Factory farm photo courtesy of the center for food safety

Smell No Evil, See No Evil, Drink No Evil

Challenging the massive power and traumatic environmental impact of factory farms

This article is full of shit: Cow shit. Pig shit. Chicken shit. Mounds of shit seeping from mega-farms into drinking water. Bullshit from lobbyists trying to maintain the status quo.

Not to mention political leadership unmotivated to do shit about it.

The era of mega-factory farms is a triumph of industrialization: cheap meat churned out on a massive scale from animals confined to life and death in a congested cage.

Last month on Friday, March 2, panelists at the Public Interest Environment Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon presented on the environmental impact of government’s cozy relationship with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

“More than 50 percent of these farms do not have a federal permit. It’s impossible to know the exact number, though, because the EPA does not maintain a consistent database,” said Jennifer Molidor of the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, actually appeared in a video promoting these farms.

“Our FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request exposing Pruitt’s interaction with Big Beef now has the Government Accountability Office investigating if his actions broke agency rules prohibiting agency lobbying,” Molidor told the gathering.

Lobbyists are active in Congress as well. Congress will consider the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARMA), asserting that farm emissions are not reportable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, which requires farms to notify authorities when disposing of blood, excrement, gas and offal.

The problem for activists is that “these cases are very expensive to bring to court,” said Tarah Heinzen of the nonprofit Food and Water Watch. “We have to fix the regulatory structure to put the burden on producers.”

Contrasting this fix, many states turn over regulation of CAFOs to agriculture agencies, creating a conflict of interest.

For example, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown assigned Marty Myers, Threemile Canyon Farms proprietor, to the Oregon Board of Agriculture. With a herd size of more than 65,000 cattle, Threemile Canyon in Boardman is the state’s largest mega-dairy.

Tillamook cheddar gets some of its milk from Threemile Canyon, which “grazes” its cows on 23-square-foot plots. “This does not fit the image of dairy cows grazing on the coast that Tillamook purports,” said Amy van Saun of the Center for Food Safety.

Just down the road from Threemile Canyon is the state’s second largest mega-dairy, Lost Valley Farms, established in 2017. Lost Valley has a number of issues, including too-full tanks seeping into groundwater. It also supplies Tillamook cheese with milk.

“Without groundwater management, nitrates seep into the soil. These limit oxygen absorption in the blood leading to heart disease, cancer, blue babies and a whole host of other health issues,” van Saun said. “There is a broad coalition protesting this farm. Local industry, water groups, animal welfare, public health associations, doctors …”

This broad coalition might just be being heard in its efforts to clean up all this shit. In February, the state of Oregon filed a lawsuit against Lost Valley, asserting that the company has repeatedly endangered nearby drinking water by violating environmental laws and should be shut down immediately.

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