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Published: Saturday, 7/31/2004

Megafarm moratorium is sought by Gillmor foe

VAN WERT, Ohio - At the I Don't Care Grille here, congressional candidate Robin Weirauch told reporters that she most certainly cares about environmental concerns related to the growing number of large livestock farms, both locally and across the country.

Ms. Weirauch, the Democrat running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort), released her policy on such farms at the restaurant here before attending U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman's speech at the Farm Focus agricultural trade show.

If elected in November, Ms. Weirauch said she would push for a national moratorium on

large livestock farms until the public health risks she sees in such operations could be examined to her satisfaction. Such a study would take at least a year, she said.

"We don't know enough about it to be taking the risks," said Ms. Weirauch, the assistant director of Bowling Green State University's Center for Policy Analysis and Public Service.

She said she was concerned about air pollution from the smell of manure and water pollution from the potential for manure spilled in waterways. Large farms are exposing neighbors to "serious harm," she said, citing a Paulding County man who blames his former residence near a large hog farm for his health problems.

Although health issues are Ms. Weirauch's biggest concern with large livestock farms, she mentioned other concerns.

She said large livestock farms have so much buying power that they are driving down the prices of Ohio's largest crops, corn and soybeans.

She gave no such examples, however, and her theory runs counter to that of many agricultural economists who say a local large livestock farm gives grain farmers another market for their crops, thus raising prices.

Ms. Weirauch said she felt Ms. Veneman had not answered questions from reporters after her speech about large livestock farms and proposed moratoriums. Ms. Veneman had said legislation affecting such farms should be a local issue.

But Ms. Weirauch said government has largely advocated large livestock farms as being good for agriculture, so many neighbors of such farms have so little legal recourse they are powerless.

"The state has been almost rolling out the red carpet for these types of businesses," she said.

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