Farming as an environmental issue
By Dylan Matthews
Good news out of the EPA today, as the agency has settled a lawsuit from the National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance by agreeing to tougher regulation of factory farms:
Animal waste, bacteria and parasites from chickens, pigs and cows drain into streams and rivers, posing a threat to human health.
The E.P.A. has agreed to propose a rule that will require concentrated animal feeding operations to report detailed data to the agency every five years, including information on type and capacity of manure storage facilities, quantity of manure generated, available land acreage to apply manure and how excess manure is disposed of.
Although not a carbon issue, this does set a good precedent for EPA involvement in regulating emissions from livestock operations. It's common knowledge at this point that meat production is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases, but discussions of new EPA rules governing emissions tend to ignore the issue. If environmental groups are getting serious about challenging meat producers in this case, perhaps they can on climate issues as well.
What's more, environmental groups have an important ally here. Though not directly involved in this case, the Humane Society of the United States has gone from a quiet advocacy group to a remarkably effective lobbying operation, as detailed in a great Paul Starobin piece in National Journal this past week. It's a remarkable achievement for a group lacking a natural constituency, and one that, unlike environmental groups, doesn't have many other well-funded groups to work with. Given some coordination, a green/Humane alliance on tougher factory farm regulation could be pretty formidable.
Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard and a researcher at The Washington Post.
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