DES MOINES, Iowa – Eight environmental groups – including the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement – filed a lawsuit earlier this week against the Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to see stricter regulations on air pollution for hog, cattle, and dairy livestock facilities across the state.
“I was part of a farming operation for 10 years in Story County,” said Cherie Mortice with ICCI. “So we did have a confinement operation, and my experience was our neighbors would beg us not to pump and spray particularly during good months in the year.”
In Iowa, where hog farming contributes to a $14 billion industry, supporters of hog farming say the claims are blown out of proportion.
“It’s very disappointing to us,” said Ron Birkenholz with the Iowa Pork Producers Association. “Hog farmers all over the state of Iowa are working very hard to be good neighbors in rural areas. They’re using bio-filters, they’re using vegetative tree buffers. They’re working very closely with coalitions to support Iowa’s farmers, and Iowa State University to property side-barn, so, we think the plaintiff’s claims are a little sensational and unfair.”
But Mortice says the evidence is there to prove otherwise, and the EPA should be doing more to counter it.
“Factory farms are releasing toxins into the air, that’s been established,” she said. “In fact, the EPA has acknowledged that that is a fact. But our EPA is failing to act. And so, they have the authority to set some standards, and they haven’t done it.”
Birkenholz says collaboration between the parties would be much more beneficial than a lawsuit, however.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you we don’t have odor – yes we do,” he said. “But it’s not constant, it’s not consistent, so, like I said, producers are working to properly side-barn so there’s less imposition on neighbors and so forth. The tree buffers really help, the bio-filters help.”
Mortice argues a lawsuit, though, does attract plenty of attention.
“We’re bringing to the light of day, the fact that there is ample research out there, that these pollutants are a health risk,” she said. “So, with the Sierra Club, and the Humane Society, and the Environmental Integrity Project. We are pushing this lawsuit to bring standards on these factory farms so there is oversight and so they’re going to be regulated.”