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EPA Bows Down to
Corporate Agribusiness Pressure

Releases Watered-Down CAFO Rules
that Endanger the Rural Environment

Campaign for Family Farms and the Environments
Columbia, Missouri

December 18, 2002 -- In an obvious cave-in to giant factory farms and meatpackers, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES) regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) today. With the stroke of the pen, EPA has chosen to side with corporate agribusiness by overlooking an overwhelming number of public comments calling for stricter regulations for corporate livestock factories.

“This was EPA's chance to take a stand for family farmers and the environment, but they’ve certainly blown it” said Bill Christison, a livestock producer-member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and spokesperson for the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (CFFE). “The public spoke out throughout the entire rulemaking process calling for safeguards that would minimize the effects of large-scale corporate livestock facilities while allowing family farms to operate efficiently and productively as they have in the past. But the EPA and the Bush Administration ignored the public and sided with big business yet again.”

The Campaign for Family Farms has consistently promoted environmental accountability for factory farms in order to protect the interests of independent family farmers and rural communities. Earlier this year 30 farmer and rural members of the CFFE met with EPA officials to discuss their concerns. Throughout the EPA’s rulemaking process, CFFE has called for:

  • Integrator Liability for Factory Farms -- Corporate agribusinesses like Smithfield, Tyson, Cargill and Premium Standard Farms should be held responsible for the pollution caused by their operations. EPA failed to make corporate agribusiness accountable for pollution caused by its dictated production practices.
  • Freedom of Information Act/Public Notice Full Disclosure -- Public notification and public hearings are an essential part of a fair and open process. The EPA failed to grant full public disclosure for items such as nutrient management plans.
  • Lagoon Closure and Future Banning of Lagoon Construction -- A proven significant failure of the current environmental regulatory system is the continued acceptance of hog and dairy CAFOs that rely on huge earthen lagoons or basins to store millions of gallons of liquid manure. The large number of serious pollution events caused by breaks or leaks from CAFO waste lagoons is not environmentally sound, are a threat to groundwater sources, and should be eliminated as soon as possible. EPA should prohibit new or expanding CAFOs from using open manure lagoons as their waste handling system, and it failed to fully address regulation and enforcement of these health hazards.
  • General vs. Individual Permitting -- These rules allow many CAFOs to hide behind general permits instead of having each facility apply for an individual, site-specific permit. Granting CAFO general permits that apply across the board to certain types of factory farms means that these facilities avoid public disclosure and scrutiny by neighboring family farmers.

“These new rules set up rural counties to pay for pollution caused by factory farms” said Land Stewardship Project member Paul Sobocinski, a Minnesota hog farmer and spokesperson for the CFFE. “Citizens at the county and township level need to use their authority to say no to these industrial factory farms. We need local control to stop these industrial livestock operations from polluting our environment and ruining our rural communities.”

“By polluting the air and water, corporate livestock factories give family farmers a bad rap. That’s why it&Mac226;s time for EPA to get tough on corporate agribusiness,” said Mark McDowell, a CFFE spokesperson and hog farmer-member of Iowa CCI. “They need to go back to the drawing board and write something that works for family farmers and our rural communities.”

CFFE spokesperson Edith Galloway, a livestock producer and Illinois Stewardship Alliance member, said, “For family farmers, strong environmental standards for CAFOs are one way to help level the playing field. We need to hold these polluters accountable to the public, and we need to pass and enforce strict antitrust laws that keep the marketplace open and fair.”

The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment is a coalition of farm and rural groups that are leading the fight against the corporate takeover of the hog industry and working for policies that support independent family farmers. CFFE member groups include Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota) and Illinois Stewardship Alliance.

Published in In Motion Magazine, December 18, 2002

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