2002 Scorecard Vote
Concentrated animal feeding operations, commonly called factory farms, pose a serious threat to the environment. By concentrating tens or hundreds of thousands of animals in a small area, these farms generate huge quantities of animal waste--billions of pounds of manure each day. Liquefied animal waste is often stored in large, leaky open-air lagoons and sprayed on nearby fields that are too small to absorb the high volume of waste. As a result, the surrounding area's surface and groundwater may be contaminated with nitrogen, phosphorous, salt, heavy metals, pathogens, antibiotics and hormones; and the surrounding air may be polluted by ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and methane. This pollution has led to algal blooms, massive fish kills and serious threats to the public's health in surrounding areas.
During Congressional reauthorization of the farm bill, large agribusinesses lobbied Congress to subsidize manure management at factory farms. At the center of the debate was the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which offers agricultural producers (including livestock producers) financial and technical assistance in improving water quality, wildlife habitat, wetlands and grazing lands.
In the previous farm bill, Congress made it clear that EQIP funds were not to be used by factory farms for manure management. However, during consideration of S. 1731, the 2002 farm bill, the House and Senate agriculture committees greatly increased funding for the EQIP program and, at the same time, lifted the manure management restriction for the largest operations. Opponents of this move contended that Congress should not subsidize large agribusinesses at the expense of both the environment and small farmers.
Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) offered an amendment to ensure that taxpayer dollars would not subsidize new factory farms or the further concentration of existing operations. His amendment also prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the construction of manure lagoons in areas highly prone to flooding. On February 6, 2002, the Senate rejected the Wellstone amendment by a 44-52 vote (Senate roll call vote 15). YES is the pro-environment vote. A scaled-back version of the amendment later passed the Senate by voice vote. However, many of the policy provisions from Senator Wellstone's second amendment were removed or greatly weakened by the House-Senate conference report, which was passed by the Senate on May 8, 2002, and signed into law by President Bush on May 13, 2002.