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How Do CAFOs Impact the Environment?

photo of corn field showing rows of corn

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are facilities where large numbers of poultry, swine, cattle or other animal types are confined within a much smaller area than traditional pasture operations. The concentration of the wastes from these animals increases the potential to impact air, water, and land quality.

Failures to properly manage manure and wastewater at CAFOs can negatively impact the environment and public health. Manure and wastewater have the potential to contribute pollutants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, heavy metals, hormones and ammonia, to the environment.

tractor in a farm field laying water lines

The environmental impacts resulting from mismanagement of wastes include, among others, excess nutrients in water (such as nitrogen and phosphorus), which can contribute to low levels of dissolved oxygen (fish kills), and decomposing organic matter that can contribute to toxic algal blooms. Contamination from runoff or lagoon leakage can degrade water resources, and can contribute to illness by exposing people to wastes and pathogens in their drinking water. Dust and odors can contribute to respiratory problems in workers and nearby residents.

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