Market forces and new technologies are changing the face of livestock production in the state and throughout the country, shifting animal production from small family-owned farms to large, corporate livestock facilities. Large-scale confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) now dominate the industry, and some of the largest corporate CAFOs own and operate all aspects of production from breeding stock to feed mills to slaughterhouses and rendering plants.
Once known primarily as a beef cattle state, Texas is now also home to thriving dairy, chicken, egg, and hog production facilities, ranking among the top 10-15 states for each category of production.
But the growth and consolidation of CAFOs in Texas has not come without a cost.
* Large-scale animal production also creates large-scale animal waste-Texas is the #1 manure-producing state in the country.
* CAFOs in Texas must manage and dispose of an estimated 280 billion pounds of manure each year.
* This waste burden has impaired at least 388 miles of Texas streams and over 21,000 acres of lakes.
* Air testing near cattle feedlots shows sporadic, high particulate levels above state and federal standards. Air testing downwind of hog, cattle and broiler operations indicate strong, offensive odors and ammonia levels in excess of the state's "health based effects screening level" or ESL. Neighbors testify that odors and dust have led many to sell their homesteads and move away.
* In 1995, Texas regulators streamlined the permit process for CAFOs, limiting the ability of neighboring property owners to contest new permits or major expansions through the contested case hearing process. TNRCC does not consider the cumulative impact that a new CAFO will have when sited near many existing CAFOs, nor does it prohibit many of the practices that contribute to odor and water problems.
* Lax enforcement allows CAFOs to pollute, sometimes for years, before action is taken.
* Texas' recently amended "right to farm" law virtually eliminates neighbors' ability to bring a nuisance action against most CAFOs to protect their rights to use and enjoy their own property.
* Despite the enormity of Texas' animal waste disposal burden, the state's environmental regulations lag behind what other CAFO-intensive states have done to protect their resources. While several states have placed moratoria on new CAFOs, Texas continues to welcome more facilities-particularly hog producers-to the state. Other states have begun to make corporate farms jointly liable for pollution at their contract grower sites, but Texas has not done so. Some states have begun addressing air quality issues by applying stricter ambient hydrogen sulfide emissions standards to CAFOs, or defining feedlot dust as an emission for purposes of the Federal Clean Air Act, while Texas has not.
of course, we all already knew that Tejas was the #1 manure producing state