Have a Cow

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that livestock farming generates two-thirds of the ammonia emissions in the nation, but they're considering dropping a rule requiring these farms to report their toxic gas emissions thanks to pressure from lobbyists for factory farms, and lawmakers who know they'll be asking those same farms for campaign contributions this year.

The EPA's own scientists have told them ammonia is a dangerous gas, and advocates for people living near the farms say the disclosure requirement is "one of the few tools rural communities have for holding large livestock operations accountable for the pollution they produce." Not to mention that the environmental impact of these factory farms -- documented in disclosures like these -- is a cornerstone of the argument put forth by family farmers to move away from corporate farming and towards more sustainable, small-scale agriculture.

Oh, that pesky public interest. It's not writing enough checks these days -- but livestock operations sure are. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Cattleman's Beef Association and agri-business giants like Tyson have combined for over $2 million in campaign contributions to congressional candidates this cycle. This sector has given more than $33 million since 1989 and of course have laid out millions for a lobbying operation.

If the EPA can't even track how much ammonia these farms are putting out, how can they look at ways to regulate it, and put in place measures to protect the public from the harmful effects of these emissions?