Stinkin' Pigs: Where's Our Earmark for Hog Odor Research?

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Led by Senator John McCain, whose obsession with earmarks knows no bounds, Republicans legislators are still raising a stink about that $1.7 million earmark for pig odor research in Iowa. Some lawmakers, a number of whom have gone repeatedly to the trough themselves, can barely contain their glee as they denounce it as a prime example of pork.

In Iowa, though, where 20 million pigs out-number humans by a margin of 8 to 1, the proposal -- all part of the $410 billion spending bill still wending its way through Congress -- is nothing to snort at.

In fact, it's about as funny as the smell of rotten eggs and ammonia, which, if you haven't been near one, is how most people describe what it's like to be downwind from a contained animal feeding operation, or CAFO.

"Once, we couldn't go outside for a week," Karen Forbes, who lives near a hog feedlot outside of Lorimor, Iowa, recently told the Associated Press, "It burned your eyes. You couldn't breathe. You had to take a deep breath and run for your garage. It was horrid."

If it passes the smell test in the House, the pig odor study (one of more than 8,500 earmarks) will scrutinize what hogs eat and how the stench can be reduced.

Don Nikodim, executive vice president of the Missouri Pork Producers Association, says the Show-Me state (the seventh largest pig producer in the nation, with a current inventory of 3 million hogs) didn't seek funding for the pig odor research, nor did it try to, ahem, piggyback on the Iowa earmark.

"It's an issue here that we're making progress with," says Nikodim. "By putting in vegetative screens around the CAFOs, and bio-filters, and finding different way to aerate the lagoons, it's getting a whole lot better."

Rick Rehmeier, the biggest pig farmer in St. Charles County with 10,000 hogs, says it's not a big deal that Iowa will likely be the epicenter for finding ways to curtail the scourge of pig odor. "We're OK about that," says Rehmeier. "Actually, Iowa is the ideal place to do it. They got the infrastructure already in place -- and they got the pigs."

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