Report Confirms Severity Of Air Pollution From Factory Farms

On December 12th, Environmental Defense praised a new report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that confirms the need to reduce air pollution generated by factory farms to curb serious public health and environmental impacts. The group called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to follow the report's recommendations and take immediate action to reduce dangerous emissions of major air pollutants. On December 16, EPA is scheduled to release new regulations for livestock production, which are unlikely to address air emissions. USDA is also handing out hundreds of millions of dollars to factory farms to manage their manure better, but these funds have so far done little to control air emissions.

"The NAS report confirms that factory farms are polluting the air we breathe and the waters in which we swim and fish and provides a scientifically sound method to measure environmental impacts," said Joe Rudek, senior scientist with Environmental Defense, who reviewed the report for NAS. "In the past, industry has hidden behind claims of insufficient science to delay action. Now the industry's excuse for inaction has evaporated."

"Unfortunately, both EPA and USDA have done almost nothing so far to address air pollution, a huge part of the factory farm problem," said Rudek. "Because the pollution that evaporates from factory farms comes back down in rainfall and contaminates our water, it makes little sense for EPA to issue new water rules for factory farms that do nothing to curb air pollutants. If EPA's rules only focus on spills and the use of manure on land, they could actually encourage factory farms to increase air pollution. That would mean more noxious odors and unhealthy air for downwind neighbors."

"USDA may spend as much as $2 billion in the next few years to help livestock operators deal with manure," said Suzy Friedman, agriculture policy analyst with Environmental Defense. "In the past, almost none of this money has helped control air pollution and odor. USDA has instead focused too much on bigger lagoons that are a part of the problem. This report should spur USDA to help farmers manage manure more comprehensively. The good news is that some of the technologies to control air pollution and odor can also turn manure into electricity and help farmers with their bottom lines."

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