USA: Manure causes stink for lawmakers and farmers | Reuters
Manure causes stink for lawmakers and farmers
Thu Sep 6, 2007 4:48PM EDT
By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Manure generated on large
U.S. livestock farms, which can later contaminate
soil and water, has lead to a fierce debate over
whether farmers and ranchers should be held
responsible for cleaning up the mess.
A lawsuit by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew
Edmondson against Arkansas poultry companies
claims phosphorus runoff from their chicken
litter has polluted streams and rivers in
Oklahoma. The lawsuit includes Tyson Foods Inc.,
the largest U.S. meat company.
"States like Oklahoma need legal tools to help
stop and clean up animal-waste contamination,
which is destroying significant and irreplaceable
public resources," Edmondson told the Senate
Committee on Environment and Public Works on
So-called concentrated animal feeding operations
(CAFOs) are becoming more common in the United
States, with an estimated 19,000 in existence,
according to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for
water with the EPA, said states do "have the
right to sue" since they are the ones that carry
out the programs overseen by the agency.
Bipartisan legislation, introduced in both the
U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate
earlier this year, would clarify that livestock
manure is exempt from the EPA's "Superfund law"
created in 1980 to address cleanup of hazardous
and toxic chemical spills. Previous efforts to
exempt manure from the Superfund law have
Republican Kit Bond of Missouri said the
Superfund law was never intended to be applied to
agriculture, and the lawsuit by the state of
Oklahoma amounted to nothing more than
"litigation gridlock" that will ultimately hurt
If livestock manure, used mostly by farmers as a
fertilizer, was regulated under the EPA law,
virtually every farm could be subject to millions
of dollars in liabilities and penalties,
supporters of the legislation say.
Still, others argue that strong oversight is
needed to protect consumers against food
poisoning outbreaks that can be caused when
manure seeps into irrigation water.
Nearly 30 groups, including attorneys general
from eight states, local officials and
environmental groups, oppose an exemption for
large farms that emit huge amounts of manure that
can contain ammonia, bacteria, particulate matter
and metals such as copper and arsenic.
"CAFOs like every other major industry in this
country, should be expected, and required, to
accept their obligations and comply in full with
environmental laws," said Catharine Fitzsimmons,
chief of the Air Quality Bureau for the Iowa
Department of Natural Resources.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest
U.S. farm organization, said the vast majority of
farmers who operate CAFOs are involved in a
"Many operations are near the tipping point where
needless regulations that accomplish no real
environmental or food safety goal will drive them
out of business," said Chris Chinn with the farm
Agriculture operations already are regulated
under the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, as well
as other federal and state environmental laws.
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