Group backs moratorium on 'factory' livestock farms

Group backs moratorium on 'factory' livestock farms

CHAMPAIGN — An environmental advocacy group is calling for support of proposed Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations that would put new requirements on large-scale livestock farms.

Seeking to control waste runoff and spills into streams, the Environment Illinois Research and Education Center is endorsing a moratorium on new or expanded "factory farms" that raise thousands of animals at a time.

It's also calling for restrictions on the storage of manure and the application of it to farmland.

Specifically, the group wants to prohibit applying animal waste to land in winter when frozen soil can't absorb manure. The group also wants to ban application of manure in any areas where the waste can easily migrate to groundwater.

At a Thursday press conference in Champaign, Environment Illinois also advocated:

— Requiring factory farms to get water pollution permits.

— Requiring factory farms to register their location and size with the state.

— Ensuring that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has the resources to inspect factory farms and refer cases to the attorney general's office for prosecution.

Of the 30,000 livestock operations in Illinois, about 500 are large "concentrated animal feeding operations," commonly known as factory farms.

Most of those are hog farms, said Lisa Nikodem, campaign director for Environment Illinois.

In Illinois, most factory farms are in the western part of the state, where the land tends to be hillier and less suited for crops, said Stacy James, water resources scientist for the Champaign-based Prairie Rivers Network.

But there have been instances of waste spills in East Central Illinois.

Since 2002, at least 80 "serious instances" of factory farm polluting Illinois waterways have occurred according to state documents, Environment Illinois stated in a 50-page report released this week.

The report cited a 2012 manure spill into Beaver Creek in northeast Iroquois County that resulted in the deaths of 63,000 fish.

Illinois EPA identified the source of pollution as thousands of gallons of liquid swine waste that had spilled from equipment on a nearby field where the waste was being applied as fertilizer.

Three years earlier, another Iroquois County swine farm released more than 200,000 gallons of liquid swine waste into Spring Creek, killing 110,000 fish, the report said.

To help address the problem of pollution from livestock operations, the Illinois Pollution Control Board proposed new restrictions in December. It took public comment on them in January and has until December of this year to decide whether to adopt them, Nikodem said.

Environmental groups — including the Prairie Rivers Network and the Environmental Law and Policy Center — have generally favored the proposed restrictions.

Opposition to the proposed rules has come from a coalition made up of the Illinois Pork Producers Association, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Beef Association and the Illinois Milk Producers Association.

The proposed regulations were endorsed Thursday not only by Environment Illinois, but also by local farmer David Bane of Sidney-based Bane Family Meats and by Champaign Mayor Don Gerard.

In a related development, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, recently introduced House Bill 5637, which would amend the Livestock Management Facilities Act.

It would require owners of new or expanded livestock facilities to notify nearby property owners of their plans. It would also require operators of those facilities to submit waste management plans to the state and for those plans to be made public.

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