Factory farms got looser laws thanks to state lawmakers last year but as that deregulation becomes a reality, some worry about the extra animal waste that comes with it.
On Monday, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) heard from the public on water-quality regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), or large livestock farming operations.
Previously “medium-sized” factory farms that had as many as 699 dairy cows, 2,499 fully grown hogs, or up to 124,999 chickens had to get a state permit (SOP) if it met federal requirements, according to the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN).
That permit required these operations to have a state-approved plan for the storage, use, and disposal of animal waste.
- Tennessee Clean Water Network
- Two larges lagoons hold animal waste behind three barns on a factory farm.
Now, “medium-sized” factory farms like these don’t have to have a permit at all and no plan for its animal waste.
“The intent of the loophole legislation was to attract more businesses to Tennessee,” said Kathy Hawes, executive director of TCWN. “But factory farms that generate millions of pounds of animal waste are not the sort of businesses we want in a state known for its beautiful waterways.”
How much animal waste is generated by those medium-sized factory farms?
”Imagine a packed Neyland Stadium at UT vs Alabama,” reads a statement from the TCWN. “If those fans were trapped in there for 24 hours, they would generate more than 200,000 pounds of waste.
“The same amount of swine in that stadium? Over a million pounds in one day.”
If improperly stored, animal waste at these farms can contaminate groundwater and run off into natural waterways like lakes, rivers, and ponds.
The Sierra Club says factory-farm waste produces more than 168 gases, including hazardous chemicals like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane. Airborne particulate matter found near them can carry disease-causing bacteria, fungus, or other pathogens. These farms are also home to “infestations of flies, rats, and other vermin.”
When the bill was debated in the Tennessee General Assembly last year, Rep. Tim Wirgau (R-Buchanan) a pork producer in his district had an operation worth more than $100 million.
“I have farmers in my district in West Tennessee, as you know it is the largest agricultural part of the state, and they are coming to me saying, ‘I don’t want TDEC in my business,’ Wirgau said.
See the full debate here:
The new rules have been placed on
. The deadline to comment is July 25th.
“TDEC may have the last say when it comes to executing these laws, but TCWN will put its thoughts to paper first – for any Tennessean to read,” Hawes said. “TCWN will issue a comment letter about these rules to TDEC by their deadline date of July 25.”
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