Government numbers out this week point to signs of a slow recovery from the current economic recession.
Consumer prices fell in December as lower energy costs kept the threat of inflation low. For all of 2001, the inflation rate measured just 1.6 percent.And while housing starts and industrial production also declined in December, many analysts predict a recovery will begin by mid-year or earlier. But the ever-wary Federal Reserve cautions the mixed data leaves the timing and strength of the recovery uncertain.
Uncertainty, of course, is no stranger in farm country. There, a broad range of economic and environmental issues persists, includng the growing rancor over large-scale livestock operations and hog waste lagoons.
Livestock producers may see final revisions to regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations … or CAFOs … by the end of this year. The Environmental Protection Agency's new CAFO regulations are intended to reduce water pollution resulting from livestock waste runoff.
The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates the cost to an average-sized livestock operation to comply with the new proposals would be $100,000. For dairy farmers, the Farm Bureau estimates the cost to be $800 to $1,500 per animal unit.
Some individual states however, are not waiting for approval of federal regulations. For example, Michigan state officials … who initially resisted a permit system … agreed to require some large livestock farms to obtain clean-water permits.
In North Carolina, state university researchers were given a July deadline to develop alternatives to hog lagoons. However researchers say they need another year.
Larry Ginter, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement: "We want action, not lip service."
And in Iowa, the nation's largest hog-producing state, protesters of mega-hog farms rallied at the state capitol … demanding legislators crack down on farm pollution.
Larry Ginter, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement: "We need clean water, clean air, good soil and a moratorium on these hog factories."
Governor Tom Vilsack, (D) Iowa: "No issue generates more discussion about the environment than hog confinements."
In his annual condition of the state address, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, agreed on the need for a solution to livestock pollution.
Governor Vilsack: "I renew my commitment to work with you to find a solution, whatever it may be -local control or tougher enforcement authority."
While the democratic governor may favor local control, the republicans "rule" both the House and Senate …
Rep. Christopher Rants (R) Iowa House Majority Leader: "One of the things we want to do is look at manure management."
While Iowa House leaders can identify solutions to the problem, their list of options doesn't seem to include local control.
David Yepsen, Des Moines Register: "I didn't hear the words local control come out of your mouth there. So does that mean you're not going to do anything on local control?"
Christopher Rants: "I don't think there's the sentiment to pass local control."