Animal Feeding Operations
Given the enormous
potential for manure to impair water quality, should large animal
confinements be allowed to operate?
animal feeding operations or CAFOs are "farms" that house a large
number of animals in a small area. CAFOs are raising both ethical
and environmental questions. The hog industry in Iowa, which has
a $12 billion dollar economic impact, provides a good case study.
In 1988 there were 41,000 Iowa farmers raising hogs. By 1997, that
number dropped to just 18,000 while the number of hogs being raised
stayed relatively constant. Small farms were replaced by huge operations
raising thousands of hogs. More hogs per farm equals an increase
in the concentration of hogs.
The most serious
concerns center on and its affect on water
quality. Hog lots create an enormous amount of waste. A single hog
generates approximately ten pounds of waste every day, 365 days
a year. Multiply that by a couple thousand hogs and it adds up to
a whole lot of manure. That manure is often stored in lagoons or
ponds until there is room for no more.
next? Manure is rich in the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, which
means it makes good fertilizer. But if manure fertilizer is improperly
applied, it can result in runoff, moving the manure into waterways.
Manure-laden contributes nitrogen to the water, setting
in motion a disastrous chain of events. Scientist believe that this
runoff greatly contributes to the Dead Zone, a place in the Gulf
of Mexico where no fish or plants can live because there is too
little oxygen for survival. Dead zone feature
operators of large hog confinements defend their practices, pointing
to the system of rules and regulations that govern manure management.
There are regulations about the depth of lagoons and how close they
can be situated to waterways and water sources. Most states also
require manure management plans, detailing when, where, and how
manure will be applied to cropland. These management plans are meant
to avoid over-application that results in runoff.
that the majority of pork producers comply with the rules, and try
to be good of the land but say that many farms operate
just under the size limit in order to avoid having
to get a discharge permit. They also charge that the system of regulations
is too weak and isnt enforced strictly enough. What do you
think? Does this industry need to be regulated differently? Should
manure be managed differently? What changes would you make? Is the
money they generate worth the risk that they pose?