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"A Guest Editorial From Doug Rigney, Executive Director of the Alabama Farmers Federation"
Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686

MONTGOMERY In less than a month, Alabama farmers will be faced with the onset of new environmental regulations that will be time consuming and expensive. As part of the Water Quality Control Act mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, farmers and ranchers will have to do a better job of protecting the environment and keeping the records to prove their work.

Some have viewed the work as unnecessary and intrusive. In many cases it is just that. But this work also will provide the proof that could absolutely dispute many of the false claims made against farmers who raise livestock.

The Alabama Farmers Federation and other agriculture agencies around the state chose to participate in the development of the new state regulations for Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) when the issue was first discussed more than two years ago. Yes, we have an interest in protecting the rights of farmers, but not at the expense of the environment. Farmers are the original environmentalists, not to be confused with these so-called environmentalists who more accurately should be labeled extremists.

The media likes to refer to large livestock operations as "factory farms." Really, these large operations are the result of the public's demand for cheap, safe food, plus more government regulations. These issues have forced farm operations, including many family farms, to increase production C namely through concentrated numbers C in order to keep down their cost per animal unit.

One suggestion by these extremists called for a two-mile distance barrier between some animal feeding operations and adjoining property lines. That would require more than 10,000 contiguous acres with the livestock operation seated squarely in the middle of this huge tract of land. If these extremists had their way, livestock production in Alabama eventually would cease, and you surely would be eating chicken, pork or beef that was raised in a foreign country where there may be few, if any, environmental and food safety regulations.

Reporters and these extremists point to the need for tightened regulations by commonly referring to a mishap in North Carolina where the lagoon of a large hog operation burst and caused waste to contaminate surrounding waterways. What those same people failed to mention is that this incident occurred following back-to-back hurricanes in that area. They also don't tell you that environmental officials estimate the human waste dumped into these waterways, again caused by the hurricanes, was at least 100 times the amount of waste from the hog operation.

There's isn't likely to be a single farmer who is happy to see these new environmental regulations, especially in light of the fact they have no way to recover these costs when they sell livestock. Farmers have, however, been willing to do what is right to protect the environment and their way of life.

It is admirable that the new Alabama regulations meet or exceed all the regulations set out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and allow for ZERO discharge of animal waste into waterways. Instead of praising this fact, some groups have criticized farmers and their representatives for efforts to help Alabama become one of the first states to implement these new regulations. Some environmental officials have said that Alabama's regulations will be used as blueprints for other areas of the country. Instead of waiting years to comply with these new regulations, Alabama farmers will begin implementing the rules April 1.

Living in a state that ranks last in so many instances, Alabamians should be proud of the efforts by our true environmentalists (farmers) who are trying to do the right thing and make our state number one.

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