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SUBMITTED by Susan P. Gateley, Citizens for Responsible Agricultural Practice (11-Feb-2010)

Group organizes to promote increased oversight of large factory farms in Wayne County

As a recent CBS nightly news story highlighted the human health hazards created by heavy antibiotic use in factory farms and feed lots, a group of Wayne County residents from Rose, Huron and Wolcott are expressing concern over construction of a new manure storage lagoon in the town of Butler. A large dairy farm plans to build a ten million gallon open storage area near the town of Rose wellhead, the town's source of drinking water. Nancy Kasper of Huron points out the lagoon is also situated near a major wetland area heavily used by migratory birds. She asks what about “the effects of exposure on threatened or endangered migratory bird species that will land on the lagoon and thus spread the pathogens wherever they go?" These she points out are pathogens that can also impact humans.

Large CAFOS ( concentrated animal feeding operations ) have been lightly regulated in the past thanks to the 'right to farm' laws that have been passed in various communities throughout the State. However, the Wayne County group joins other rural citizen groups demanding that intensive industrialized agricultural practices require more oversight and regulation than the hundred cow dairy or small pastured beef operations that were more common when the right to farm legislation first began to be initiated. Right to farm laws have a legitimate role in protecting agricultural activity in the landscape of low density housing and residential 'sprawl' that now spreads 40 miles or more outward from Rochester and Syracuse.

However, advocates of regulation point out that huge CAFOS that generate manure from 3000 animals pose serious threats to ground water used for drinking by rural residents and to su rface water quality. Much of the farm land in the eastern part of the county consists of rolling hills and slopes. When liquid manure is placed on these fields especially during fall or winter when plants are not taking up nutrients, large amounts of waste enter the watersheds of Port and Sodus Bay. The fertilizer then promotes the grown of algae and 'weeds' the following spring and summer. Blue green algae blooms have been increasing on the Great Lakes in recent years. These are fueled in large part by agricultural runoff and can sometimes produce potent toxins. A few years ago a dog died in Fulton after drinking from a small lake tainted by blue green algae.

Late summer methane release from anaerobic rotting weed on bottom of the Lake just east of Port Bay

The excess weeds and algae also go to the bottom and rot in late summer leading to the creation of 'dead zones' and promoting outbreaks of deadly botulina bacteria. In 2006 a botulism outbreak on the south shore of the lake killed thousands of migrating loons and other fish eating birds. Botulism poisoning also endangers humans who contact dead animals killed by it.

Excess nutrients entering Lake Ontario from CAFOs affect its water quality. Many towns and cities draw their drinking water from the lake. (In fact over 40 million people depend on the Great Lakes for their water). Chlorination  by-products which occur when chlorine is used on water that contains a heavy concentration of organic nutrients from urban or agricultural runoff have been linked to cancer. Peer reviewed studies also suggest that more than 137,000 pregnancies are at increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects from these compounds each year.

The Wayne County group believes in the right of farms to produce wholesome healthy food, but also believes it is vital to protect priceless drinking water for future generations.


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