Most of the nation's pork is produced in a handful of states. Some like North Carolina and Oklahoma have experienced dramatic production increases. The reason for the surge was the utilization of large-scale Confinement Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs. Practically overnight some rural counties, that previously produced a few hundred hogs a year, began sending hundreds of thousands to slaughter, leaving behind millions of gallons of manure and scores of unhappy communities.
Once championed as the future of livestock production, the tide of public sentiment is turning against such operations. And while there may still be questions about which level of government will exert control over CAFOs, there seems to be little question over the need for control. A case in point is the developing environmental policy in the state of Iowa.
Last month a team of researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Iowa released a study on the impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO's in Iowa.
Noting that airborne emissions from the operations may represent a public health hazard, the scientists recommended that the state Department of Natural Resources, or D-N-R develop ambient air quality standards for CAFO's in Iowa.
Now the Iowa D-N-R says it has a plan to regulate the operations, but it lacks the funding to implement new guidelines.
Iowa D-N-R director Jeff Vonk favors standards limiting emissions of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and odor. Jeff Vonk, Iowa D-N-R: "we're going to continue to work with the ag community."
It's estimated that implementing and enforcing new regulations would cost more than one-and-a-half million dollars during the first two years of their existence.
In Iowa, the nation's number one hog producing state, much of the scrutiny will fall squarely on the pork industry. And at a time when the state has nearly as much budgetary red ink as hog manure, the money won't be easy to find. But the D-N-R is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Iowa Legislature to finance the new standards.
Iowa lawmakers have their own changes in mind and this week, they unveiled plans that would tighten pollution guidelines and give local governments more control in deciding where large-scale operations can be built.
Last month, citing public health laws, two rural counties in Iowa placed moratoriums on new construction of CAFO's.