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Wisconsin makes control of nonpoint source pollution mandatory; Smithfield-Murphy merger attacked

posted on January 28, 2000


EVER SINCE THE CLEAN WATER ACT WAS PASSED IN THE 1970s, FEDERAL AND STATE OFFICIALS HAVE WORKED TO TRY AND PROTECT AMERICA'S WATERS FROM POLLUTION.

WHILE POTENTIAL OFFENDERS INCLUDE LEECHING LANDFILLS AND LEAKING FUEL TANKS, OTHER SOURCES OF POLLUTION, LIKE URBAN STORM SEWERS AND FARM FIELDS, ARE TOUGHER TO TRACK. IN MANY REGIONS, THESE SO-CALLED NONPOINT SOURCES OF POLLUTION GO LARGELY UNCHECKED.

THIS WEEK, THE WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES PROPOSED STRICT GUIDELINES THAT, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WOULD APPLY SPECIFICALLY TO NONPOINT SOURCE POLLUTION.

THE PLAN CALLS FOR THE STATE OF WISCONSIN TO PROVIDE FUNDS TO HELP FARMS AND SMALL COMMUNITIES COMPLY.

UNDER THE PROPOSAL THE STATE WOULD:

* MAKE CONTROL OF NONPOINT SOURCE POLLUTION MANDATORY, RATHER THAN VOLUNTARY AS IT IS CURRENTLY.

* THE STATE WOULD ALSO ESTABLISH STANDARDS FOR LIVESTOCK WASTE MANAGEMENT AND APPLICATION OF FARM CHEMICALS.

* THE PLAN WOULD REQUIRE FARMERS, MUNICIPALITIES, AND URBAN DEVELOPERS AND CONTRACTORS TO CONTROL SOIL EROSION AT THEIR SITES.

* AND, THE PROPOSAL CALLS FOR THE CONTROL OF PETROLEUM AND OTHER CONTAMINANTS IN STORM SEWERS.

HEARINGS ON THE PROPOSED GUIDELINES ARE PENDING.

LAST SEPTEMBER SMITHFIELD FOODS, AMERICA'S LARGEST HOG PRODUCER AND PROCESSOR, ANNOUNCED PLANS TO PURCHASE MURPHY FAMILY FARMS, THE NATION'S NUMBER TWO PRODUCER.

THE PROPOSED 290-MILLION DOLLAR DEAL SENT SHOCK WAVES THROUGH AN INDUSTRY ALREADY ENDURING GROWING PAINS AND LIQUIDATION.

IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM MILLER FILED SUIT TO STOP THE DEAL, CONTENDING IT WOULD VIOLATE AN IOWA LAW PROHIBITING PACKERS FROM OWNING LIVESTOCK.

EARLIER THIS MONTH MISSOURI'S ATTORNEY GENERAL FILED A SIMILAR LAWSUIT IN HIS STATE.

ACCORDING TO MILLER, IF THE DEAL WAS CONSUMMATED, SMITHFIELD FOODS WOULD CONTROL PORK PRODUCTION AT ABOUT 300 SITES IN IOWA, WHERE PRODUCERS ARE UNDER CONTRACT WITH MURPHY FAMILY FARMS.

THIS WEEK, A HUMBOLDT COUNTY, IOWA JUDGE RESPONDED BY ISSUING A TEMPORARY INJUNCTION BLOCKING THE SALE, RULING IT WOULD VIOLATE IOWA'S CORPORATE FARMING LAWS.

OFFICIALS WITH MURPHY FAMILY FARMS CLAIM THEY'RE DISAPPOINTED WITH THE DECISION AND THEY'RE TAKING THE INJUNCTION SERIOUSLY.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS ALSO EVALUATING A SERIES OF RECENT AGRICULTURAL MEGA-MERGERS.

MIRRORING LEGISLATION INTRODUCED BY U.S. SENATORS RICHARD LUGAR OF INDIANA AND TOM HARKIN OF IOWA, THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HAS CREATED A NEW POSITION TO HELP ENFORCE ANTI-TRUST LAWS AS THEY PERTAIN TO AGRICULTURE.

FARM ANTITRUST TALK IS GETTING SERIOUS AT STATEHOUSES, AS WELL. AN IOWA LAWMAKER HAS PROPOSED A BILL CREATING A "SUPPORT FAMILY FARMS" LICENSE PLATE FOR MOTOR VEHICLES. THERE WOULD BE A THIRTY-FIVE DOLLAR FEE TO PURCHASE THE SPECIAL PLATES, WITH THE MONEY GOING TO THE IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE TO PURSUE ANTITRUST CASES IN AGRICULTURE. THE SPONSOR OF THE BILL SAYS THE FUNDS WOULD HELP REGULATORS -- QUOTE -- "GET MORE PROACTIVE."


Tags: agriculture Energy/Environment news pollution Wisconsin