U.S. Rep. James Gibbons of Nevada last week joined a lengthening list of cosponsors of a Texas lawmaker’s effort to protect massive manure heaps and ponds on corporate farms from environmental regulation.

House Resolution 4341, introduced by Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, would exempt manure from the provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, better known as the Superfund Act. The measure is being heavily promoted by corporate agriculture lobbyists.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the National Grange, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other groups are waging a campaign for H.R. 4341.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said, “Any attempt to further regulate America’s farms and ranches under the Superfund law, which was designed to clamp down on toxic industrial polluters, is a mockery of congressional intent. Such an effort is not acceptable and can not be tolerated.”

But critics say that the corporate farm industry is an industrial polluter, and that factory farms are hiding behind family farms for protection.

A Sierra Club position paper says, “America’s drinking water, rivers and lakes are at risk from giant, corporate-owned factory farms. These concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) confine thousands of animals in one facility and produce staggering amounts of animal waste in the process (2.7 trillion pounds per year). Too often, this waste leaks into our rivers and streams, fouling our air, contaminating our drinking water and spreading disease. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hog, chicken and cattle waste has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.”

Food and Water Watch said in a statement that corporate farmers should not be above the law: “Factory farms should be regulated through the Superfund law … which is designed to protect the public from hazardous waste, and to hold companies accountable for pollution.”

And not all farm and ranch lobbies are jumping on board with the factory farms. “Unfortunately, while the bill has laudable purposes for livestock in general, it will benefit only a small portion of the horse industry as presently drafted,” wrote the American Horse Council in a memo to its members.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...