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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 10 - 16, 2003

Opinion Columns

When will governor act on dairy odors?

Guest opinion by Bert Redfern

Bert Redfern is the Confined Animals Feeding Operations (CAFO) Accountability Project Chair

Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOS) have plagued Idaho’s rural communities more than a decade. Little has been done to resolve problems.

We’ve gone to all levels of government for relief and found none. We’ve participated in the public process for numerous rules and regulations, none of which have brought resolutions, including county livestock confinement ordinances, waste management guidelines, nutrient management plans, odor rules and a failed attempt to get hydrogen sulfide standards. For more than two years we’ve attempted to get criteria and standards for odor rules, but progress is too slow in coming.

While we’ve attempted to invoke change in regulations, more dairies have moved in, others expanded, and problems have compounded.

CAFOs are supposedly good for the economy. Cow numbers have tripled the last decade, but dairy operations have declined more than 50 percent. Small dairies go out of business, precious farmland is dried up for new CAFOS as water rights are transferred on paper. Farmers struggle to hold onto their water seasonally, while industrial dairies draw down water year round. Degradation of the land through constant waste application, degradation of air and water quality, degradation of neighborhoods, declining property values, depletion of precious natural resources, all these are negative factors that aren’t added into the equation of how great CAFOS are for Idaho’s economy.

It appears that no one’s looking out for the health and welfare of the people rather than the profits of the industry. Governor Kempthorne promised citizens they wouldn’t have to endure another summer of stench in January 2002, but the stench has continued for two more summers. Had he taken immediate action to solve this problem he might not have needed to return, but on Aug. 26 he was back to discuss the same problems with the same citizens and more. Nearly 80 people showed up for his brief visit, coming from Hagerman, Buhl, Filer and the Northside.

The governor spent three hours with three problematic operators, but only gave the public one hour. This alone speaks volumes about whom the Governor sides with. It’s time to provide immediate relief while trying to figure out a permanent solution. This time he’s promised no flush systems will be allowed for new CAFOs. But there are no laws on the book to support such action, so how will he honor that promise?

People have been forced to endure an intolerable situation for far too long. In one lone neighborhood to two troublesome CAFOs, 16 families have been forced out during the last four years. Others can’t escape because no one would buy their homes or they’re tied to the land through farming. Operations that have habitually caused problems for neighborhoods should be forced to reduce their herds until problems subside. The governor should enact a statewide moratorium on new and expanding operations, while conducting an independent survey of existing operations. Determining the true number of cows, their locations and proximity to available land for waste application is the only way to ensure that we haven’t already reached the saturation point by this industry. A full assessment of the existing situation must take place if the governor truly intends to resolve problems. It’s time the rights of the many be protected over the rights of the few. It’s time for a change, its time for serious action.

Not one more neighborhood should be sacrificed for the profits of another CAFO.

Let’s hope the governor heard the message loud and clear this time, because he sure missed the point when last he paid citizens suffering from CAFOs a visit.



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