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A vote for pigs protects us from huge hog farms

Editor: Re: Don't let the Constitution be our guide on pigs' rights, Nov. 9 column by Jan Glidewell:

I am in agreement with the present effort to place an amendment on the 2002 ballot that would ban the use of pig gestation crates. In a perfect world, with a perfect Legislature, I would be in agreement with Glidewell that this matter, along with other issues, would be more properly handled by legislation. But we do not live in a perfect world, and we certainly do not have a perfect Legislature. Because the Legislature would not deal with the issue, there is no other choice.

And make no mistake that the issue here is as serious as it gets. It strikes at the heart of our survival in Florida: our water.

Hog factory farms produce waste on a scale never before seen in agriculture. An average factory farm in North Carolina has about 3,700 animals and produces 38,480 pounds of feces and urine every day. North Carolina hog factories produce 19-million tons of waste a year. That's 2.5 tons of hog waste per resident, per year.

Runoff from North Carolina factory farms contributes to nutrient pollution, algae blooms, fish kills and diseases. The more than 167-million pounds of nitrogen released into the air every year contributes more nitrogen pollution into the coastal region through the air alone (as ammonia) than all of the municipal and industrial sources combined. Blown downwind, this ammonia nitrogen subsequently rains down on sensitive rivers, estuaries and coastal waters, possibly affecting waters as far away as Chesapeake Bay. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not currently regulate any air emission from hog operations.

There has been new research on the impacts of these hog factory farms on public health. For example, the University of North Carolina and Iowa State University have conducted studies that link this industry to increased rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments in communities adjacent to the farms, and to psychological problems, such as depression. The testing of groundwater wells down gradient of North Carolina hog farms indicated that more than 10 percent of them were contaminated with nitrate.

Hog factory farms today have little in common with the traditional family farms of the past. They are highly mechanized for mass production. The hogs are treated like raw materials in an industrial factory and spend their entire lives cramped together in big warehouses. Their feeding, reproduction and nursing are facilitated by mechanical devices. Everything is controlled, from additive levels in feed, to dosages of antibiotics, to exposure to daylight.

These factory farms have been forcing out the small farmer just like chain stores have forced out the small mom-and-pop retail stores. In North Carolina, since 1983, about three-quarters of the hog farmers have left the business. Further, these new corporate farms go beyond the raising of animals; they are called "integrators" and combine company-owned farms, contract farms, and farming-related business (feed mills, transportation, etc.) under a single company. A relatively few corporate entities dominate the entire pork industry.

Many states have now placed moratoriums on new corporate farms so these huge and powerful corporations are beginning to look to Florida. If they are allowed to come to this state, our aquifer, our waterways, our fragile environment will be assaulted as never before. Once these conglomerates are established, it appears it is difficult to regulate them and probably impossible to get rid of them.

Please sign a petition and help to get this initiative on the ballot. I would be happy to speak to any group. Call me at 527-8566.

Isabell Spindler

Beverly Hills

Crystal River meeting

clarifies issues for manager

Editor: On Nov. 7 I attended the town hall meeting in Crystal River. Mayor Ron Kitchen opened the meeting by explaining the purpose of the meeting, and then residents were given the opportunity to discuss concerns and requests or ask for an update on a particular project.

Phil Lilly, the city manager, was able to give a full explanation of the status of numerous projects and, in addition, gave approximate time frames for the start or completion of the projects.

Lilly was very personable to the speakers, personally recognized them and was aware of the location of the concerns at hand. I was very impressed with Lilly's responses to residents and his knowledge after being on board for only about six weeks.

Numerous residents approached the council with issues and offered solutions to the issues and/or concerns. They also spoke highly of the city manager, who received numerous votes of confidence from the residents.

This town hall meeting was attended by about 30 people who are interested in the entire city being represented.

The meeting was a great way for the City Council and city manager to know what the issues or concerns are from the citizens and then start the action plan from there.

Best of luck with your progress.

Richard Brady

Crystal River

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