Earmarks, pet projects or pork barrel spending are considered evil, unnecessary, wasteful spending by politicians looking for an opportunistic nightly sound bite that proves to the country how irresponsible Congress is with our money. Every spending bill has particular earmarks pulled out and highlighted by politicians who’s intent is to point out the absurdity of certain earmarks they consider funny or irresponsible. It makes the rounds with all the late night comedians. Talking heads on every news outlet report on it and newspapers run bold headlines proving how idiotic some senator or representative was to even consider slipping that dang earmark into a spending bill.
One such earmark comes from Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat from Iowa. A requested 1.7 million dollars to continue an on ongoing study concerning pig farming and air quality. OK. Go ahead, I’ll pause while you laugh. Now, may I continue? If you are among those laughing, it’s obvious, you don’t live anywhere near a hog confinement facility or a pig farm in Iowa. Even a dung beetle would by pass a pig farm.
We aren’t laughing in this state and we support Senator Harkin’s earmark request. Iowa’s pork industry is a $12 billion a year business. Nothing to sneeze at. Think of us the next time you eat “the other white meat”. The odor problem created by this industry is a serious problem in Iowa. Anyone who has been close enough to a gathering of pigs has no doubt what that strange smell of ammonia and rotten eggs is. Iowa is home to 20 million hogs and the smell can knock you over easier than a feather in the wind. I know. I grew up on a pig and cattle farm in my youth. We rented the house and took care of the livestock for reduced rent. Personally, I loved it, but the smell could choke a maggot on occasion. Folks here call the unpleasant, gasping odor; the smell of money. The problem we face now, however, is that smell of money is choking not only the maggots in this state, but the people as well as our hog business continues to grow.
The odor floats in the wind and invades homes downwind from farms and hog confinement lots. Not a laughing matter to those folks who have to deal with the stench. The smell can burn your eyes and a taste gets into your mouth that’s hard to get rid off. People have been hospitalized with severe headaches that appear to be related to the odor. In this instance, pork barrel spending is aptly named. Squealing pigs polluting the air has put Iowa in need of an earmark to clean up the stink.
Iowa has been working with the government for years on the odor problem. The money requested by Senator Harkin will be used by the Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture labs in Ames, Iowa. This study is trying to learn how to balance out the needs of the pork industry with better air quality for their neighbors.
This federal study has been studying the correlation between what pigs eat and how to control an obnoxious odor. Ultraviolet light appears to have been somewhat successful along with planting vegetation and planting trees to help absorb the repugnant smell. However, a concise and specific solution is still being sought. Hence, the earmark request.
Health concerns and falling property values in areas close to hog lots have initiated several lawsuits that have been won by families who have hog lots as neighbors. Not only is there concern for the air quality, but our water supply may also be at risk to contamination from run off from these hog confinement lots. So this requested earmark is no laughing matter to us, nor do we consider it to be wasteful or irresponsible.
We don’t have a problem with smog in Iowa. It’s a pretty clean state to live in, but those who have to endure the smell from the many hog lots spread across Iowa have no problem with an earmark in a spending bill. After all, we pay our taxes, too.
That’s the funny thing about earmarks. If your senator or representative requests money from the government for a particular reason, that’s OK. Too many politicians love to stand in front of cameras and rail about all the irresponsible people in congress who try to hide requests for money for their state. Most of the time, the ones crying the loudest are the biggest offenders. Instead of pulling out an earmark that’s considered to be inappropriate or foolish, how about doing some homework before running off at the mouth in front of news cameras. Not all earmarks are bad. Some may even be used to create jobs. Imagine that. A way to help stimulate the economy. What’s wasteful to some is not wasteful to others. Besides, we do expect our elected officials to bring tax payer dollars home for projects we deem important to our areas. Congress requesting 1% or less in tax payer dollars for projects back home in a spending bill is one way elected officials represent their constituents. So anyone who feels a requested earmark to help solve a very real problem of smell in Iowa is funny or foolish should come visit us sometime. Plant yourself downwind from a hog lot and take a deep breath. Iowa is a great state to live in, as long as it isn’t around pigs.
Michael J. Crumb, Earmark to study odor of pigs smells fine in Iowa, ajc.com
Environmentalist Concerned About Nearby Hog Confinement, Iowa Public Television