PennFuture Praises Rendell Administration's New Factory Farm Package as `First Step' in Protecting Health, Economy and Environment in Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) today praised Governor Rendell's newly announced factory farm package, the Governor's Plan for the Protection of Agriculture, Communities, and the Rural Environment (ACRE), as a first step in protecting Pennsylvanians' health, economy and environment. This plan was developed as a result of the Governor's New Year's Eve veto of legislation proposed by agribusiness that attempted to strip local governments of their rights to protect citizens from the pollution caused by factory farms. "This new initiative is an improvement over existing policies in protecting our citizens from factory farm pollution," said Jan Jarrett, director of outreach for PennFuture. "But it isn't perfect. We need to continue to make improvements to close loopholes and to make the policy realistically meet the demands factory farms place on Pennsylvania's streams, ground water and rural communities." A centerpiece of the proposal is the creation of a review board charged with mediating conflicts between large-scale livestock operations and local government ordinances. "The creation of this review board is preferable to the `take it or leave it' approach the legislature tried to impose last year," said Jarrett. "As long as the board includes representatives from local governments and the decisions of the review board can be appealed without limitation, we support the concept. PennFuture will be monitoring the performance of this board, however, to ensure that it is fair to local governments and their residents. "We are also encouraged by the proposal's emphasis on increasing enforcement of factory farms," Jarrett continued. "Our research and reviews have found that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had fallen far short in serious oversight and enforcement efforts to guarantee that factory farms are complying with existing environmental protection laws." A new proposal requiring factory farms to control odors from the barns is welcome and important, but incomplete. "Rural Pennsylvanians' complaints skyrocket not just from barn smells, but when manure is spread on fields. There are a number of practices that could minimize odor from manure disposal, and we believe odors from spreading should also be addressed," said Jarrett. The issue of spreading manure on fields is an area that needs further review, as PennFuture's recent report, "A Barrel Full of Holes: A Case Study of Pennsylvania Regulations on High Density Livestock Farm Pollution," showed. "We must not only track individual farm's disposal of animal sewage, but we have to know how much total manure is being spread within the watershed as a whole. Until we know the extent of the problem area-wide, we will be unable to guarantee the safety of our ground water and streams." One element of the proposal that PennFuture finds inadequate is the call for more research on the use of antibiotics at factory farms to promote growth. The practice is creating strains of super germs that cannot be successfully treated by using these antibiotics when humans need them. "There has been enough research," said Jarrett. "It's time to ban the use of antibiotics in healthy animals at factory farms." In a related manner, PennFuture will also be calling for significant changes to the proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation regulations and the Nutrient Management Program regulations, which have been released for public comment. The organization believes that these proposed changes should be strengthened to protect public health, the environment and the economy.
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