Farmers hope for help from D.C.

US - Anxious farmers have flung hopes on Congress to clarify an environmental law they fear has the potential to bankrupt them
calendar icon 6 January 2007
clock icon 1 minute read
Sen. Pete Domenici, R.-N.M., is sponsoring a bill that would prevent manure from being classified as hazardous waste because of the compounds in it and would exempt dairies and other livestock operations from being sued under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund law.

According to the New Mexico Environment Department, manure itself doesn’t pose much of a problem; it is the inorganic compounds it contains, such as nitrogen and phosphorous that can be harmful to human health upon ingestion.

In 1980, Superfund was enacted as a way to clean up abandoned chemical dumps and allow injured parties to sue for damages, according to a University of Washington Superfund research program.

The law was used to pay for the cleanup of a playa lake in Clovis used by BNSF Railway for dumping hazardous waste for decades.

“The fear,” said Dairy Farmers of America spokesman Walter Bradley, “is that the farmer is going to be forced to comply with another set of regulations that was intended for manufacturers.”

Superfund lawsuits against agriculture industries in Oklahoma and Texas rattled local dairy farmers and spurred Domenici to sponsor the bill, according to Domenici’s deputy press secretary Matt Letourneau and Bradley.

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