Factory Farming How Factory Farms Impact You Over the last two decades, small- and medium-scale livestock farms have given way to factory farms that

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Factory Farming

How Factory Farms Impact You

Over the last two decades, small- and medium-scale livestock farms have given way to factory farms that confine thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly packed facilities. The growth of these factory farms has contributed to a host of environmental, public health, economic, food safety and animal welfare problems. Tens of thousands of animals can generate millions of tons of manure annually, which pollutes water and air and can have health repercussions on neighbors and nearby communities. Consumers in distant markets also feel the impacts, either through foodborne illness outbreaks or other public health risks. Even many factory farm operators are not benefitting from this system of production because they are not getting paid much for the livestock they raise.
No Accident

The rise of factory farming was no accident. It resulted from public policy choices driven by big agribusinesses, especially meatpackers and processors that dominate the critical steps in the food chain between livestock producers and consumers. The silos and gentle meadows pictured on the labels of the food most Americans buy have little relation to how that food is actually produced. Most of the pork, beef, poultry, dairy and eggs produced in the United States come from large-scale, confined livestock operations.

Too Much Manure

These animals produce tremendous amounts of manure. Large-scale commercial livestock and poultry operations produce an estimated 500 million tons of manure each year, more than three times the sewage produced by the entire U.S. human population.i Unlike the household waste produced in an overwhelming majority of U.S. communities, which have municipal sewer systems, the manure and waste from livestock operations is untreated. Factory farm waste is stored in manure pits or lagoons, and ultimately it is applied to farm fields as fertilizer. As the Wisconsin State Journal noted: “unlike cities, which treat their waste, most of the large farms dispose of manure the same way farmers disposed of it in the Middle Ages – by spreading it on fields as fertilizer.”

Small, diversified farms that raise animals as well as other crops have always used manure as fertilizer without polluting water. The difference with factory farms is scale. They produce so much waste in one place that it must be applied to land in quantities that exceed the soil’s ability to incorporate it. The vast quantities of manure can – and do – make their way into the local environment where they pollute the air and water. Manure contains nitrogen, phosphorus and often bacteria that can endanger the environment and human health. Manure lagoons leak, and farmers over-apply manure to their fields, which allows manure and other wastes to seep into local streams and groundwater. Residential drinking wells can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria that can sicken neighbors and the runoff can damage the ecological balance of streams and rivers. In some cases, manure spills that reach waterways can kill aquatic life.

Large quantities of decomposing manure doesn’t just stink, it can be a health hazard as well. Noxious gas emissions from manure holding tanks and lagoons – including hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methane – can cause skin rashes, breathing problems and headaches, and long-term exposure can lead to neurological problems. For children, senior citizens and adults with other health problems, exposure to these fumes can cause even more problems.

Spreading Disease

Industrial livestock operations also can create public health hazards in other ways. The facilities are over-crowded and stressful to animals, making it easy for disease to spread. When thousands of beef cattle are packed into feedlots full of manure, bacteria can get on their hides and then into the slaughterhouses. Contamination on even one steer can contaminate thousands of pounds of meat inside a slaughterhouse. In 2010, the crowded, unsanitary conditions at two Iowa egg companies caused a recall of more than half a billion potentially Salmonella-tainted eggs.

Overuse of Antibiotics

Factory farms can create public health concerns beyond foodborne illness. Because over-crowded animals are susceptible to infection and disease, most industrial livestock facilities treat the animals with low-levels of antibiotics to prevent illness and also promote weight gain. By creating a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the sub-therapeutic dosages used on millions of factory-farmed livestock can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics for human patients. The feed used for livestock can also introduce public health threats. Broiler chickens often receive arsenic-based feed additives to promote pinker flesh and faster growth, and beef cattle continue to be fed with animal byproducts, which increases the risk of mad cow disease.

Animal Welfare

These unhealthy conditions and additives not only pose threats to the environment and public health, they are also detrimental to the animals themselves. Most factory-farmed hogs and chickens have no access to the outdoors and never see daylight. Beef cattle and dairy cows spend time outside, but they are crammed onto feedlots with no access to pasture or grass, which is what they are built to eat. The lack of outdoor access, inability to express natural behaviors, health problems and stress caused by production practices, and breeding designed to maximize weight gain or egg and milk production take a toll on animal welfare.

Independent Farmers Suffer

Nor do most farmers benefit from the shift to factory farming. The number of dairy, hog and beef cattle producers in America has declined sharply over the last twenty years as the meatpacking, processing and dairy industries have pressed farmers to increase in scale. Most farmers barely break even. In 2007, more than half of family farmers lost money on their farming operation.iii The tiny handful of companies that dominate each livestock sector exert tremendous control over the prices farmers receive, and they micromanage the day-to-day operations of many farms. The real price that farmers receive for livestock has fallen steadily for the last two decades.

The rapid transformation of livestock production from hundreds of thousands of independent farmers with reasonably sized operations to a few thousand mega-farms did not evolve naturally. Factory farming was facilitated by three policy changes pushed by the largest agribusinesses: A series of farm bills artificially lowered the cost of crops destined for livestock feed; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ignored factory farm pollution; and the Department of Justice allowed the largest meatpackers to merge into a virtual monopoly.

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Do something about it! Click Here

The stakes are high for the future of livestock production. Because government at all levels has made decisions that contributed to the rise of factory farms, all levels of government must be involved in changing policies and enforcing existing laws to rein in this industry. Food & Water Watch recommends the following courses of action: Congress must restore sensible commodity programs that do not prioritize the production of artificially cheap livestock feed over fair prices to crop farmers. The EPA must implement and enforce appropriate environmental rules to prevent factory farm pollution. The Food and Drug Administration must reverse its approval of controversial hormone, non-therapeutic antibiotic and other livestock treatments that facilitate factory farming at the expense of public health. The USDA must enforce livestock marketing regulations that allow independent livestock producers’ access to markets. State environmental authorities must step up their coordination and enforcement of regulations on factory farms.

Information retrieved from: www.factory farm map.org

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USGBC Launches New Home Scoring Tool

If you’re looking for a back-of-the-envelope assessment of where your project fits in the LEED for Homes green building program, the USGBC just launched a new web-based tool for you. It’s called the LEED for Homes Scoring Tool, and it includes both a Quick Score (pictured) and a detailed Credit-By-Credit result with specific credit guidance.

The tool is free and anyone can take it for a test spin upon registration.

The Quick Score produces a rough prediction of certification level and can be converted into a more detailed Credit-By-Credit report. With the more detailed report, users can access credit requirements, credit options, category points, and category prerequisites.

Of course, the Scoring Tool is no substitute for actual certification, but it could come in handy as a reference. “The LEED for Homes Scoring Tool will help fill in the gaps for home builders and home owners alike,” according to Nate Kredich, Vice President of Residential Market Development for the USGBC.

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Spotlight LEED Project of the Week:

'Net zero' house to be built in Maryland should produce as much energy as it uses

It sounds like an idea out of a sci-fi novel: a house that can produce as much energy each year as it uses. But most buyers aren't interested in houses from a sci-fi novel, and they aren't much interested in paying extra for them, either.

But a test house about to be built on a federal research site in Gaithersburg is designed to look like a typical home in the Washington area, and its inventors are going to great lengths to calculate how well the normal-looking sci-fi house would generate and consume energy when occupied by a family of four.

The house is designed to meet the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, platinum, and to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's Indoor airPLUS certification. Bethesda Bungalows in 2009 completed the first LEED Platinum home in Montgomery County, a $2.3 million, five-bedroom upscale bungalow near downtown Bethesda that it calls the Incredibly Green Home.
Check it out here

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In The Green Spotlight:

Theresa Sciarrone, Director of Operations, HIA-LI.

HIA-LI helps Long Island businesses prosper. For over 30 years, we have been the recognized voice for Long Island businesses and a powerful force for regional economic development. We provide a forum for business leaders to network, problem solve and obtain advice on critical issues facing their businesses. We have over 1,000 member companies and are headquartered in one of the largest industrial parks in the nation. HIA-LI programs and events promote strategic partnerships, targeted networking, information sharing and business advocacy. Members benefit from our educational programs, career resources, research capabilities, mentoring opportunities and business advisory services.

HIA-LI’s major initiatives include:

Manufacturing Revitalization Initiative - helping to promote manufacturing innovation on Long Island and creating opportunities for a skilled workforce.
Workforce Development Initiative - developing opportunities to attract, train and retain employees for Long Island businesses.
Healthcare Initiative - working with a cross section of industry and government leaders to explore existing and emerging strategies for containing healthcare costs.
Infrastructure Initiative - developing and supporting the infrastructure of the Hauppauge Industrial Park to promote the continued growth of business in the Park.
Business Development Initiative - creating an environment for continued business success.
Alternative Energy “Go Green” Initiative - promoting energy awareness and efficiency to Long Island businesses, using the Hauppauge Industrial Park as a pilot site.
Virtual HIA-LI Initiative - enabling our current and future members to connect, collaborate and communicate online, via the HIA-LI.org website and portal.

In line with our Alternative Energy “Go Green” Initiative, HIA-LI will be having a Green Pavilion at Long Island’s largest business to business Trade Show & Conference scheduled for Thursday, May 26, 2011 at Suffolk County Community College.

Exhibitors that fit the following profile are invited to join us at the Green Pavilion:

Green or environmental focused companies
Energy Alternatives – Solar Power, Bio-fuels, Renewable Energy
Recycling
Corporate Social Responsibility
A company or industry leader who has expertise in Green Industries and wants to showcase it

In addition, we will be hosting a Green Executive Program at the Trade Show focused on developing and growing a CleanTech Cluster for NYS with emphasis on Long Island/NY Metro from 2 pm – 3:30 pm

For more details about the Trade Show visit www.hia-li.org/tradeshow2011.

HIA-LI Website

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Green in the News

A Big Stake in Extreme Weather Insurance - A San Francisco start-up that insures farmers against extreme weather conditions has landed $42 million in financing from Google, Khosla and others, the Dealbook blog reports...full story

Destined for Disaster? “Revolutionary” Green Bond Financing for Syracuse Mega-Project In Jeopardy - Proposed as a 4.5 million-square-foot, LEED Platinum-certified entertainment destination, Destiny USA was to be constructed as a three-phase expansion of Syracuse’s existing Carousel Center and include 1,300 hotel rooms, an indoor aquarium, a water park, an indoor recreation of the Erie Canal...full story

Red Wine, White Wine, Green Wine: Winery Uncorks LEED Gold Upstate - The Empire State produces more terrific wines than any cellar could hold. Many of these, such as Long Island’s mighty Channing Daughters winery, are biodynamic — which sounds like a green building term, but really just means that they let their grapes do their thing without bombing them with chemicals and so on. But only one New York winery can lay claim to a LEED Gold certification. That would be Red Tail Ridge, a Finger Lakes winery that won LEED Gold laurels late last month. Full Story

Apple Unveils Thinner, Lighter iPad 2 – But is it Green? - Since its release almost a year ago, the iPad has spurred a technological revolution in the realm of personal gadgets. Today Apple unveiled its hotly anticipated iPad 2, which is 33% thinner, lighter, boast a longer battery life, better graphics, a faster cpu, front and rear facing (720p recording), cameras as well as a HDMI output. It sounds like they’ve made some notable improvements, but ultimately how much greener will the iPad 2 be?

Full story

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BENCHMARKING NYC !

Local Law 84 - The Deadline is coming!

All buildings in New York City over 50,000 square feet are required to submit an annual energy benchmark. We're here to help make it as easy as possible for you to meet this requirement, while putting a valuable financial evaluation tool in your hands.

Building owners and operators are growing more concerned with the upcoming deadline to have their properties properly benchmarked. Professionals in the industry are reporting a sharp increase in the RFQ's for building benchmarking. What surprises most industry professionals is how easily and quickly these buildings can be benchmarked - assuming of course you hire the correct professionals.

Benchmarking is easy-to-do, inexpensive, and accessible. In addition to supporting the requirement, we can provide intuitive monthly reports on your energy usage and spotlight opportunities for energy savings. The first benchmark report is due to the city on May 1, 2011, but there are benefits to starting as soon as possible so that you can take control of your energy usage sooner.

Own buildings in New York City? Let us help you comply with NYC's new mandatory benchmarking requirement (Local Law 84).

Click here to find out more information about benchmarking and complying with the LAW!

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The LEED'r is a green newsletter owned by The Cotocon Group that is written and published by Daryl Dworkin. The Leed'r is a weekly publication which reports on a wide range of environmental interests. In future newsletters, we will continue to provide compelling information, relevant news, interviews with industry professionals, and a whole lot of other interesting material. Please enjoy and feel free to contact us with any comments, questions, or ideas that you may have regarding green building or any environmental issues at: info@thecotocongroup.com.

Have an idea for a story? Email Daryl Dworkin

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