DES MOINES, Iowa — On Capitol Hill, a $1.7 million earmark for pig odor research in Iowa has become a big joke among Republicans, a Grade A example of pork. But the people who live cheek by jowl with hog farms in the No. 1 pig-producing state aren't laughing.
"You hold your breath and when it's really bad you get the taste in your mouth," said Carroll Harless, a 70-year-old retired corn-and-soybean farmer from Iowa Falls.
In Iowa, where the 20 million hogs easily outnumber the 3 million people, the rotten-egg-and-ammonia smell of hog waste often wafts into homes, landing like a punch to the chest.
"Once, we couldn't go outside for a week," said Karen Forbes, who lives near a hog feedlot outside Lorimor. "It burned your eyes. You couldn't breathe. You had to take a deep breath and run for your garage. It was horrid."
The proposal to spend money on researching how to control pig farm smells is contained in a $410 billion spending bill now making its way through Congress. Despite ridicule from Sen. John McCain and other Republicans, Iowa and the federal government have been studying how to control hog odors for years. The latest grant continues efforts at the Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture labs in Ames, Iowa.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, inserted the earmark. "It's a profoundly serious challenge."