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Thanks to OrangeClouds115 for letting me use the VMD today to discuss a timely issue that can impact the OH-05 special election. An issue that has been overlooked so far in the OH-05 race that has massive potential to swing serious rural voters Robin’s way is the issue of factory farms (otherwise known as CAFOs—Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Rural America across the country is fighting for their  lives by battling these nightmares and OH-05 is ground zero in Ohio for many of these battles. I don’t think many urban Democrats understand just how emotional an issue this is for many folks. OH-05 is a majority rural district and the second most rural after OH-18 (Bob Ney’s old stomping grounds, now ably represented by Zach Space). Targeting trade agreements for outsourcing or manufacturing job loss is not nearly as resonant as in heavily industrial districts like Marcy Kaptur (who is next door) and Sherrod Brown’s old district.  

It should come as no surprise that Robin is on the right side of this issue while Bob Latta is firmly in the pockets of corporate agribusiness...

The issue of Dutch dairies invading rural communities in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio has drawn massive grassroots opposition, as highlighted in this New York Times article about how the emotional battle is playing out in Ohio:

In Ohio, One Farmer's Prosperity Is Another's Poison

The Toledo Blade did a story on Dairy CAFOs last year in NW Ohio:

Ohio, Michigan megafarms spur clashes over air, water pollution

In recent years, one corporation, known as Vreba-Hoff, has been bringing in foreign Dutch farmers who buy up cheap land in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, many located near Lake Erie! The land is used to confine thousands of cows into one cramped space. These monstrosities drive family farmers out while creating environmental havoc for their neighbors and for local water supplies. Many can no longer even go outside or open the windows anymore because of the overpowering stench of cow shit, which drives down property values. One dairy CAFO can produce the waste of a small city of 170,000!! CAFOs also fuel illegal immigration as no longer does a family milk 50-60 cows on pasture, but instead, illegal migrants are hired to toil for 18 hour days in these industrial livestock operations.

In OH-05, two citizens groups have sprung up to oppose CAFOs and the lax permitting process that allows a CAFO to spring up out of nowhere with no citizen input. Wood County Citizens Opposed to Factory Farms (WCCOFF) has been fighting for a moratorium on CAFOs and already has at least 4 CAFOs in their community. In 2003, they spent $40,000 to appeal a permit to a Vreba-Hoff CAFO in Wood County, but lost. Wood County is also Latta's home base district.

Their website is:

Wood County Citizens Against Factory Fatms

In next door Sandusky County, there are no CAFOs at the moment, but Vreba-Hoff has proposed bringing in 2 of them. The Sandusky County Citizens Protecting Our Resources has done a heroic job to oppose them. In two public meetings last month at Gibsonburg High School and at Woodmore Elementary School to discuss the permits, hundreds of citizens showed up and stayed for 4 hours to debate the issue. A farmer called me last month to tip me off about the Gibsonburg meeting. Those who oppose CAFOs are often called anti-farmer, but like the farmer who called me, most know the difference between sustainable manure management produced by a normal farmer and the manure lagoons produced by factory farms. It's NOT the same thing.

Sandusky County Citizens Protecting Our Resources

Who can blame them for not wanting these CAFOs in their community? According to an October 2006 report by the Environmental Integrity Project, Vreba-Hoff’s CAFOs have had 48 complaints or reports of manure discharges (i.e., manure flowing out of a lagoon) and approximately 60 enforcement cases against them in Ohio.

And Bob Latta, as a Wood County Assemblyman, has done nothing but carried the water for the factory farms while doing nothing to address citizens protest. An editorial in the Fremont News-Messenger last month noted his role in the Ohio Legislature in allowing the CAFO permit process to be transferred from the EPA to the Ohio Department of Ag in 2002, allowing his corporate agribusiness’s buddies to run the show. There are 30 CAFOs now within a 90-minute drive of Toledo.

Many of these DIVI dance exemptions originated at the state level, like when Rep. Bob Latta switched jurisdiction of permit-granting from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to the ODA.

Link to Oped:

OPINION: Department of Ag Lets CAFOs Evade Regulations

The writer noted the ill effects of allowing for the CAFO permits and notes that Congress is preparing to grant the CAFOs even MORE exemptions at the federal level.

I get the feeling that Sandusky Countians will become second-class citizens once the Hillbex permit is granted. Will the 10,000 men, women and children in Western Sandusky County who depend upon ground wells for their water needs have to worry about and pay the cost to rid their wells of E.coli and nitrite contamination?

Will Sandusky County residents become helpless victims of more political trappings in far-off Washington, D.C., or even in more inaccessible places like Columbus?

Not surprisingly, Bob Latta was given an award by the Ohio Farm Bureau (who never met a CAFO they didn’t like) as a "Friend of Agriculture" and has taken thousands from CAFO interests, including the notorious Smithfield, owners of the largest hog CAFOs in the world.

Meanwhile, Robin Weirauch has been on the side of our citizens and family farmers in standing up for Ohioans’ democratic rights. The Sentinel-Tribune published this important letter outlining the clear differences between Robin and Bob Latta on this issue and how Ohioans can’t afford to let such an unresponsive politician get to Washington. There are lots of Republicans who can be swayed by this issue if the candidate’s true records get out!

To the Editor: Candidates take much different positions on factory farms


Since Mr. Latta has failed to take a stand on one critical issue on his Web site, I feel obligated to inform Wood County citizens of the contrast between these two candidates on the issue of factory farms.

I have contacted Latta many times over the past 3 years and 9 months, since Vreba-Hoff announced one of their animal factories near Cygnet. In fact, Bob was the very first person my husband and I contacted because we attended the same church and assumed he would be very concerned about this negative development in our county. Contrary to his television ad stating that he is deeply committed to other people, Bob didn't seem to care. He not only failed to respond to our pleas for help, he avoided us at church.

He finally sent us a form letter which contained the table of contents from the ODA's Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, and assured us this was one of the best programs in the nation. This did little to allay my fears about living less than one mile from an open pit containing 24 million gallons of untreated animal sewage.

According to a Dayton Daily News investigation, our legislators handed the control of these factory farms to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (from the Ohio EPA) because the farm lobby "sought a more reliably friendly oversight agency." It explained, "no one denies that corporate farm interests form one of the most powerful lobbies in Columbus - spreading around campaign contributions to Ohio Republicans."

The citizens of Northwest Ohio and the entire nation deserve a change!...

Weirauch is a refreshingly honest person who agrees. Her Web site states her concerns about the dairy factories setting up their "polluting operations throughout our countryside." She has also stated that she will "stand up for environmental protection and wise economic development."

Please do your homework and vote your conscience on Dec. 11.
Vickie Askins

What kind of future Congressional rep avoids his constituents at his own freakin church??!

Most rural citizens really do not stay up at night worried about gay marriage. They worry about how they are going to keep their farm, how to deal with rising energy costs, and in the case of factory farms, worrying about the destruction of their communities and way of life. Next Tuesday, we have a great opportunity to elect someone who understands these issues!

And this isn't just about Ohio either. Folks who caught the CSPAN Citizens for Community Change debate the other week would have seen at least THREE anguished questions from Iowans about CAFOs/factory farms coming into their neighborhoods with no public debate. I want to give a big kudos to John Edwards, who is the only candidate to call for a moratorium on CAFOs, a position that is strongly endorsed by the American Public Health Association and other public health groups concerned about the myriad health and enviro impacts of CAFOs.

Originally posted to Farm Bill Girl on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 10:26 AM PST.

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