with corporate farming groups and then proposed an odor study having the effect of delaying any real action to control odor by the state. A month ago Iowa environmentalists were celebrating the apparent rejection by legislators of this proposed study on CAFO stench. The apparent win was short-lived… big ag lobby groups have now succeeded in pushing the 23 million dollar study through the Iowa House. They also made sure the study wasn’t funded so it will simply stop regulation.  Shame!

From the website of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Misguided federal farm policies have encouraged the growth of massive confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, by shifting billions of dollars in environmental, health and economic costs to taxpayers and communities, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). As a result, CAFOs now produce most of the nation’s beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs, even though there are more sophisticated and efficient farms in operation.”

The UCS has released a report entitled CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations which “enumerates the policies that have allowed CAFOs to dominate U.S. meat and dairy production.”

On Friday, April 18, Wisconsin’s Livestock Facilities Siting Review Board (LFSRB) voted unanimously to reverse Crawford County’s decision to issue a license to Roth Feeder Pigs, Inc., for the expansion of a hog operation near the lower Wisconsin River in Wauzeka, WI. Midwest Environmental Advocates had appealed the County’s decision on behalf of 28 neighbors of the facility who had concerns about the threats posed by the expansion to drinking water and public health.

This decision marks the first time the LFSRB sided with environmental interests in a challenge to a local decision under the Livestock Siting Law (and only the third such challenge the LFSRB has heard to date). In its deliberations, the LFSRB expressed confusion over the “internal inconsistencies” found throughout Roth’s application for expansion, and the LFSRB shared the neighbors’ concerns that the land available for spreading animal waste was not nearly enough to protect drinking water.

A press release from Midwest Environmental Advocates is available here.

The LFSRB should issue its final written decision at its meeting on May 16.

The two-year study into the impacts of modern industrial livestock agriculture conducted by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production is drawing to a close. The Commission will release its Final Report next week. Here’s a press release about the report issued today: (more…)

On Saturday, April 5, over 150 people from around the state attended a conference in Madison on the Environmental Impacts of Large Livestock Operations in Wisconsin. The conference was planned and hosted by FightingBob.com, Garvey McNeil & McGillivray, and Midwest Environmental Advocates. Jim Hightower gave a rousing keynote address, and conference attendees heard from a variety of speakers on topic such as Wisconsin’s Livestock Facilities Siting Law, which has paved the way for the rapid expansion of CAFOs; the impacts of livestock agriculture on public health, air, and groundwater; and the need to become active participants in state politics and our local, sustainable food network.

Full conference materials will be available soon – stay tuned for an announcement. In the meantime, check out Jim Hightower’s Keynote Address: