From Spotlight, a Maryland Farm Bureau publication to its...

salmagundi

July 24, 1995

From Spotlight, a Maryland Farm Bureau publication to its members, comes this news item:

"There's just about every kind of police show imaginable on television these days, so you can bet that Hollywood producers can't wait for the odor police to spring into action. . . .

"Just what crime are we talking about? Iowa State University ag economist Neil Harl is proposing that large confinement hog operations be taxed for their odor problems. In an article in the Des Moines Register, Harl suggests that revenues from the tax could then be paid to adjacent landowners for having to live with the smell.

"Harl calls it a tax, but it might as well be a fine. If we are going to fine people who raise hogs because hogs and manure have an unpleasant smell, then somebody has to enforce the law. Here come the odor police. Driving the back roads of Iowa with the windows rolled down, the odor police receive a call from the dispatcher: 'Get downwind of the Johnson place; we've got a report of a crime in progress.'

"There are already a number of cases in Iowa courts in which neighbors are suing farmers about hog odors. In one case that's gone all the way to the state supreme court, the drift of odor was very infrequent. If the odor tax becomes a reality and neighbors think they can be paid for complaining, it will probably mean the end of hog farms in the state of Iowa. . . .

"Most livestock farmers today are sensitive to the issue of odor. As a colleague from Iowa points out, farmers are careful about applying manure to the land as a fertilizer. Many of them inject it into the ground rather than spreading it on the field. . . .

"Harl thinks the odor tax would spur research into odorless hog farms, but research is already taking place. Instead, an odor tax would create lots of litigation and an entirely new elite force, the odor police. They will carry air freshener instead of pepper spray, and could be sniffing around farms someday soon."

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