The manurification of America
A perfect shitstorm: On some farms, animal manure can be a valuable asset, a way to improve the soil in the fields. But for today's massive factory farms — and, increasingly, the nation's air and waterways — manure is a huge liability, reports the Post's David A. Fahrenthold. Decomposing manure from factory farms is the U.S.'s fastest growing source of methane, while the nitrogen it contains is partly responsible for creating 230 "dead zones" along the U.S. coast. (There were only 16 in the 1950s.) In the 40 years since the first Earth Day, the nation has made great strides in reducing emissions of the gases that cause acid rain and emissions from sewage treatment plants (reducing each by around 50%). But the nitrogen load from manure has increased by at least 60 percent in that same time. The increasing centralization of meat, milk, and eggs production concentrates the wastes, making their management far more difficult. In addition, while emissions from cars or sewage treatment plants were governed by strict regulations, limits on farm emissions have been slow to be set, and then relatively weak when finally established. That might be changing, as the EPA announced recently that reducing pollution from manure is a new priority. And some private interests are attempting to turn manure into revenue: Perdue has a plant in Delaware that converts waste from some of the 568 million chickens raised in the region into fertilizer pellets for sale to golf courses and others. (Washington Post)
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