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!