Gov. Rendell should be applauded for his courage in vetoing Pennsylvania House Bill 1222.
His veto preserves important local authority to resolve conflicts about industrial farming operations that reduce the property values of those with property near them.
Local authority to regulate factory farms is especially important, because current state law on factory farming does not regulate odor, air emissions or use of antibiotics.
In Blain, Perry County, sewage from a massive hog facility is suspected of tainting the borough’s water supply for over a month. Under state law, the factory farm that caused the problem is not liable for any of the damage.
Meanwhile, at Pennsylvania’s largest chicken farm the manure was stacking up.
The 3.3 million chickens there produce more than 44,000 tons of manure each year. That weighs as much as 20,000 Ford Explorers.
Earlier this month – despite the fact that the facility had polluted a stream last summer - farm managers opted to spread some chicken manure on top of a foot of snow 48 hours before more than 2 inches of rain fell.
No snow, and most likely no manure, remained on the fields after the rain.
It is presumptuous for factory farm supporters like the Farm Bureau to assume that all existing local regulation of agriculture is illegal and drafted with ill intent.
Factory farms are industrial in nature and not typical farm neighbors. Their environmental impact is real and not exaggerated.
In fact, Mr. Donaldson, president of the Farm Bureau, said: “If I had one of those big operations going up right against my boundary line, I’d be upset too.”
Well, Mr. Donaldson, there are a lot of factory farms cropping up in Pennsylvania and local communities are upset.
Where the state has failed to adequately regulate these facilities, local communities must be left with the tools to do so.
Kimberly L. Snell-Zarcone
(The author is staff attorney for agricultural issues for the Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future.)