Environmental Initiatives

Media Inquiries

If you are a journalist and would like additional information, please visit the Media Contacts page.

Media Contacts

Subscribe to News Feeds

Pew offers news delivered to your desktop via RSS feed. Subscribing is easy. To learn more or get started, follow the link below.

Subscribe to News Feeds

For The Record

When Pew’s work is questioned or criticized we respond through letters to the editor or op-eds.

Read Pew's Responses

Budget Cuts Tap out Safe Drinking Water

Author(s)

Karen Steuer

Author(s) Description

Karen Steuer is Director of Government Relations for the Pew Environment Group.

In all of the debate on Capitol Hill about cutting budgets, you wouldn't expect water to get a great deal of attention. But it should.

The Continuing Resolution set to emerge from the House this week makes drastic reductions in support for critical functions of the Environmental Protection Agency—the federal entity charged with protecting water supplies for hundreds of millions of Americans. But slashing the EPA's budget, without shifting legal and financial responsibility to polluters, will leave America's fisheries, drinking water supplies and coastal areas vulnerable. No one else is guarding the door to the henhouse—quite literally, it turns out, when it comes to water pollution.

Industrial animal agriculture operations in the U.S. generate up to one billion tons of manure annually, most of which is applied—untreated—to cropland. As a result, according to the EPA, drinking water sources for an estimated 43 percent of the U.S. population have suffered some level of pathogen contamination associated with livestock operations, and 29 states have identified livestock feeding operations as a source of water pollution. In Congressional testimony, the U.S. Geological Survey identified livestock manure as the single largest source of nitrogen pollution in major rivers across the country, including rivers in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, California and Wisconsin.

As food animal production in the U.S. has shifted from family farms to a concentrated industrial production system, efforts to protect the environment, rural communities and water supplies have not kept pace. These massive operations, housing thousands of hogs or hundreds of thousands of chickens in tight quarters, produce manure and other waste on an equally large scale, but continue to be regulated under a now-antiquated set of rules designed for small family farms. Corporations that own slaughterhouses, packing facilities and livestock often contract with farmers to raise the animals to the point of slaughter and argue that they bear no liability for compliance with Clean Water Act permits during the production period. The companies own the animals; the farmers are stuck with the manure.

Under this system, corporate owners have not been obligated to provide any financial assistance to farmers for the costs of waste treatment and disposal. As a result, local water utilities spend millions monitoring and treating this water pollution, and treasured gems like the Chesapeake Bay suffer from livestock-related pollution, while taxpayers pay the cleanup costs through EPA water programs. These programs are now on the chopping block.

Congressional efforts to find legitimate savings through efficiency and the elimination of waste in government programs are of course laudable. But members of Congress also have a responsibility to ensure that alternatives to government spending are identified so the health and welfare of millions of Americans is not jeopardized.

When it comes to water pollution, the polluters—and not the general public—should be responsible for cleaning up their own waste. It¹s time for industrial animal agriculture to pay its fair share.
 

Related News and Resources

  • The Business of Broilers: Hidden Costs of Putting a Chicken on Every Grill

    • Report
    • Dec 20, 2013
    From chicken breeding to grocery store packaging, the 21st-century broiler chicken business is possibly the most industrialized sector in livestock agriculture. The industry is dominated by a handful of large corporations that own the birds, feed mills, cooking operations, and transportation networks.

    More

  • Pew Report Highlights Hidden Costs of Industrialized Poultry Production

    • Press Release
    • Dec 20, 2013
    Industrialized poultry production in the United States delivers considerable efficiencies, but the same system carries significant, hidden costs for the environment, for many communities where chickens are raised for industrial production, and sometimes for the chicken growers themselves, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    More

  • Organizations Urge President Obama to Protect our Nation's Waterways

    • Other Resource
    • Oct 28, 2013
    More than 350 organizations and more than 150 small businesses have urged President Obama to protect our nation's waterways from animal waste produced by industrial livestock operations.

    More

  • Pew Disappointed in EPA Plan to Study Impact of Industrial Livestock Operations on Chesapeake Bay

    • Press Release
    • Jun 05, 2013
    The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it will assess the effectiveness of state efforts to keep livestock waste out of the Chesapeake Bay. In response, The Pew Charitable Trusts is urging President Barack Obama to fulfill his 2008 commitment to “strictly regulate pollution from large factory livestock farms.”

    More

  • EPA Delays Action on Regulations for Animal Agriculture

    • Other Resource
    • May 21, 2013
    Pollution from animal agriculture is threatening our nation’s waterways. Each year, livestock operations in the United States generate up to a billion tons of manure, much of it from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

    More

  • Pew Responds to Op-Ed in the the Rapid City Journal

    • Opinion
    • Apr 24, 2013
    Josh Reichert responds to an op-ed published April 8, 2013 in the Rapid City Journal which was critical of Pew's animal agriculture work.

    More

  • Pew Urges Maryland Lawmakers to Reject Chesapeake Bay Pollution Exemption Bill

    • Press Release
    • Apr 02, 2013
    The Maryland House of Delegates’ Environmental Matters Committee today will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 1029, establishing the Maryland Agricultural Certainty Program. In anticipation of the hearing, Pew has released the following statement.

    More

  • Pew Testimony in Opposition to SB 1029

    • Other Resource
    • Mar 19, 2013
    Velma Smith of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to reform animal agriculture testified before the Maryland State Senate on the Maryland Agriculture Certainty Program.

    More

  • Lack of Information on Livestock Facilities Spells Trouble in Illinois and Beyond

    • Opinion
    • Oct 16, 2012
    The Chesapeake Bay is not the only area affected by pollution from CAFOs. In Illinois, for example, water quality problems have caused real concern about that state’s regulation of the rapidly growing hog industry.

    More

  • Fair Share for Clean Water

    • Opinion
    • Oct 14, 2012
    An editorial by The Frederick News-Post ("Cost of the bay," Sept. 7) raised a good point regarding the need for all neighboring states to share the responsibility of controlling pollutants entering the Chesapeake Bay.

    More

  • Remarks from Karen Steuer on CAFO Pollution and the Public Outcry for Stronger Regulation

    • Other Resource
    • Oct 11, 2012
    Karen Steuer, who directs the Pew Environment Group’s campaign to reform animal agriculture, made the following remarks today on the strong public support, and the critical need, for a new rule to limit pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations.

    More

  • The Chesapeake's Manure Problem

    • Opinion
    • Sep 04, 2012

    2012-09-04 What do 2,700 plant species, 525 species of fin and shell-fish, and more than 17 million people have in common? They are all residents of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The bay provides economic benefits of more than $33 billion a year from recreational and commercial activities, including the ha

    More

  • Infographic: Cleaning Up CAFO Permit Rules

    • Other Resource
    • Aug 27, 2012

    Some of our Nation’s most prized waterways—such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River—as well as streams, estuaries and wells, are at risk from pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

    More

  • Cleaning Up Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Permit Rules

    • Data Visualization
    • Aug 27, 2012

    Additional Resources Pollution Coming to a Waterway Near You? Action Alert Animal Agriculture Must Do Its Share to Protect Our Waterways Cleaning Up the Chesapeake Bay Some of our nation’s most prized waterways—such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake

    More

  • Pollution: Coming to a Waterway Near You?

    • Other Resource
    • Aug 20, 2012
    The health of many waterways, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes—and the livelihoods, flora, and fauna they support— are in jeopardy.

    More

See more...

X
Sign In

Member Sign In

Forgot Password?
Submit Not a Member? Join!
X

Forgot Password?

Send Password Not a Member? Join!
X

Change Password

X
(All Fields are required)
Send Message
Share this on: