CAFO — Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation — and Air Quality

Concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs, are an efficient way of raising animals for slaughter. These CAFO effect air quality, air pollution, and water pollution. Increasing pressure is being put on CAFO corporate farms to change their ways because of the impact on the rural lifestyle, but the Farm Bureau seems to be behind much of the endurance of the CAFO business approach. The benefits of CAFO seem to be more for the operators than the animals or the environment and the rest of the community. CAFO and air quality don’t seem to go together.

What do CAFO & air quality have to do with each other? What do cows and air quality have to do with each other? CAFO, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, is an operation that confines thousands of animals in one central factory-like setting, like a feedlot. One problem is they produce huge amounts of animal waste; EPA estimates about 2.7 trillion pounds of waste each year. What does this do to the air quality? Plenty.

The CAFO-poultry, CAFO-hogs and other CAFO-factory farms are allowing very dangerously high amounts of gasses to be released into the air, polluting it in a variety of ways. In these high numbers, the natural methods of cleaning the air aren’t effective. Outdoor air is normally capable of being corrected through natural processes, having pollutants removed from the air quite effectively. With this quantity of waste, the balance just can’t be restored fast enough.
Here is a fact to consider: The EPA has estimated that animal waste from cows, hogs and chickens has contaminated 35,000 miles of rivers in twenty-two states, and contaminated groundwater in seventeen states. This alone shows just what type of damage can be done to the water we drink. The extent of the pollution is frightening, and immense amounts of damage will be done unless it is controlled. These facts are true about air pollution as well.
There are many laws that regulate the use of air toxins. The Clean Air Act should be able to help monitor the problems with factory farms, but the process is slow. In an effort to learn more about the problem, the Bush Administration passed a ruling that offered to allow factory farm owners off the hook from EPA charges, if they allowed the EPA to monitor their pollution standards. Unfortunately, this has slowed the ability of the EPA to take action against these operations, therefore slowing the process of finding a solution to the problem. There are several scholarly articles for CAFO issues — 2005 the current system fails the people; check them out on the internet to get a better understanding of the situation. Basically, the current system benefits concentrated animal feeding operations instead of helping control the pollutants in the air, soil and water that millions of people drink.
The good news, if there is any, is that steps are being taken. Although the EPA seems to be at a standstill on what to do, many states have the ability to stop or slow these operations. For example, in Kansas, a state typically agriculture friendly, they have attempted to stop all CAFOs. In Oklahoma, they have put in place mandates and other pollution controls to help control what the CAFOs are doing. The problem lies in the simple fact that too much waste in one area produces a wide range of air pollutants. If the waste was spread out, as it is supposed to be — as it is in nature — would be no problem.
Air quality has suffered incredibly since the installations of CAFOs — concentrated animal feeding operations — but is slowly improving through actions in local government.

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