PORK PRODUCERS' DIRECTOR TESTIFIES AT ADEM HEARING
The executive director of the Alabama Pork Producers, Brian Hardin, testified on behalf of Alabama farmers at a hearing Aug. 11 before the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. He said farmers don't welcome more regulations, but agreed to the original rules for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that ADEM enacted in April 1999.
"Those rules were the result of more than two years of public meetings, hearings and debate," Hardin said. "The original regulations that went into effect in April 1999 allowed for zero discharge of waste into any water source. Now, because of public pressure, we're back only 16 months later to tighten the screws on Alabama's pork producers. In these new regulations, the setbacks to waterways have been doubled and the setbacks from property lines have almost tripled. We can live with these new regulations, but enough is enough."
The hearing in Montgomery was to discuss extending setbacks for liquid waste lagoons for CAFOs and for other stricter regulations regarding land application of liquid waste.
About two dozen speakers, mostly from Sand Mountain in northeast Alabama, attended the meeting. All of those stated that the proposed changed didn't go far enough. Several urged ADEM officials to adopt a two-mile setback barrier for CAFO hog operations.
Richard Hulcher, chief of the ADEM's division that oversees CAFOs, said written comments about the proposed changes will be accepted through Aug. 18. He said he "categorically rejects" implications that ADEM failed to consult with the state Health Department and that odors alone pose a health threat. In his opening statement prior to testimony at the hearing, Hulcher said ADEM operates under statutes set by the Legislature and has no authority to establish a bond requirement for hog operators as some environmentalists want or to allow residents within a two-mile radius of a proposed hog farm to decide whether to allow it.
During his testimony, Hardin emphasized that the current Alabama regulations meet or exceed all federal standards. Under these proposed changes, a new or expanding large hog farm would be required to have a minimum of almost 3,000 contiguous acres. That would be a deterrent for anyone considering hog farming as a livelihood in Alabama, he said.
"We absolutely don't want anyone in business who does not operate within the law," Hardin said. "But we absolutely stand behind the farmers' rights to make a living for his family. As long as he abides by the law, he shouldn't have to live with the threat of lawsuits, public harassments or bear the costs of unnecessary regulations."
The full ADEM commission will review Friday's testimony and any written documents submitted by the Aug. 18 deadline. The commission will decide, probably in October whether to adopt, amend or reject the proposed changes, Hulcher said.