Farms can’t hide from odor issues

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, backed away from offering a controversial ag amendment to the appropriations bill last week, but he hasn’t given up the fight.
The senator was pushing an exemption for large livestock operations from having to report air emissions, particularly noxious odors like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from manure storage that are classified at extreme levels as “hazardous chemicals.”
Only the largest concentrated livestock feeding operations, or CAFOs, are at levels that currently trigger the federal reporting requirement.
A Craig spokesman told the Idaho-based Ag Weekly that the laws, passed in the 1970s, were never intended to include livestock operations.
No, but I’m not sure anyone envisioned the size of today’s large-scale livestock operations 30 years ago, either.
It’s been reported Craig may hitch the amendment to another piece of legislation or offer it before the full Senate.
I couldn’t confirm it, but several sources say the 8,000-head Desert Rose Dairy in Idaho became the first dairy in the nation to report their emissions under the Community Right to Know and Superfund laws. In 2003, the dairy released at least 130 tons of ammonia to the air.
In comparison, the former Buckeye Egg Farm reported ammonia emissions of more than 800 tons/year at its Croton, Ohio, facility in 2002; more than 375 tons from the Marseilles farm and another 275 tons/year at Mount Victory. The new farm owner, Ohio Fresh Eggs, is bound by a court settlement to spend more than $1.6 million to install and test air pollution controls.
An exemption or a change in the law’s current definition of “hazardous chemical” is bad for agriculture. We don’t want another layer of regulations on small farmers, but CAFO owners have a greater environmental responsibility because of the larger volume of livestock manure generated in confined facilities.
The potential odor from an 80-cow herd, or even an 800-cow herd, is not the same as the odor from an 8,000-head dairy. Any argument to say otherwise rings hollow.
The shear size of large livestock operations puts an additional burden on those farm owners to do the right thing. It behooves all of us in agriculture to see that they do.
Big bucks. Just in case you were wondering, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an $84 billion ag appropriations measure for fiscal year 2005, but insiders don’t expect the bill to come to the Senate floor before adjournment. Instead, they look for it to be lumped into a mega-omnibus spending measure.
A huge chunk of the $84 billion is tied up in mandatory programs such as food stands and child nutrition programs, leaving only $16.8 billion for discretionary spending for conservation, R&D or rural development.

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University.You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

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