August 23, 2008
The Tribune’s View ; Cafo
By HENRY J. WATERS III
As our headline writer cleverly put it atop our story Wednesday, "Arrow Rock breathes easier as hog plan fizzles," announcing the failure of local hog farmer Dennis Gessling to follow through on plans to build a concentrated animal feeding operation within two miles of the historic village and state park at Arrow Rock.
This is good news for those who worried offensive odor might interfere with public enjoyment and attendance, but it gets the state nowhere closer to a lucid policy about CAFO control.
As a longtime member of the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre board of directors, I have been personally concerned about possible adverse effects from the impending hog operation. But as a resident of the state, I can seen the other side. The legitimate selfish interests of the Arrow Rock types are in conflict with legitimate selfish interests of people all over Missouri who want to engage in animal agriculture, one of our major industries and a vital contributor to the world food supply.
Without being boringly repetitive, nobody yet knows how to regulate odor. Water and air quality - the other threats posed by CAFOs - are relatively easy to measure, but odor is in the nostril of the sniffer.
All of us might agree when it gets bad enough, but how is a regulator to predict any such thing ahead of time, given advancing techniques for mitigating bad smells emanating from animal waste? Certain odor characteristics can be measured by devices I will call smell-o-meters. Some suggest allowing CAFO construction within reasonable limits and then measuring the resulting smell at the actual target site, but nobody has determined legal limits according to the meter, leaving us with the prospect of an official odor committee walking the streets of a place like Arrow Rock, sniffing in unison then meeting in solemn session, rather like a court hearing, and coming to a conclusion.
If this sort of process meets the usual standards of equal protection and fairness under the law, we will have to tweak our corporate thinking.
Odor is such a subjective matter it's hard to apply normal law enforcement techniques to its control. The usual way for government to monitor such alleged nuisances is through customer complaints, but the goal of CAFO opponents is to prevent rather than react.
We do not yet know how to regulate CAFOs, but Arrow Rock worriers can rest easy. I have no idea why Gessling decided not to proceed, but his inaction certainly resolves a conflict that was bound to remain bitter. Maybe he just said to hell with it, contemplating an easier way to make a living.
Henry J. Waters III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune
We are told that Greece has the longest national anthem - it has 158 verses. Now we know why baseball never caught on there. They'd never get a game started.
Originally published by HENRY J. WATERS III, Publisher, Columbia Daily Tribune.
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