Multinational corporation Bioenergy Devco wants to build a massive factory farm gas and composting facility on the Eastern Shore that would threaten already vulnerable communities with air and water pollution.
The project would truck 250,000 tons of poultry waste into Seaford, Delaware, each year, further polluting the state’s natural resources and threatening low-income communities of color that already face disproportionately high levels of pollution.
At SRAP, we stand with communities on the front lines of industrial agriculture and the factory farm gas scheme. That’s why in December we filed an environmental justice complaint against Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Sussex County Delaware after they violated the public’s right to information and public participation when reviewing permits for Bioenergy Devco’s facility.
The plant is proposed to be built in the heart of residential-agricultural neighborhoods that are home to low-income communities of color and residents with limited English proficiency.
A recent article published by the Guardian details the impact the facility would have on the community. From the article:
“Now, a new industrial use for chicken waste is being considered, but it could create new problems for the working-class rural region: a major proposed biogas plant would transform 250,000 tons of poultry waste each year into methane and other byproducts. Environmental and civil rights groups are challenging the plan, saying it would increase air and water pollution and pose significant health risks to nearby residents, many of whom are Black or immigrants from Haiti and Latin America who speak limited English.”
Emanie Dorival, a family nurse practitioner in Seaford who treats patients employed by the region’s chicken factories, told the Guardian she believes everyone has a “right to clean air, water, and food, without having to fight for that right.”
Many of her patients already have health issues from breathing noxious fumes on the job. Dorival wonders about the effect new pollution will have on the community.
“These people are already in a vulnerable state,” she said.
‘Our taxpayer money is going towards systems that kill us’
Last month, SRAP joined a coalition of organizations in Washington, D.C., calling on lawmakers to support food—not feed—in the 2023 farm bill. The bill, passed every five years, has sweeping impacts on how food is produced in America.
Due to industry-backed lobbying, the farm bill has a long history of subsidizing industrial livestock operations and livestock feed over healthy fruits and vegetables—a model that has far-reaching effects on rural communities, public health, and our environment.
In an interview with Heritage Radio Network, SRAP Executive Director Sherri Dugger emphasized the need to shift government spending away from corporate-controlled animal agriculture toward small, independent farmers who grow nutritious food for people. Dugger said:
“The industrial agriculture system harms all aspects of life and profits very few. Yet we’re seeing the majority of government funding and taxpayer-backed programs supporting the corporate-controlled livestock and poultry operations and production of grains, specifically corn and soybeans, to feed animals rather than producing healthy fruits and vegetables for Americans to eat.”
For rural communities on the front lines of industrial livestock operations, a new food paradigm can’t come soon enough.
“The communities that reach out to us for help are often in ‘crisis mode,’” Dugger explained.
“We help them understand they do have rights, and they can speak up,” she said. “There are things they can do to hold these corporations accountable, and to hold the government accountable to make sure they regulate these facilities and enforce that regulation.”
‘Our entire way of life is on the line’
A mega chicken factory farm wants to set up shop next to an elementary school in Oregon.
Half a mile up the road from Lourdes Public Charter School, Foster Farms plans to build 16 barns housing 4.5 million chickens throughout the year.
The school worries that if Foster Farms has its way, the health hazards could cause Lourdes to shut its doors. If this were to happen, the impact on the community “would be huge and heartbreaking,” said a parent and former teacher.
Due to weak regulations in Oregon, factory farms are driving family farmers off the land and polluting the environment with impunity.
Food & Water Watch reports that only 2.5 percent of Oregon’s farms make up 70 percent of the state’s total agricultural sales. This puts profits in the hands of the state’s largest factory farms, leaving small farmers with the choice to get big or get out.
Fortunately, there’s hope in new legislation that would create an eight-year ban on new or expanded factory farms in Oregon—including Foster Farms’ operation.
SB 85 has a tremendous amount of support with 75 percent of Oregonians backing the legislation. Even a retired Oregon Department of Agriculture employee who helped develop the current CAFO program is among the bill’s supporters.
Efforts to weaken the bill are already in play.
An amendment was made last week that would shorten the ban to two years and limit its application to the largest chicken factories, leaving the door wide open for megadairies and other large factory farms to continue business as usual.
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday at the Oregon Capitol.
While lawmakers battle it out in the state legislature, Lourdes and the local communities’ entire way of life is on the line.
“We can’t let this happen without a fight,” Melody Faville said in the video. “We need the legislature to write laws that protect the people of Oregon against these mega factory farms that pollute the environment and all around them for miles.”
The award for best grassroots attorney activist goes to…
Each year, the University of Oregon School of Law hosts the world’s largest public interest environmental law conference where it unites thousands of activists, attorneys, students, scientists, and concerned citizens from more than 50 countries to share their experience and expertise. The annual gathering awards an attorney who exemplifies the best in public interest environmental advocacy.
This year we are thrilled—and extremely proud—to announce that the award was given to SRAP’s very own Senior Counsel, Elisabeth (“Eli”) Holmes!
Holmes joined SRAP last summer with more than 20 years of experience in environmental, public health, and civil litigation.
She’s familiar with federal, state, and local legal issues facing communities on the front lines of the factory farm fight, and has represented communities across the U.S. in landmark pollution, human health, and animal welfare enforcement cases, including through federal court trials and appeals.
Her eagerness and expertise in working with rural communities to help safeguard socially responsible farming practices, food security, public health, and natural resources makes Eli an invaluable asset to our team.
Water Rangers water quality testing!
Rural communities have a right to protect their water from factory farm pollution.
SRAP’s Water Rangers helps protect that right by providing free water quality monitoring training and education on how to document and report violations to regulators.
Water Rangers is now offering free online training for Indiana and Ohio, as well as a national general training this spring.
Sign up today for one of our free online sessions:
- Indiana training: March 30 at 6:30 p.m. EDT
- Ohio training: April 6 at 6:30 p.m. EDT
- National general training: April 20 at 6:30 p.m. EDT
Check out our new Water Rangers page for more information or to inquire about trainings in other states.
Together, we’re keeping our environment clean one stream at a time.
For more than 20 years, SRAP has served as a mobilizing force to help communities protect themselves from the damages caused by industrial livestock operations and to advocate for a food system built on regenerative practices, justice, democracy, and resilience. Learn more at sraproject.org