Things aren’t always as they seem. Take the following story for example.
Lois Alt is a nice grandmother who once worked as an electrician in Virginia. In order to live closer to her family, she left her career to become a farmer. She and her husband invested everything they had to buy their chicken farm. Since then, Lois has run a farm that she and others have called an environmental role model.
But one morning in June of 2011, federal and state officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed up at her farm for a surprise inspection. From Lois’ own words, she says an EPA official left that day with nothing but praise for how the farm was ran. So imagine Mrs. Alt’s surprise when months later she received a letter stating that the EPA’s survey found that her farm was polluting a nearby creek. To her dismay Mrs. Alt read that if she did not apply for a permit, that she would be fined $37,500 for EVERY DAY that she did not comply. Most chicken farmers don’t even earn that in a year. How could she afford to pay that? And even worse than a monetary fine, Mrs. Alt faced potential imprisonment!
In Mrs. Alt’s opinion the EPA was acting in an unjust matter, so she decided to fight them instead of applying for a permit. Imagine her surprise when the West Virginia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation decided to come to her rescue and represent her in court. Mrs. Alt, with the backing of the two organizations, sued the EPA. And she won, at least in a moral sense. The EPA backed away and repealed the demand for her to get a permit.
While that was a victory for Mrs. Alt, the American Farm Bureau wasn’t satisfied. They currently want to continue the fight. The AFB will not stop until they get a court decision that states that the EPA has no grounds to go to other farmers and declare they need permits for storm water runoff.
So is that where the story ends? No. Things are not always as they seem.
Remember how Mrs. Alt was being threatened with jail time and fines of $37,500 a day? Remember how she could avoid those punishments by applying for a permit? From all the money and energy invested by the farm bureaus to defend Mrs. Alt, wouldn’t you imagine that permit to be very costly? If so, you’d be wrong. The permit would have only cost Mrs. Alt $100 a year.
Why would the American Farm Bureau Federation put in so much effort to save Mrs. Alt $100?
The truth is that this case isn’t about Mrs. Alt, it’s about the thousands of farmers like her. Farmer that are contracted to the few meat corporations that control the industry – the industry the bureaus oversee. The farm bureaus are fighting to exempt 20,000 CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) from the Clean Water Act.
The largest source of water pollution in the US is animal manure that comes from farms. The manure pollution can cause mutations in aquatic wildlife. Even worse, it regularly creates dead zones where wildlife can no longer live.
It seems like the mega meat corporations and the farm bureaus care more about business as usual than they do about the environment.
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