From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:

WASHINGTON D.C.– – Environ-
mental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner
on March 5 personally announced an EPA plan
to regulate livestock feedlots, hog barns, and
poultry sheds like industrial plants.
For the first time invoking the Clean
Water Act against agricultural polluters, the
EPA will require about 6,600 of the biggest
factory-style farms in the U.S. to obtain pollution
permits and undergo routine federal
inspection. Anyone keeping more than 1,000
animal units, defined as 1,000 cattle, 2,500
swine, or 100,000 hens, would fall under the
new rules, to be phased in over seven years.
Not long ago, such a notion would
have been politically decried as a bureaucratic
assault on God, Mom, fried chicken, and
hamburgers, possibly thought up by animal
rights activists.

In the 10 days after Browner spoke,
however, the response from elected officials
sounded a lot more like a sigh of relief.
State legislatures around the nation
have been struggling to achieve meaningful
regulation of livestock waste, against the risk
of losing jobs to economic rivals if one state’s
rules become notably tougher than another’s.
In addition, states whose pollution laws were
either weak to begin with or were compromised
to boost factory farms are often already
overwhelmed by the scope of the resultant
problems and the clout of agribusiness.
North Carolina, for instance, with a
minor role in the hog industry just 20 years
ago, now has 2,441 pork producers big
enough to make the EPA target list. Senator
Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) is a pork producer;
so are many other North Carolina office holders,
whose will to regulate themselves effectively
has been notably lacking.
Industry fronts with strong legislative
influence at the state level are not eager to
see regulatory authority shift to Washington
D.C., as Illinois Pork Producers Association
director of industry relations Pete Merna
acknowledged to Christopher Wills of
Associated Press.
As many as 12,000 of the 23,000
Wisconsin dairy farms could eventually fall
under the EPA rules, warned Wisconsin Farm
Bureau Federation director of governmental
regulations Paul Zimmerman.
Responded George Meyer, secretary
of the Wisconsin Department of Natural
Resources, “We have some of the best pollution
standards in the country. I don’t think the
EPA regulations will affect us as much as they
will some other states.”
On the contrary, the regulations
could help the Wisconsin dairy industry, by
inhibiting the growth of California-style confinement
dairy barns at the edges of cities,
with nowhere to put their manure.
Some usual foes of federal environmental
regulation, including Billy Tauzin (RLouisiana)
were quiet, caught between conflicting
constituencies. In Tauzin’s case, the
Louisiana Farm Bureau objects to the EPA
intervention, but the shrimping and fishing
industries welcome action that they hope
might diminish the 7,000-square-mile oxygendepleted
dead zone at the mouth of the
Mississippi River, an aquatic desert caused by
manure runoff from half the continental U.S.
flowing into the warm Gulf of Mexico.
Dirty tricks
The EPA announcement helped give
impetus to several state bills that were already
far enough through the legislative process to
be enacted with a prospect of forestalling any
federal heavyhandedness. The Maryland
House and Senate on the day of the announcement
passed competing plans to cope with
manure runoff. Also the same day, the
Washington state House passed a measure 97-
1 to require dairy farms to have an approved
“dairy nutrient” management plan by July 1,
2002. The lone dissenting vote came from
Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish), who said he’d
“had enough of this bull nutrient” when others
insisted on using the word “nutrient” instead of
“manure.” Oklahoma governor Frank Keating
signed into law a moratorium on approval of
new hog barns with more than 5,000 swine,
killing applications already on file which if all
approved would have boosted the state hog
population by nearly half. An Oklahoma bill
to more tightly regulate existing hog barns
cleared the state Senate, 45-1, on March 10,
but met keen opposition in the state House.
There were signs Boss Hog and
friends are becoming desperate. In January the
North Carolina pork front Farmers for Fairness
began broadcasting radio ads attacking the
anti-pollution stance of state House member
Cindy Watson (R-Duplin County).
State House speaker and fellow
Republican Harold Brubaker responded on
February 24 by convening the House Select
Investigative Committee on Election Law
Compliance, which according to Joseph Neff
and Wade Rawlings of The Raleigh News &
Observer, “voted to subpoena virtually every
scrap of information produced by Farmers for
Fairness” to see if it may be illegally operating
as a political action committee.
In addition, the State Board of
Elections on the same day opened a criminal
investigation into the anti-Watson campaign.
Just about then someone––Watson
accused Farmers for Fairness––disclosed a
hastily written January 21 memo from Watson
to North Carolina Department of Environment
and Natural Resources secretary Wayne
McDevitt, in which Watson said, “looking at
the number of hogs, chickens, turkeys, cows,
goats, and Hispanics and the amount of
human and animal wastes applied to our area,
I am asking you as the Director of our health,
for a General Environmental Impact Study.”
On February 11, well before the
memo was made public, Watson clarified in a
second memo to McDevitt that her mention of
“Hispanics” concerned “the impact of the
Hispanic migrant population because of the
substandard housing and lack of sewage facilities”
made available to them by their employers
in the pork and poultry industries.
Farmers for Fairness also retained a
reputed top criminal defense lawyer, Joe
Cheshire of Raleigh, to help resist having to
turn over information about itself to either of
the investigative entities.
In Oklahoma, on the eve of the vote
on the hog farm moratorium bill, Tyson-Fork
Group president Bill Moeller reportedly prevailed
upon state Department of Agriculture
general counsel David R. Chandler to write a
letter on Department stationery praising Tyson
Farms and opposing the moratorium––an act
not authorized by Agriculture Commissioner
Dennis Howard, who personally retrieved the
letter from the desks of several state senators.
The Iowa Supreme Court on March
5 struck down local regulation of hog farming,
touching off competitive media blitzes by the
Ag Value Growth Foundation, representing
agribusiness, and Farmers Who Trust Local
Control, a voice for smaller operators who
prefer to keep Boss Hog at a distance.
Hidden terrors
Daycare provider and hog feedlot
critic Julie Jansen, of Olivia, Minnesota,
accused pro-pork state senator Steve Dille (RDassel)
of improperly investigating her personal
life and business as an intimidation tactic,
after she testified in public hearings that
the stench of nearby hog farms has cut her
client list from 17 to two or three.
Minnesota Pork Producers Association
president Jim Quackenbush hinted that
efforts to clean up pig poop might be directed
by “those opposed to animal agriculture.”
And University of Minnesota associate
professor of biosystems and agricultural
engineering suggested to pork producers that
they should retitle “piglet processing” to “baby
pig care,” to convey a friendlier image.
Meanwhile, the already scary implications
of too much manure fertilizing waterways
just keep getting scarier. When major
hog slurry spills first attracted widespread
attention in the early 1990s, the major concern
was algal blooms that can quickly deplete
aquatic oxygen, suffocating fish. Two years
ago the nation became aware of the flesh-eating
microbe pfiesteria piscicida, also known
as “the cell from hell,” which thrives in
manure-enriched waters, has at least 21 different
forms depending on which stage it is at in a
highly adaptable life cycle, and not only
attacks fish but can also induce at least temporary
symptoms of brain damage in people. So
far this spring, University of South Carolina
researcher Alan Lewitus has discovered
Pfiesteria piscicida in a reputedly pollutionfree
inlet near Georgetown, which implies it
may be everywhere in the muck beneath southern
coastal waters.
As if that isn’t enough, fish health
biologist Ann Forstchen of the Florida
Department of Environmental Protection
almost simultaneously identified another
microorganism, C r y p t o s p e r i d i n i o p s i s, which
also causes lesions and tumors in fish, is associated
with major fish kills, especially of mullet,
the preferred food of dolphins along the
Florida coast, and, predicts Jan Hollingsworth
of The Tampa Tribune, “will likely come to
be known as the cell from hell’s evil twin.”
Explained Hollingsworth, on Friday,
March 13, “C r y p t o and P f i e s t e r i a a r e
not-so-distant cousins to saltwater red tide
algal blooms that plague Florida’s west coast.
Unlike red tide, P f i e s t e r i a and its evil twin
primarily live in estuaries and near-shore
waters.” Among them, they cover almost the
whole coastal habitat, like long buried mines,
awaiting only a human misstep to detonate.

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