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‘Factory Farms’ Must Obtain Pollution Permits

<i> From Reuters</i>

America’s largest and heaviest-polluting “factory farms” will be required to obtain federal pollution discharge permits under regulations announced Tuesday by the Clinton administration.

The permit system is aimed at arresting a growing problem of water pollution caused by runoff of manure from huge farms where thousands of cows, chickens or pigs are raised.

Environmentalists said the plan fails to do enough to protect water purity and urged a moratorium on new “livestock factories” until tough standards are in place.

The American Farm Bureau, the largest U.S. farm group, said the government’s real motive was to control land use and that manure was a proven problem in only 200 of the 3,000 counties nationwide. The group also said that costly regulations would drive many small farms out of business and encourage big U.S. livestock producers to move overseas.

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America’s 450,000 livestock farms produce 1.4 billion tons of animal waste each year.

The waste can contaminate drinking water, spread disease and kill fish.

“These pollutants . . . do pose big risks to our health and to our environment and also to our economy,” Vice President Al Gore said in announcing the regulations.

The rules urge all livestock operations to write plans to control their manure and put them into use by 2009, although for small farmers compliance will be voluntary.

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Farmers with a herd of 1,000 or more cows or other animals producing an equivalent amount of waste, and those who empty animal waste directly into waterways, will be required to obtain discharge permits.

The regulations also apply to large corporations that contract with smaller farmers to raise livestock.

Owners of large or environmentally risky herds represent about 5% of U.S. livestock farmers, or about 22,500 operations.

In his fiscal 2000 budget, President Clinton proposed $100 million in aid to help farmers control animal waste, and $157 million in aid to states to fight runoff. He said states will receive $100 million this year.

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