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Published May 29, 2012, 08:18 AM

Regulation needed for large farms

MITCHELL, S.D. — The growth of factory farms has contributed to a host of environmental, public health, economic, food safety and animal welfare problems.

By: Marilyn Reimnitz , Agweek

MITCHELL, S.D. — The growth of factory farms has contributed to a host of environmental, public health, economic, food safety and animal welfare problems.

Tens of thousands of animals can generate millions of tons of manure annually, which pollutes water and air and can have health repercussions on neighbors and nearby communities.

Gentle meadows pictured on the labels of food most Americans buy have little relation to how that food actually is produced. Most of the pork, beef, poultry, dairy and eggs produced in the United States comes from large-scale confined livestock operations.

These animals produce tremendous amounts of manure. Large-scale operations produce an estimated 500 million tons of manure each year, more than three times the sewage produced by the entire U.S. human population. The manure and waste from large operations are untreated. It is applied on farm fields as fertilizer.

Factory farms produce so much waste in one place that it must be applied to land in quantities that exceed the soil’s ability to incorporate it. The vast quantities of manure can and does make its way into the local environment, where it pollutes the air and water. Farmers over-apply manure to their fields, allowing manure and other waste to seep into local streams and groundwater. Drinking wells can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.

Overcrowded animals are susceptible to infection and disease. Therefore, the animals are treated with antibiotics.

Most factory-farmed hogs have no access to the outdoors and never see daylight.

The handful of companies that dominate each livestock sector puts tremendous control over the prices farmers receive and what the consumer pays.

The Environmental Protection Agency has ignored factory farm pollution and the Department of Justice has allowed the largest meatpackers to merge into a monopoly. State environmental authorities must step up their coordination and enforcement of regulations on factory farms.

Editor’s Note: This letter originally appeared in the Mitchell (S.D.) Daily Republic.

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