This originally was posted last July. It's been updated and reappears today because it seems timely with the House primaries nearing.
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Ohio Congresswoman Jean Schmidt has stepped into a long-running battle between health officials, environmentalists and farmers about poop. Specifically, the debate is over how animal manure should be regulated by the government -- either as a hazardous substance or not.
Schmidt, a Republican who represents Ohio's 2nd Congressional district that begins in Cincinnati and heads east up the Ohio River to Portsmouth, has decided poop isn't hazardous. She is one of 131 co-sponsors of H.R. 1398 a measure that declares "manure shall not be considered to be a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant."
The bill legally defines manure as "digestive emissions, feces, urine and other excrement from livestock." It is entitled the Agricultural Protection and Prosperity Act of 2007, which is a good way to hide its true purpose -- to legalize piles of crap from big factory farms.
[UPDATE: 2/18/08; 8:23 AM -- Schmidt's opponent in the OH-02 March 4 primary, State Rep. Tom Brinkman, has environmental cred. He's been endorsed by by the League of Conservation Voters for his solid record as a lawmaker who favors clean air and water in Ohio. The manure issue has a potential to raise a stink for Schmidt because Ohio has about 1.5 million pigs on 4,000 farms. They produce a lot of manure and urine that can contaminate drinking water sources and streams. Nationally, the swine farms use 1.4 billion bushels of corn and 283 million bushels of soybeans as feed. What goes in, must come out.]
Agribusiness interests have been seeking such a measure from Congress for years. They are worried about environmental lawsuits that accuse large factory farms raising hogs and cattle of contaminating surface and groundwater. These huge operations produce massive amounts to manure, which stink up the countryside and can pose health risks. In 2004, Waco, Tex., officials sued in federal court saying big farms were ruining the city's municipal water supply, and the case was a landmark leading to efforts to overturn any attempts to find that animal poop is an environmental contaminant.
Congress' interest in declaring manure not to be a pollutant hasn't gone far yet. Three other Ohioans have signed on as co-sponsors -- Republicans John Boehner and Jim Jordan; and Democrat Zack Space, who sees the issue as critical to helping farmers in his district.
Take a detailed look at the running dispute. Schmidt, whose 2nd district is populated by mostly by urban and suburban residents, probably should have stayed out of this fight. She will face opposition in the Republican primary next year, and she has opened herself to being portrayed as a politician who thinks poop isn't a pollutant. That's a stinky spot to be in. Just imagine the attack ads with people holding their noses.