Factory farms don’t just smell bad. The hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and other airborne substances that drift from huge pits of decaying animal waste into surrounding communities are also known to trigger breathing problems and harm the wellbeing of residents. In many parts of the country, the largest, most industrialized, highest-emitting animal feeding operations tend to be located near low-income communities of color.
Under current law, farms are required to report the types and amounts of their air pollution emissions to the EPA and other agencies, if those emissions are larger than certain defined amounts. But in February 2018, a group of U.S. senators–including Virginia Senator Mark Warner (D)–introduced a bill that, if passed and signed into law, would exempt all farming operations from reporting their toxic air emissions from animal waste. The full text of this bill is available here, where you can also track its journey toward becoming law: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2421/text.
Not only would this bill allow factory farms to operate without giving their neighbors adequate information about their local impacts; it also would prevent the EPA and other regulators from gathering information that could help them enforce the law and craft policies that better protect vulnerable communities.
There are a few ways to state your opinion about this bill:
– Call your Senator’s office. While you’re at it, you can call your Representative and let them know what you think, in case the bill passes the Senate and then goes to the House of Representatives for a vote. (Click here if you need contact information: https://www.callmycongress.com/)
– Write to your Senators and Congressperson. You can write your own letter, or you can start with a pre-written note drafted by an advocacy group like Earthjustice and customize it if you wish: goo.gl/w8empa
Here are a few resources if you are interested in finding out more about this issue:
– A policy brief on pollution from industrialized livestock production, from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: http://www.fao.org/3/a-a0261e.pdf
– A National Geographic article related to this issue–specifically about hog farming in North Carolina: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141028-hog-farms-waste-pollution-methane-north-carolina-environment/
– Information from the University of Illinois about the impacts of last year’s court decision, which this bill is seeking to overrule: https://aces.illinois.edu/news/update-court-ruling-requires-some-livestock-and-poultry-farmers-report-emissions-november-15