Factory Farms Are Raising a Stink

"Uncle Sam's Next Environmental Target: Farms" (Sept. 17) underscores the need for modern and effective controls on the factory farm animal waste that is a growing threat to the health of America's waterways and skies.

Unfortunately, the federal government's new plan to address pollution from industrial-sized hog, poultry and other livestock feeding operations merely recognizes that factory farms are serious polluters, but offers no realistic solutions.

Instead of cleaning up, the plan continues the practice of storing and disposing of manure in primitive open-air lagoons and sprayfields that contaminate groundwater and streams, while releasing odors and pollutants into the air. In addition, the plan sticks taxpayers and small growers with the costs of cleanup, while letting major livestock companies that actually own the animals off the hook.

As your paper's coverage clearly demonstrates, a national strategy is needed to replace current waste practices with new systems that reduce the impact of factory farms on water and air quality and on rural communities and the families that live in them. It's time for a temporary national moratorium on new or expanding factory farms until real pollution control plans are put in place.

Dan Whittle

Raleigh, NC

Senior attorney

Environmental Defense Fund

Regarding "Protecting Life Down on Colorado's Farms" (Sept. 9), there's a difference between present-day "farm factories" and the farms of the past.

There can be no objection to the odors of "natural" farming. Consider that until less than a century ago, this nation was primarily a nation of farms.

But a vast difference exists between farms with animals in pastures and the breeding factories today which house hogs, cattle, and chickens in stiflingly close quarters.

As a child I spent summers on the family dairy farm in Iowa, and during my teens, spent them on a cattle ranch in Montana. I loved the smell of both.

I have just returned from a weekend in Iowa during which I visited a hog production facility. It consisted of two, approximately 100-foot long, open-sided buildings with wire mesh fencing for walls to let in the air (and let out the rampant odors). The fumes were overwhelming. We also saw dairy and chicken operations run the same way. Aside from the offense to neighbors, there is very little consideration for the quality of life for the animals. Altogether it was enough to turn me off of meat.

Liz Barr Helmer

Elsah, IL

An 'A' for the bad grade

Max Schulz deserves an "A" for his opinion of the Department of Education in "After 20 Years, an 'F' " (Sept. 15). And so does The Christian Science Monitor for printing it. The point: What has it produced over the last 20 years except controversy and stress? It is a nice haven for educators who, believing that they have reinvented the wheel, have foisted their ideas on schools nationwide. We get enough of that at the state level.

Mary B. Allen

Sonora, Calif.

Reconsidering the Starr Report

The Monitor's Sept. 16 editorial cartoon suggests the Starr Report is pornographic. Is this a fair and sound suggestion? Would the country be better off without it? Should the depiction of sordid behavior in the report be suppressed? No, No, No!

If, as suggested, the report is pornographic, who carries the main burden of responsibility for it? That's right, President Clinton. It might well be the legal basis for lying under oath and obstruction of justice. Many of us who abhor pornography applaud the courage and perseverance required to produce it [the Starr Report].

Lawrence M. Tilton

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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