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December 11, 2008

Enough with the CAFOs Already!

I suppose this post could also be titled "More Fun with Regulations." Because trashing the regs on mountain-top mining wasn't enough, now the Bush EPA is trying to help chicken CAFOs in their longstanding quest to drown us all in chickensh*t ammonia pollution. Kudos to The Daily Green for picking up this new report from the Environmental Integrity Project, a group formed by dissident EPA officials (i.e. EPA officials who actually wanted to do their jobs).

Of course, as we know CAFOs are already effectively exempt from environmental regulations. But if the Bushies get their way, the CAFOs won't have to admit to anyone how much they're spewing either. Ammonia pollution is another in a long list of things about which, according to George W Bush, Americans don't have a "right to know." And, by they way, the numbers are absolutely staggering. In terms of ammonia emissions, chicken farms from just the top ten producing states out-pollute ALL of US industry by a factor of 8 to 1 (and far more if you include egg-laying operations). According to the report:
Based on data from multiple studies, broiler producers in the top 10 states released an estimated 481,764,049 pounds of ammonia in 2007, or more than eight times the combined total reported by industrial sources -- such as steel mills and oil refineries -- to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)... Based on a recent study for USEPA in Indiana, egg laying operations in the top ten states released an estimated 221,551,888 pounds of ammonia in 2007...
Factory farm chickens are worse ammonia polluters than steel mills, oil refiners and chemical manufacturers combined? Um. Yuck?

And it's not just the USDA and the EPA in on this. The FDA is trying to lend a hand as well. The WSJ is reporting that the FDA has reversed itself and will continue to allow CAFOs of all kinds to routinely use the antibiotic cephalosporin. La Vida Locavore has more, but in sum, the FDA announced a ban back in July based on research that indicated the antibiotic's widespread use in livestock would further encourage the spread of drug-resistant bacteria. Naturally, that fear is totally unfounded. How comforting.

The odd thing is that fixing this isn't complicated - it's just hard. Enforcing current law combined with even a modicum of concern for public health - just think of the recent infant mortality study - will put CAFOs out of business almost overnight. Assuming, that is, the Bushies leave any of these laws on the books. But to do it, Team Obama has to be willing to take on some seriously vested (and deep-pocketed) interests. And if that isn't daunting enough, Obama et al do indeed appear to have quite a bit on their plate already.

Photo by hddod used under a CC license.

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