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Standing with Yankton Sioux

The Ihanktonwan Dakota [Yankton Sioux Tribe] and friends stand in peaceful protest against a swine factory farm development just north of Marty, S.D. Two recent reports spell out loud and clear why factory farms harm our health as well as our air, land and water.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report details many reasons why industrial-scale agriculture is not only unsustainable, it is a threat to human health. The report cites human illness caused by drug-resistant bacteria associated with the overuse of antibiotics as one result of factory farming. Degradation of land, water and air by animal waste, toxic gases and dust make workers and neighbors ill. The study also shows that modern agriculture is responsible for one-fifth of the nation's global warming pollution. Factory farms pose more risk than previously known.

Another report from the Union of Concerned Scientists goes on to tell us more about how the factory farm takeover of American agriculture - which is destroying our family farms and environment - is fueled by our own tax dollars. From 1997 to 2005, $35 billion in animal feed subsidies and $100 million in annual pollution prevention payments through the federal Environmental Quality Incentives program have been paid out to factory farms.

The report suggests something that should be common sense - factory farms, not the public, should pay for cleanup costs. These scientists urge Congress to enforce laws that encourage competition. Strangely, the laws are in place, just not enforced.

After several failed attempts to change the laws through Congress, the EPA wants to gut the only two federal laws that allow enforcement of air and drinking water pollution from factory farms. One provision would remove the ability of local government to make a factory farm pay to clean up drinking water sources if they pollute it. The second law is an air pollution reporting law that requires the largest of large factory farms to report the air emissions of toxic chemical releases. Only an environmental ''protection'' agency that is beholden to polluters and other special interests would be pushing for weaker pollution laws at the expense of clean water.

Any state allowing factory farms - whether Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina or South Dakota - brazenly places people's health, air, land and water at risk. People in rural areas all over the country have seen fish killed, manure floating down the rivers and algae plaguing lakes. We hear so many stories of human illnesses. Yet government bodies continue to permit and allow the destruction of rural communities instead of acting as watchdogs on corporate polluters.

The Yankton Sioux have been intimidated with highway patrol, police officers, sharpshooters and at least 38 illegal arrests. They stand in peaceful protest of the known harm that will come to their land, their homes and their children. All should stand in peaceful protest with the Yankton Sioux and oppose Longview Farms LLC and all factory farm proposals.

- Julie M. Jansen

Olivia, Minn.

Jansen is a national leader on air quality monitoring and demonstrating the toxicity of air emissions from large-scale confined animal feeding operations.