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The Planet

The Planet
December 1998 Volume 5, Number 10


Pig Plan Too Chicken

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 factory-farm operations."

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 (click on "What's New").

Or, write a letter like this one.

For More Information: Contact Mike Newman, (202) 675-7917; "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 Heartens Volunteers"

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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