Oregon approves resolution seeking a higher standard for CAFOs

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday passed a resolution that requests the Ohio Department of Agriculture to require two proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) permits to require a higher standard to treat and dispose of manure at these facilities.
        Any manure from these facilities that are land applied must meet the phosphorous agronomic standards that apply to commercial fertilizer, according to the resolution sponsored by Councilwoman Sandy Bihn, who is also executive director of the Lake Erie Waterkeeper.
        The resolution requests that the Ohio Department of Agriculture  Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting require that the proposed permits for the Lamar Swine Farms’ new 9,600 swine/Maumee watershed and the Brown Swine Farms new 4,800 swing facilities in Williams County in the Tiffin/Maumee watershed treat the manure generated at these locations to the same standards as human sewage, and that soils where any manure is to be applied (treated or untreated) be required to meet the same phosphorous agronomic soil limits as commercial fertilizer facilities in Van Wert County in the Auglaize
Severe bloom
        In 2019, western Lake Erie experienced a severe harmful algal bloom in spite of the fact that there were less commercial fertilizer, phosphorus and nitrogen field applications. Many farmers did not plant  their fields because of heavy rain in the spring.  
        “This year, a little less than half of our farms in western Lake Erie and the Maumee Watershed did not plant,” said Bihn. “Therefore, there was far less phosphorous and nitrogen put on the land. Yet we had the fifth worst algal bloom in Lake Erie. And for those of us who live along the southern shore of Lake Erie, it was, for me, by far, the worst year since I have lived in my home since 1987. From the Fourth of July to Labor Day, there was green water and it was miserable. If you decrease the amount coming from commercial fertilizer and agriculture this year to the extent we did, and we don’t see relief from algal bloom, then something else has to happen.”
Economic harm
        The harmful algal blooms cost hundreds of millions of dollars and caused economic harm to the Lake Erie basin, including increased monitoring, treatment, capital costs for water treatment plants to deal with algae in the source water, decreased property values and a reduction in revenue generated by fishing and boating, and beach closures.
        In the 1980s, the meat and dairy industries changed from pasteurizing animals to confining animals in order to bring them closer to market.
        This change to large continued animal feeding operations significantly reduced the number of family farms raising livestock. More importantly, it radically changed the way manure has been disposed of, which puts the lake and bay at risk.
        The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Annex 4, identifies the Maumee Watershed as the most significant contributor of nutrients to western Lake Erie.
Best practices
        While investments in best management practices to reduce nutrient runoff in the Maumee/Western Lake Erie Watershed are helpful, the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in these practices are not showing nutrient reductions, according to former EPA Director Craig Butler.
        While improving best farming practices have led to a reduction in commercial fertilizer phosphorus applications in the Western Basin of Lake Erie, the increase in CAFO operations and direct manure applications have “kept us from recognizing the benefits of those changing practices,” states the resolution.
        A March 2019 report by the Environmental Working Group estimates that the number of CAFOs in the Maumee Watershed has increased by 126 percent between 2005 and 2018. The amount of manure has increased by 41 percent and the amount of phosphorous by 62 percent for the same time period.
        The city will send the resolution to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, to Governor Mike DeWine, State Rep. Michael Sheehy and Sen. Teresa Fedor.


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